Sandhurst Trends in International             Conflict Series Symposium 2

Key areas worthy of greater consideration are:

  • What constitutes a ‘fragile’, ‘failing’ or ‘failed’ state? How do we distinguish between these categories and what criteria could and should be utilised in determining their status within the wider international order? What are the implications for existing concepts of sovereignty and governance?

  • What are the security implications of the emergence – both naturally and as a result of human mismanagement – of such states? Reinforcing a key theme from the first symposium in our series, who are ‘the people’ affected by such developments?

  • In terms of response, what tools are available to the military to address the problems posed by fragile states? What are the key legal and logistical challenges to organising an effective reaction to the various categories of state weakness?

  • When, where, how and why should a military response be considered as part of a wider, more integrated approach to tackling the phenomenon of state failure?

  • What lessons can be identified and learned from the UK’s approach – both military and more widely – to addressing the question of state failure?

Fragile and Failing States RGB 100dpi 60
2018: Fragile and Failing States: Challenges and Responses

                          Wednesday February 7, 2018

                       Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

For the second in a series of symposia held at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, as part of a partnership with Howgate Publishing, the Department of Defence and International Affairs is looking for both scholars and practitioners to present papers on the phenomenon of state fragility.  The symposium proposes to consider the actual nature of the problem, both conceptually and geo-strategically, the security implications such developments pose at multiple levels and the legal and logistical implications of responding to the development of weaknesses in key areas of state behaviour.


In 2002, as part of the controversial US National Security Strategy, with its emphasis on the doctrine of pre-emptive military action as a legitimate response to international Islamist terrorism, the US government claimed that international security was as likely to be adversely affected as much by state fragility as strength. The Strategy noted that ‘the events of September 11, 2001 taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states’. This focus on state fragility, which was part of an agenda that had already begun to attract greater prominence in the 1990s, as part of a widening of the post-Cold War international security environment, has continued to develop subsequently, not just in the US, but wider, with the UK, for instance, committing 50% of its development assistance to addressing the causes and consequences of fragile and failing states.

Given our emphasis on the development of further and better links on the academic-military interface, the contribution and manner in which military actors, both national and private, UN sponsored peacekeepers and the British Armed Forces, can and have made, both in conjunction with other governmental and non-governmental actors and independently, in responding to the perception and reality of state weakness will also be examined and discussed.

Keynote address

By Professor David Chandler (University of Westminster)

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