What does ‘failed state’ mean?

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KUCHING: A failed state is defined as a state whose political or economic system has become so weak that the government is no longer in control.

However, it can be argued the term is subjective in its nature given that there is no single or agreed upon definition. 

With this in mind, there are common characteristics and contributing factors that could lead to a state being labelled as failed.

A failed state usually has lost the capability to provide the basic functions of government such as low enforcement and justice, education, military defence, and a stable economy.

This would mean that a failed state experiences ongoing civil violence, rampant corruption, insurgency, high rates of crime, judicial incompetence as well as military interference in politics. 

Social and political scientists have created rankings such as the Fragile State Index by making quantitative measurements of state failure in which the indicators encompass social, political, economic and cohesion. 

Social indicators comprise of demographic pressures, refugees or internally displaced persons and external intervention while political indicators include state legitimacy, basic public services as well as human rights and the rule of law.

Economic indicators look at economic decline, uneven economic as well as human flight and brain drain (out migration of knowledgeable and skilled professionals) while cohesion indicators involve security apparatus, factionalised elites, and group grievance.

According to the Fragile States Index 2021, Yemen continues to be ranked as the most fragile state followed by Somalia, Syria, and South Sudan.

Despite a recent article ran by an international news portal describing that Malaysia had gone down the path of failed statehood, the country ranks 123 with a score of 56.9 compared to its 57.56 score in 2020, 60.50 score in 2019, 63.59 score in 2018 and 65.40 score in 2017.

The countries listed in the Fragile State Index 2021 are as follows:

1.     Yemen

2.     Somalia

3.     South Sudan

4.     Syria

5.     Dr Congo

6.     Central African Republic

7.     Chad

8.     Sudan

9.     Afghanistan

10.   Zimbabwe

11.   Guinea

12.   Haiti

13.   Iraq

14.   Nigeria

15.   Burundi

16.   Cameroon

17.   Eritrea

18.   Niger

19.   Guinea Bissau

20.   Uganda

21.   Mali

22.   Myanmar

23.   Ethiopia

24.   Pakistan

25.   Kenya

26.   North Korea

27.   Republic Of The Congo

28.   Libya

29.   Ivory Coast

30.   Liberia

31.   Mauritania

32.   Venezuela

33.   Mozambique

34.   Egypt

35.   Angola

36.   Bangladesh

37.   Rwanda

38.   Togo

39.   Sierra Leone

40.   Zambia

41.   Timor Leste

42.   Eswatini

43.   Djibouti

44.   Lebanon

45.   Nepal

46.   Sri Lanka

47.   Gambia

48.   Burkina Faso

49.   Malawi

50.   Papua New Guinea