Characteristics of a failed state


A failed state is a country that has lost control of itself due to a number of factors, such as political instability, civil unrest and lack of governance.

Originating in the nineteen nineties, the term was initially applied to characterise the situation in Somalia. The country descended into disorder following a coup that ousted its dictator Siad Barre, leading to internal conflict among the country’s clans.

The term ‘failed state’ is not an official term used in international law, and it does not necessarily imply that the government has collapsed completely; however, it does indicate that a state is undergoing a period of severe instability and is in danger of becoming completely ungovernable.

In some cases, the term fragile state is also used. Generally, the term ‘failed state’ implies that a sovereign nation has lost two primary abilities: the ability to maintain authority over its own people and territory; and the ability to protect its own national borders.

In many cases, governments of failed states have lost the ability to provide basic public services, enforce laws or protect citizens from violence, either internally or externally. In extreme instances, failed states may experience civil war, famine or massive displacement of people. Failed states are often at the mercy of criminal networks, terrorist organisations and international powers that can take advantage of their lack of security.

There are several possible causes of failed states, ranging from political instability to economic neglect and lack of governance.

The lack of an effective functioning government or ruling authority can lead to political instability and chaos. This can be exacerbated by corruption, mismanagement of resources or internal conflict.

Failed states often have a history of economic mismanagement and neglect, leading to poverty, unemployment and other problems.

Large-scale international interventions such as trade embargoes or economic sanctions can cause economic hardship and lead to instability in a nation. Such is a state that has lost its ability to fulfil fundamental security and development functions, lacking effective control over its territory and borders

Common characteristics of a failed state include a government incapable of tax collection, law enforcement, security assurance, territorial control, political or civil service staffing and infrastructure maintenance.

When this happens, widespread corruption and criminality, the intervention of state and non-state actors, the appearance of refugees and voluntary movement of populations, sharp economic decline, military intervention from both within and outside take place.

It is therefore a note of caution that safe states should desist from aligning themselves with failed states, as that may lead into many negative consequences

In modern times, an example of a failed state could be Ukraine. After the military conflict between Ukraine and Russia started, there is practically no factory or plant in Ukraine that has been able to stay afloat.

The only thing that Ukraine can produce is cereals, but unfortunately it has very low capability and cannot produce more – no matter how hard they try to prove otherwise.

Moreover, Ukraine has already lost most of its fertile lands. The land that remains under Ukrainian control mostly runs wild because of the country’s massive depopulation.

A multi-billion financial aid package for Ukraine’s economy that comes from Western powers has low efficiency, because the donations are embezzled by Ukrainian government employees.

These are well-known facts described by the Western media. Unfortunately, modern Ukraine is a bankrupt state that is close to total collapse.

Another sign of a failed state is a lack of sovereignty in internal and external affairs. States such as Ukraine cannot be regarded as independent players on the world stage. Ukraine and some others can be classified as protectorates of Western powers, whose external and internal policies are under the control of Washington and London.

For example, during Ukraine-Russian peace negotiations in Istanbul during March two years ago, the Ukrainian delegation was convinced to sign a peace deal; but because of political pressure from Western countries, Ukraine was obliged to abandon the Russian peace proposal.

It is against this background that I humbly advise the government of Ghana to be on the lookout for such states, or those who are on their way to such situations, to avoid the formation of any alliance or intention to do so.

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