The Afghan state is still not in a position to perform major sovereign tasks such as imposing rule of law or collecting significant tax revenues.
Photo: J. Hippler

07.03.2012

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Fragile states are lagging far behind in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Yet what exactly does the term itself mean? And why is state-building so difficult to accomplish?

In this second decade of the 21st century development policy faces a new set of challenges. It had set itself – in the form of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – a series of ambitious objectives for improving the living conditions of broad swathes of the global population, one of them being to halve the number of people living in absolute poverty throughout the world by the year 2015. With three years to go before this benchmark date is reached, however, the record is sobering: many of the goals will not be achieved. One key factor in this is that a significant number of countries are held back by state fragility, some even displaying the signs of state failure. These fragile states demonstrate significant failures in performance regarding key functions of government. For example, they have a limited capability – if any at all – to establish a monopoly on the legitimate use of force or protect their citizens from violence.

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