Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance

Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance

Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance

Making States Work: State Failure and the Crisis of Governance


This publication is the result of a joint interdisciplinary project of the International Peace Academy and the United Nations University. It focuses on situations when state structures begin to break down or collapse, encompassing a range of crises from states in which basic public services are neglected to the total collapse of governance. It looks at the roles and responsibilities of key actors in the situation in relation to their own populations and the international community, and considers the lessons that can be drawn from a range of countries to develop effective strategies to address such situations.


This timely volume represents the culmination of efforts by three institutions and many individuals to advance thinking about why states fail and why they succeed.

Two of the editors, Michael Ignatieff and Ramesh Thakur, served as commissioners of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. Its landmark report The Responsibility to Protect transformed the debate over humanitarian intervention and what role the “international community” should play and what responsibilities it bears when facing states that are unable or unwilling to protect their populations. That report and a launching event convened in New York by the International Peace Academy (IPA) in February 2002 provided the intellectual foundation of the project that has produced this volume.

At roughly the same time, Simon Chesterman was leading a project at IPA on the transitional administration of countries and regions in crisis. This and other research at IPA had shown that the role of the state had been somewhat neglected in earlier literature on post-conflict reconstruction. Indeed, humanitarian and human rights constituencies often saw the state mainly as the perpetrator of oppression and mismanagement.

Through the 1990s, human rights activists in particular began to recognize that states might well be major violators of rights–but they were also the only vehicle through which rights could be guaranteed. This insight was recognized in The Responsibility to Protect, but it was only after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington . . .

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