How to assess fragmenting Arab states



One of the most significant common factors that has characterized the Arab world in recent years has been the birth and spread of non-state actors – organizations, parties, militias – that have assumed the role of traditional governments in many countries.

These seven are Identity, Sovereignty, Territoriality, Service-delivery, Legitimacy, Nationality and Statehood.

One important reason why so many Arab states are fragile and turbulent is that these factors have never coincided naturally, as they must for there to be stable, satisfying and durable statehood – a rare feat in the modern Arab world.

It is hard to see the group as legitimate because most of the people under its control did not assent to ISIS rule.

Hezbollah, like Hamas and other Islamists and many large non-governmental organizations working at community level, offer important services that citizens want (health and welfare, food, social support to families, security) – but this service delivery in itself is not a basis for governing legitimately.

The fragmentation and occasional collapse of some Arab states in recent years force us to come to grips with the reality that we should not assess Arab countries through the traditional lens of statehood, where a geographically delineated land and its inhabitants formed a single state or nation whose sovereignty was managed by the government.

Those are the factors that ultimately will determine whether certain people in a territory will be seen by the world as a state or a nation.

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Categories: Africa, Arab World, Asia

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