The aim of this paper is to help make the concept of 'fragile states' operational for development policy. Consequently, it proposes a working definition of 'fragile' states in the light of existing definitions, suggesting a way of operationalising the definition empirically. It considers how fragility, as defined, relates to other major development approaches to vulnerable societies, with particular emphasis on a human rights (HR) approach, while also discussing horizontal inequalities (HIs) and social exclusion (SE), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and poverty reduction. The paper proposes a three-pronged definition of fragility – states may be fragile because they lack authority (authority failure), fail to provide services (service entitlement failure) or lack legitimacy (legitimacy failure). We argue that each captures different aspects of state vulnerability, and that they are related to each other causally. The paper points to some policy implications of the proposed approach to fragility. Throughout, it draws on six case studies – Indonesia, Nepal, Guatemala, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Sudan – which are presented at the end of the paper.
CRISE Working Paper No. 51, 117 pp.