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Politicians, economists, and researchers refer to the concept of a fragile or failed state when it is necessary to describe a country with a high risk of developing social conflicts. Even though there are no strict criteria according to which countries are classified as fragile or failed, these terms are actively used internationally to reflect the evaluation of the possibility of a social breakdown. According to the Fragile States Index, Yemen is categorized as being the country on the Very High Alert during the past several years (Sharp, 2018). Thus, the fragility of this country needs to be discussed in detail to understand how it influences the domestic development and international relations of Yemen. The purpose of this paper is to describe the general features of fragile or failed states, analyze why Yemen is regarded as being fragile, and demonstrate how this aspect impacts regional and international relations.
General Features of Fragile or Failed States
It is important to note that there is no single opinion regarding the definition of such terms as a “fragile state” and a “failed state.” Some researchers tend to support the idea that fragile and failed states have the same features associated with the situation of political and social crises and conflicts (Grimm, Lemay-Hébert, & Nay, 2014). The other ones assert that failed states demonstrate the extreme level of a crisis in contrast to fragile states (Carment, Landry, Samy, & Shaw, 2015). Fragile or failed states are characterized by their susceptibility to crises, domestic violent conflicts, ineffective economic reforms, stagnation, poverty, social inequality, high levels of crime, and low levels of national security (Grimm et al., 2014). The authorities in these states cannot control activities and guarantee stability over countries’ territories, and opposing political organizations can appear and threaten the order in these countries.
Fragile or failed states often suffer from civil conflicts and wars, economic recession, and insecurity. As a result, they usually require the humanitarian assistance provided by the international community and donors’ aid in the form of funding and interventions (Carment et al., 2015). Living standards in these countries decrease, and the risk of developing a violent conflict, including military conflicts, becomes obvious. Therefore, politicians and economists are inclined to evaluate situations in countries all over the globe to identify political and economic indicators of state fragility to oppose it and apply preventive measures (Grimm et al., 2014). These approaches are important to provide support for fragile states using international forces to avoid the spread of conflicts and negative changes in a certain region.
Reasons for Viewing Yemen as a Fragile State
Yemen is selected as an example of a fragile or failed state for further analysis in this paper because it is categorized as a Very High Alert state according to the Fragile States Index. This classification is based on a list of Yemen’s characteristics that are associated with the features of fragile states. Currently, Yemen is in a civil war that started in 2015, and the coalition including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is oriented to ceasing the conflict (Sharp, 2018). This specific political conflict has developed between the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthi militia. As a result, more than 17,000 civilians have become the victims of this civil war since 2015 (Sharp, 2018). At the current stage of the conflict, the territory of Yemen is controlled by different political and military forces, and there are no signs to state that the problem will be solved shortly.
It is possible to note that Yemen is a fragile or even failed state because of a civil war developing in its territory, political and economic instability, and a humanitarian catastrophe. Thus, to international reports, more than 20 million Yemenis out of 30 million people in the country require humanitarian aid (Sharp, 2018). The development of the conflict is worsened by the fact that Yemen was affected by civil wars several times in the past.
As a consequence, Islamists’, extremists’, and separatists’ ideas are spread in the country, negatively influencing its stability and making it vulnerable. There are no effective democratic institutions in the country, and the economic situation is deteriorated because of corruption and illegitimate ways of control. Moreover, education and access to healthcare also remained to be poor several years before the start of the war (Carment et al., 2015). From this perspective, before 2015, the political, economic, and social situation in Yemen could be discussed as an indicator for developing a crisis accentuating the fragility of the country. Thus, the country is fragile in terms of realizing ineffective control, governance, security, economic development, and demographic development.
Yemen in Regional and International Relations
Being a fragile state where a civil war develops during several years, Yemen directly affects regional and international relations. At the regional level, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are actively involved in the conflict while participating in military attacks, airstrikes in particular, against the Houthi militia (Sharp, 2018). It is possible to state that the military conflict in Yemen is the reflection of a regional conflict between Saudi Arabia that supports the internationally recognized government of Hadi and Iran that supports the Houthi militia. As a result, regional interventions involving these countries seem to complicate the situation significantly, making the crisis spread to a regional level instead of a domestic one.
In addition, a problematic social situation in the country and the associated humanitarian disaster because of poverty and famine have led to attracting international forces assisting the Western countries. Both Saudi Arabia, which is supported by the United States, and Iran are oriented to promoting their interests in the region (Carment et al., 2015). These nations seem to realize their plan using the conflict in Yemen that influences the overall stability in the Middle East. Thus, it is expected that the solution to the developing crisis in Yemen will be influenced by regional and international actors who are interested in ceasing the conflict according to their particular interests.
Having analyzed the political, economic, and social situation in Yemen, it is important to note that this state is fragile or failed because its current progress is associated with the features of weak states. A civil war develops in Yemen for several years, significantly affecting the country’s stability in all spheres. Furthermore, this crisis has led to a humanitarian catastrophe, and it requires the solution with the help of regional and international interventions. From this perspective, the political and economic crisis in Yemen directly influences the situation in the Middle East. It also involves international parties because such countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran have their interests in resolving the war in Yemen with a focus on certain outcomes.
Carment, D., Landry, J., Samy, Y., & Shaw, S. (2015). Towards a theory of fragile state transitions: Evidence from Yemen, Bangladesh and Laos. Third World Quarterly, 36(7), 1316-1332.
Grimm, S., Lemay-Hébert, N., & Nay, O. (2014). “Fragile States”: Introducing a political concept. Third World Quarterly, 35(2), 197-209.
Sharp, J. M. (2018). Yemen: Civil war and regional intervention. Web.