Definitions and conceptualizations of state fragility are constantly evolving, and the number of cases is in many ways a function of how it is defined. State fragility hinges on the combination of exposure to risk and the insufficient coping capacity of the state, systems and communities’ ability to manage risks. Institutional deficits and political illegitimacy increase the risk of instability and conflict and leave the state vulnerable to disruptive shocks.
There are important linkages between state fragility and federalism. These include the impact of deep ethnic/racial/religious divisions in a discrete subset of fragile contexts and severe territorial political identity fragmentation. Research findings into state fragility suggest that federalism may offer a policy path to greater state resilience in a subgroup of fragile contexts because the focus on decision-making in a federal design has the potential of simultaneously equip groups and prepare institutions to shape each other through recurring, essential governance processes. Policymakers can use this approach to develop context-specific strategies to design and implement programs to build state resilience.