Can we identify measurable characteristics that affect the risk of state failure? Do changes in population or the environment directly affect it? Do some states have greater or lesser capacity to cope with the pressures that can lead to state failure? By producing models that correctly classified countries headed for state failure with 70 to 80 percent accuracy, this research identifies the underlying or structural conditions associated with the occurrence of state failure.
State failure is defined to include four types of events, each of which indicates severe political instability. These include: (1) revolutionary wars – episodes of sustained violent conflict between governments and politically organized challengers that seek to overthrow the central government, to replace its leaders, or to seize power in one region; (2) ethnic wars: episodes of sustained violent conflict in which national, ethnic, religious, or other communal minorities challenge governments to seek major changes in status; (3) adverse regime changes – abrupt shifts in patterns of governance, including state collapse, periods of severe elite or regime instability, and shifts away from democracy toward authoritarian rule; (4) Genocides and politicides – sustained policies by states that result in the deaths of a substantial portion of a communal or political group.
Several conditions are associated with state failure in many different global regions. These key drivers are:
- Quality of life, that is, the material well-being of a country’s citizens.
- Regime type, that is, the character of a country’s political institutions.
- International influences, including openness to trade, memberships in regional organisations and violent conflicts in neighbouring countries.
- The ethnic or religious composition of country’s population or leadership.
- Additional factors, such as patterns of development, types of ideology and the number of years a political leader has spent in office, were important in particular regions or for particular types of failure but did not prove significant in a global analysis.
Not all regimes respond in the same way to the kinds of pressures that can produce state failure. The capacity of regimes to gather resources and cope with such pressures is a crucial determinant of whether or not state failure will occur. Two distinct kinds of capacity affect a state’s ability to resist political crisis: the organisational effectiveness of that state and the legitimacy of its authority.
- Knowing a state’s capacity in these respects appears likely to provide even more accurate assessments of the risks of impending state failure.
- Particularly important will be to examine whether these capacities shape the impact of environmental degradation or regional conflict on the risk of state failure.
- Annual, country-level data often lacks detail on local and short-term factors that may play an important role in the outbreak of violent conflict.
- Collecting local and regional data and week-by-week event data for a small sample of countries will be important to determine the usefulness of more finely grained data for the analysis and forecasting of various state-failure events.
- Understanding the factors leading to the end of state failure episodes is just as important for forecasting and understanding when they begin.