An outlook on state fragility

Fragile states are often assumed to be conflict-ridden countries, but, whilst conflict can significantly contribute to this status, it in itself does not solely define, cause or lead to state fragility. A continuously evolving concept without an agreed definition, IARAN’s recent report titled ‘An Outlook of State Fragility’ explores the impact of state fragility on humanitarian work through to 2030.  

In this report, fragile states have been characterize as countries that face:

  • Weak legitimacy
  • Weak authority
  • Unable to provide basic services to their people

It is this lack of institutional resilience, which results in these countries becoming more vulnerable to, and less able to respond to crises caused either by socio-economic problems or natural disasters. Therefore, it comes as little surprise to anyone that these countries continue to be the focus of most humanitarian interventions. 

Identifying the trends and drivers of this fragility is of great interest and can be determined to different levels of certainty.  In 2030, we found that trends such as petty corruption and vulnerability to natural hazards are likely to continue to directly impact state fragility. See the below infographic summarising each of these eight factors. Yet for others the impact is more uncertain. This is especially the case for those that can feature various manifestations, such as conflict. This information can then and can be used to map multiple future scenarios.

Factors affecting state fragility

It’s these uncertainties which inform the three scenarios – the ‘business as usual’ the ‘optimistic’ and the ‘pessimistic’. We believe that only by understanding the range of possible outcomes that we face can we better plan for all eventualities. Our scenarios show that state fragility remains a persistent threat in 2030. However the optimistic setting provides some hope that the likelihood of state failure can be reduced as governments become better prepared in providing basic services to their populations and more proactive in containing and resolving conflicts within the region.

Scenarios for 2030

About IARAN:

Here at the IARAN we look to provide foresight to NGOs and operational humanitarian agencies to help them pre-empt change and build adaptable strategies for future programmes.

About Action Against Hunger:

Action Against Hunger’s origins began in Afghanistan and their work within these states remains extensive, four decades on. In conjunction with desk research we conducted a series of interviews with worldwide staff to reflect on the organisation’s strengths and the challenges faced with their past programmes. Self-reflection is key. Utilising foresight analysis tools and applying these strengths to the drivers of state fragility provides an opportunity for an organisation to strategically plan and adapt their operations to all eventualities come 2030.