State failure can be a lot like an infectious disease. It can easily – though somewhat gradually – spread from a state to its neighbors. Refugees, weapons, fighters, and illicit trade may easily spill across international boundaries, destabilizing neighboring economies and societies. The negative linkages between Afghanistan and Pakistan are well understood. In Central America, the spread of drug-related violence is beginning to undermine multiple states simultaneously. It is in Africa, though, where regional contagions in state failure have been most prominent. “Africa’s world war,” involving the Democratic Republic of the Congo and its neighbors is a prime example of regional destabilization. Separate processes of state decay have been mutually reinforcing in the states of Sudan, Chad, and Central African Republic. Likewise, the Mano River states of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea have struggled with negative cross-border processes. More recently the flow of fighters and weapons from Libya to Mali are contributing to unrest in that landlocked state. Of the many reasons to care about state failure, the risk of regional geographic spread is one of the greatest.
*** Did you like what you read here? You might be interested in the new book by this blog’s author, Failed States: Realities, Risks, and Responses.