Fragile and Functioning States


Upon recently completing a class at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) (“Promoting Development in Fragile States,” as taught by Professor Seth Kaplan), I highly recommend using Kaplan’s work (The Fragile States Resource Center and “Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development”) as a basis of understanding.

He believes that there are “two factors [that] decide how a country’s political, economic, and societal life evolves: a population’s capacity to cooperated ([social cohesion]) and its ability to take advantage of a set of shared, production institutions (especially informal institutions at the crucial early stages of development)” (Seth Kaplan 17). These two factors explain how and why nation-states are more developed than fragile states. The divided natures of fragile states have left the with no unifying identities, no unifying institutions, and no unifying governance systems with which to bind their peoples together” (Kaplan 35).

According to his book, “Fixing Fragile States,” fragile states are “plagued by two structural problems – political identity fragmentation and weak national institutions” (Kaplan 36).

For more info, get his book or check out his website. Both are great resources for topical discussions and current events. Highly recommended to anyone.


Interesting article posted 29 MAR 2013 from the IMF on the stability and development of fragile states:

What exactly is a fragile state? As stated by the IMF, “a country suffering any or all of the following adverse conditions—political and economic instability, poverty, civil disorder, terrorism, human trafficking, or disease—can be labeled a fragile state. These fragile situations are not limited to low-income countries. The issue of governance is a concern for countries around the world.”

So, then, what characteristics must a state possess to be considered “functioning?” According to Clare Lockhart, a functioning state is capable of the following: “managing the public finances in a sound way; investment in human capital; managing infrastructure services; how the state approaches the rule of law; whether the rulers themselves are subject to the rule of law; and how they manage the assets of the state.”

“IMF Survey : Security, Stability Measures Needed to Fix Fragile States.” IMF Survey : Security, Stability Measures Needed to Fix Fragile States. International Monetary Fund, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <;.

Kaplan, Seth D. Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008. Print.

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