May 19, 2012 Kathmandu – As we are waiting to see the major political reform in a week or so as Our constituent assembly is going to announce new constitution as expected. I have just memorized this article which was published long ago in a daily news paper of Nepal. The significance of this article is still valuable today in Nepali politics.
When we argue that state collapse is a consequence of state building, we should know what state is and what is state building. As encyclopedia Britannia says, “the state is the body politic as organized for supreme civil rule and government; the political organization, which is the basis of civil government; hence, the supreme civil power and government vested in a country of nation.” Generally, the state’s basic elements are defined as territory, population, government, and sovereignty. In this article I discuss how the process of building a new state can lead in some cases to state collapse.
New state building occurs when there is a decision- either internally agreed or externally informed (Iraq)- to create new structures and organization designed to penetrate the society in order to regulate behavior in it and draw a larger volume of resources from it. It is a regulative and extractive capability of the political system for the overall development of a state.
State building is a fairly technical matter. As Professor Fukuyama says: ‘State building is the creation of new government institution and the strengthening of existing one. It is one of the most important issues for the world community because weak or failed states are source of many of the world’s most serious problems from poverty to ADIS, drug and terrorism.’
State building is a long process, as Joseph R. Strayer says “In the process of State building it took four to five centuries for European states to overcome their weakness and to remedy their administrative deficiencies.” However, state building requires following supporting environments :
• Supportive political environment.
• Strong civil society.
• Supportive economic environment.
• Supportive regulatory environment.
• Supportive informational environment and
• Supportive cultural environment.
It is also important to understand how states are categorized in the process of state building. At present the world has been divided into four categories. There are strong states, weak states, failing or failed states and collapsed states.
Failing or failed states cause more problems for themselves. They create what Miron Winner called “Bad Neighbors” Failed states are characterized by
• A rise in criminal and political violence.
• A loss of control over their border.
• Rising ethnic, religious, linguistic, and cultural hostilities.
• Civil war.
• The use of terror against their own citizens.
• Weak institutions.
• High level of corruption, and so on.
Collapsed states are tense, deeply conflicted, dangerous, and bitterly contested by warring factions. In most collapsed states, government troops battle armed revolts led by one or more rivals. Collapsed States are the extreme version of failed states. In a Collapsed state, security is considered as the rule of the strong and it exhibits a vacuum of authority. The civil wars have roots in ethnic, religious, linguistic, or other inter-communal enmity. Political goods are obtained through ad hoc means. The fear of each other drives so much ethnic conflict and may stimulate and fuel hostilities between ruling entities and subordinate and less-favored groups. Criminal violence is increased, gangs and criminal syndicates assume control over the streets of the cities. Ordinary police forces become paralyzed and anarchy becomes more and more the norm. For protection, citizens naturally turn to warlords and other strong figures who express ethnic or clan solidarity.
The rise and fall of nation states is not a new phenomenon. If a nation-state fails it poses dangers not only for oneself but also their neighbors and to the people around the world. States fail when they lose their credibility among their people, their government loses legitimacy, on the economic side living standards falls rapidly, influential leaders deliver financial rewards only to favored families or small groups, citizens see their medical, educational and logistical entitlements melt away and corruption flourishes. On the political side leaders and their limited supporters ruin democratic norms, coerce legislature and bureaucracies for personal interest and seek control over security and defense force. They usually patronize ethnic groups, clans, classes of kinds. Other groups feel excluded or discriminated and they are incapable of providing effective governance at all.
The cause of state failure differs from state to state. Sometime it is wrong administration by the indigenous elite so-called states builders. Failure is sometime a legacy first of interference by outside powers, and their abandonment. Afghanistan is a good example. Most important, failed or failing states are poor and have suffered from corruption, bad planning, poor governance, or ideological dogma.
State collapse is man-made, not merely accidental. Leadership decisions and leadership failures have destroyed states and continue to weaken the fragile politics that operate in the cusp of collapse.
Somalia, a nation-state with a strong history, a common language, a common religion and a shared history of nationalism failed and then collapsed by destructive leadership pre-domination. In 1969 the first elected, proto- democratic, post independence civilian government of Somalia was overthrown by General Mohammed Said Barre, Commander of the Army. He claimed that the politicians were spoiling the country, so he took over the power suspending the constitution banning political parties, and promising an end to corruption. However, in 20 years, Said Barre destroyed the institution of government and democracy, abused his citizens and human right while enjoying the maximum resources of the state for himself and his sub clan.
The collapse of the Said Barre regime was seemingly inevitable, and when he fell in 1991, the clans fought to take his place. There was no foreign champion available to help the people of Somalia to restore their state. The civil war destroyed what was left, and Somalia collapsed into itself in 1991.
Normally, authoritarian governments are the causes of state collapse. As professor Fukuyama says that “The last quarter of the 20th century has been the revelations of enormous weakness at the core of the world’s seemingly strong dictatorships, whether they be the military authoritarian Right, or the communist totalitarian left” In Soviet Union, the totalitarianism government sought to destroy civil society in its entirety, in its search for “total” control over the lives of its citizens. They attacked political parties, the press, the trade unions, private enterprises, and the churches. It has been proven that liberal democracy is the political system for the stability of the nation-states.
Stability in any state can be maintained by economic globalization, political democratization particular belief system and the of international law and institutions. In the process of state building democratization is a difficult process that can go terribly wrong. In a country, the interim period when the old system is breaking down, but the new one has not yet taken root, has proved to be a time of suffering, violence and political extremism. Most of the new democratic countries in the developing world are affected from that difficulty. Nepal, some of the east European countries and African countries are good examples.
In sum, survival through security, stability, and prosperity are the basic national interests of the nation state. If state building is done on the ground of loyalty and the commitment of the people to the state building’s mission through the penetration and integration, there is no possibility of state collapse due to the state building. In the process of state building, state collapse entirely depends upon the driver of the states and the institutional development.
Collapsed states, and even failing states can be a breeding ground for terrorists. The fight against terrorism or to eradicate terrorists from the world, state building process should be started from the entire sector. Preventive diplomacy, targeted financial assistance and other methods have to apply for all the weak states to prevent failure and collapse. International organizations , regional organizations , global and regional Actors (Power) can play a very impotent role. Cambodia, East Timor and the NATO-UN interim administration in Kosovo all indicate that successful state building is possible if there is sufficient political will and targeted external assistance. In the 21st century, the role of the UN , regional organizations and other international institutions can play a very effective role in state building as well as maintaining peace and harmony in the world.
Written By: Tika Dhamala