Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Problem of Failed States

Even a cursory look at the vital signs of our current world order lends unwelcome support to my conclusion. And those of us in the environmental field are well into our third decade of charting trends of environmental decline without seeing any significant effort to reverse a single one. In six of the past nine years world grain production has fallen short of consumption, forcing a steady drawdown in stocks. When the 2008 harvest began, world carryover stocks of grain (the amount in the bin when the new harvest begins) were at 62 days of consumption, a near record low. In response, world grain prices in the spring and summer of last year climbed to the highest level ever.

As demand for food rises faster than supplies are growing, the resulting food-price inflation puts severe stress on the governments of countries already teetering on the edge of chaos. Unable to buy grain or grow their own, hungry people take to the streets. Indeed, even before the steep climb in grain prices in 2008, the number of failing states was expanding. Many of their problems stem from a failure to slow the growth of their populations. But if the food situation continues to deteriorate, entire nations will break down at an ever increasing rate. We have entered a new era in geopolitics. In the 20th century the main threat to international security was superpower conflict; today it is failing states. It is not the concentration of power but its absence that puts us at risk.

States fail when national governments can no longer provide personal security, food security and basic social services such as education and health care. They often lose control of part or all of their territory. When governments lose their monopoly on power, law and order begin to disintegrate. After a point, countries can become so dangerous that food relief workers are no longer safe and their programs are halted; in Somalia and Afghanistan, deteriorating conditions have already put such programs in jeopardy.

Failing states are of international concern because they are a source of terrorists, drugs, weapons and refugees, threatening political stability everywhere. Somalia, number one on the 2008 list of failing states, has become a base for piracy. Iraq, number five, is a hotbed for terrorist training. Afghanistan, number seven, is the world’s leading supplier of heroin. Following the massive genocide of 1994 in Rwanda, refugees from that troubled state, thousands of armed soldiers among them, helped to destabilize neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (number six). Our global civilization depends on a functioning network of politically healthy nationstates to control the spread of infectious disease, to manage the international monetary system, to control international terrorism and to reach scores of other common goals. If the system for controlling infectious diseases—such as polio, SARS or avian flu—breaks down, humanity will be in trouble. Once states fail, no one assumes responsibility for their debt to outside lenders. If enough states disintegrate, their fall will threaten the stability of global civilization itself.

Failing States
Every year the Fund for Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace jointly analyze and score countries on 12 social, economic, political and military indicators of national well-being. Here, ranked from worst to better according to their combined scores in 2007, are the 20 countries in the world that are closest to collapse:
• Somalia
• Sudan
• Zimbabwe
• Chad
• Iraq
• Democratic Republic of the Congo
• Afghanistan
• Ivory Coast
• Pakistan
• Central African Republic
• Guinea
• Bangladesh
• Burma (Myanmar)
• Haiti
• North Korea
• Ethiopia
• Uganda
• Lebanon
• Nigeria
• Sri Lanka

SOURCE: “The Failed States Index 2008,” by the Fund for Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in Foreign Policy; July/August 2008

Key Factors in Food Shortages
The spreading scarcity of food is emerging as the central cause of state failure. Food shortages arise out of a tangled web of causes, effects and feedbacks whose interactions often intensify the effects of any one factor acting alone. Some of the most common factors are depicted in the diagram. According to the author, today’s food shortages are not the result of one-time, weather-driven crop failures but rather of four critical longterm trends (below): rapid population growth, loss of topsoil, spreading water shortages and rising temperatures.

Source of Information : Scientific American(2009-05)

No comments: