Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A state could be said to "succeed" if it maintains a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force within its borders. When this is broken (ie: through the dominant presence of warlords, militias, or terrorism), the very existence of the state becomes dubious, and the state becomes a failed state. The difficulty of determining whether a government maintains a "a monopoly on the legitimate use of force" (which includes the problems of the definition of "legitimate") means it is not clear precisely when a state can be said to have "failed".
The controversy derives from the political and military implications of labelling a state as "failed". The proclamations and laws of its government may be ignored, and in some cases violent action may be undertaken inside the borders of the "failed state" by agents from other countries; such action naturally has highly dubious legality.
The term is also used in the sense of a state that has been rendered ineffective (i.e., has military/police control over its territory but is not able to enforce its constitution and laws uniformly) by high crime rates, extreme high-level corruption, impenetrable bureaucracy, and other factors. Cameroon and Papua New Guinea are often mentioned in this category.
See also: rogue state
- Red Cross article: The "failed State" and international law by Daniel Thürer
- Jack Straw speech: Failed and Failing States, A speech by Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary
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