Fragile States are those that cannot be classified either as developed and functional States or as failed States. They fall somewhere in between, showing several indications of a propensity towards failure, but also demonstrating signs of the possibility of recovery. These States, also frequently referred to as fragile, failing or weak States, are an increasingly common phenomenon in the international system of the post Cold War period, with an estimated 1 billion people living within their borders.
The causes of fragility are complex and multidimensional, related to both international and local factors. These include regional instability, landlocked States, lack of economic development or opportunities, lack of democratic means of conflict resolution, inequalities in the distribution of wealth, ethnically divided societies and sub development.
It is of the upmost importance to develop a clear comprehension of these contexts of fragility in order to identify the factors that influence a State’s evolution either towards failure or towards development and stability. This knowledge is essential in order to devise the correct approaches to these States and help them avoy failure.
Disaster Risk Reduction tries to identify and reduce the risk of natural disasters. Its main objective is to implement a series of measures to reduce the social, economic, infrastructural and institutional vulnerability of States to natural disasters. It also tries to deal with the environmental policies and behaviours that augment State’s fragility to certain environmental hazards.
Disaster risk reduction is thus a very broad practice that might accompany several other measures related to State-Building and the prevention of State-Failure, be it the promotion of development or the construction of local capabilities and institutions. Although there is no established definition of Disaster Risk Reduction, the UNDP’s definition is frequently cited, and defines it as “the conceptual framework of elements considered with the possibilities to minimize vulnerabilities and disaster risks throughout a society, to avoid (prevention) or to limit (mitigation and preparedness) the adverse impacts of hazards, within the broad context of sustainable development.”
Disaster Risk Reduction Climate Change Adaptation and Human Security (Karen O’Brien, Linda Sygna, Robin Leichenko, Neil Adger, Jon Barnett, Tom Mitchell, Lisa Schipper, Thomas Tanner, Coleen Vogel & Colette Mortreux)