Areas of Limited Statehood

Limited statehood can be defined as the persistent absence of a monopoly on legitimate force, severely restricting the implementation of political decisions by a government (Risse and Lehmkuhl 2006; Risse 2007a). Areas of limited statehood consist of territorial, social, and functional spaces lacking certain features of “modern” forms of governance that characterize the political process in the developed or OECD world. Essentially, areas of limited statehood lack effective domestic sovereignty (Krasner 2004). In extreme cases, as in Somalia, it is missing completely. Somalia has not had an effective government that is capable of delivering basic governance services for more than twenty years. A large part of the international state system can be categorized as areas of—more or less-limited statehood. On a continuum with the end points completely consolidated-statehood on the one end and completely limited statehood on the other-failing and failed states are the most prominent subcategory close to the latter end point.

It is important to note that certain features of limited statehood are common throughout the international state system. Almost no government can at all times enforce political decisions in all parts of its territory or in all policy areas. Even in the OECD world we find areas of limited statehood. We may distinguish between limited and consolidated statehood by measuring the scope and intensity of deficient domestic sovereignty: The more a government fails to enforce political decisions over time and in many different policy areas, the more limited statehood appears. Another key difference between limited and consolidated statehood concerns the provision of basic governance services. In areas of consolidated statehood, nonstate actors may contribute to rule setting and rule enforcement in various policy areas, thus complementing governmental action. In areas of limited statehood, nonstate actors do not complement but substitute governmental service provision. For example, if private NGOs do not provide health care for children in Somalia, then it is not provided at all.

In the context of globalization and securitization processes, areas of limited statehood are increasingly linked to global scenarios of threats and dangers. Within the security strategies of the United States (2006, 2010) and the European Union (2003), areas of limited statehood occupy a prominent place. The U.S. Security Strategies describe regional conflicts that may produce failed states as a major challenge that has to be faced:

Regional conflicts can arise from a wide variety of causes, including poor governance, external aggression, competing claims, internal revolt, tribal rivalries, and ethnic or religious hatreds. If left unaddressed, however, these different causes lead to the same ends: failed states, humanitarian disasters, and ungoverned areas that can become safe havens for terrorists.

(National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2006, 15)

“Failing states breed conflict and endanger regional and global security” (National Security Strategy of the United States of America 2010, 8). The E.U. regards state failure as a key threat and states that

[b]ad governance-corruption, abuse of power, weak institutions and lack of accountability-and civil conflict corrode States from within. In some cases, this has brought about the collapse of State institutions. Somalia, Liberia and Afghanistan under the Taliban are the best known recent examples. Collapse of the State can be associated with obvious threats, such as organised crime or terrorism. State failure is an alarming phenomenon that undermines global governance, and adds to regional instability.

(European Security Strategy 2003, 4)

International politics focuses more and more on areas of limited statehood because the probability of violent conflict with potentially destabilizing consequences is perceived as being highest here. In contrast to traditional foreign policy and security strategies that were obsessed with powerful enemies, now failed and failing states-the powerless-are placed at the center of threat analysis. Because of political instability, they provide breeding grounds for the emergence of threats that may have regionally and even internationally destabilizing effects. Consequently, strategies and instruments are developed to deal with these dangers (Schneckener 2005, 2006, 2007; see Schneckener’s chapter in this volume). The main threats, according to these analyses of areas of limited statehood, are linked to security issues (Mutzelburg 2007, 288):

  • • Violent conflicts triggering humanitarian disasters and mass movements of refugees and migrants with locally, regionally, and internationally destabilizing effects. This in turn increases the risk that OECD countries are affected by the consequences of these conflicts. At the same time public pressure to end them mounts on the members of the international community, especially those having the capacities to conduct international interventions.2
  • • Organized crime, using areas of limited statehood for transit and supply.
  • • Terrorist groups that use areas of limited statehood for recruitment, recreation, and training.

To counter these threats, the creation of robust governance and government structures is proposed: “It is about the political and economic reconstruction (and sometimes the construction) of devastated states, the state building in postconflict situations” (Mutzelburg 2007, 289).3 The programmatic objective of these internationally orchestrated efforts is the establishment of modern OECD style statehood.4 Modern statehood refers to a robust state with a legitimate government and effective domestic sovereignty that is capable of providing basic governance services. Basic governance services comprise the provision of collective goods in the policy areas of security, political authority, and welfare. This objective is to be achieved through the commitment of the international community, which—in exceptional cases—can take on the form of a military intervention (see Krasner 2004; with regard to Africa, see Reno 1997).

Failed and failing states like Afghanistan, Somalia, and post-Saddam Iraq show that in some cases threats to international foreign and security policy actually can be traced back to areas of limited statehood. Therefore, for example, the intervention of the international community in Afghanistan is regarded as a test case for its ability to establish structures and processes that permanently prevent the use of Afghan territory as a “recruitment, training, and recreation space” for terrorist groups as well as organized crime (Risse 2007b)—that is, to succeed in building a modern state. However, doubts about the actual extent of the threat and the empirical relevance of the underlying assumptions and observations are also expressed. Schlichte points out that it is by no means clear that state failure automatically leads to increasing international security threats. Furthermore, “the number of domestic wars, in the debate often linked to state failure, . . . has declined massively since the early 1990s” (Schlichte 2005, 74). In addition, external interventions often miss their goal and generate rather counterproductive results, doing more harm than good (Broszka 2006; Fukuyama 2004).

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