Sovereignty in fragile states in the age of international intervention: UN Peacebuilding in fragile states in Africa

Maria Mørch Jensen

Studenteropgave: Speciale


This thesis examines what influence United Nations peacebuilding missions have on the sovereignty of fragile states in Africa. The starting point for the analysis is the nature of the fragile state and an examination of how the condition of fragility influences the presence of sovereignty in these states. The thesis distinguishes itself by recognising the relationship between the two entities and establishes an understanding of fragile state’s sovereignty as a tool for negotiation when it comes to international intervention. It is the argument of the thesis, that UN peacebuilding with its added dimension of statebuilding illustrates an added dimension to the understanding of sovereignty in fragile states. In the environment of UN peacebuilding interventions, sovereignty in fragile states becomes more than just an interaction with external donors, but becomes an informal arrangement of shared sovereignty. The thesis starts of by establishing a conceptualised understanding of the fragile state. This framework is used as the foundation for further analysis of sovereignty and for understanding the interventionist approach of UN peacebuilding missions. The conceptualisation of the fragile state is compiled by including perspectives from various authors on the functions and performance of the state and by including an understanding that the historical context is influential in the current condition of the fragile state. It is the argument of this thesis that the character of the fragile state is of paramount importance when establishing an understanding of the condition of sovereignty in these countries. The fragility of the state is understood to influence the state’s domestic and interdependence sovereignty to the point where they are virtually non-existent. This in conjunction with the fact that fragile states are among the poorest countries in the world, sets the state in a position where international assistance is necessary in order to manage territory and gain access to external resources. This means that the fragile state has become a new kind of sovereign state that is independent in law, insubstantial in reality and hugely materially dependent on other states for general functions and welfare. In an international community where the fragile state has gained increased attention in recent years, the adverse circumstances of the fragile state and the very lack of domestic sovereignty have become instruments for attracting external resources. As such sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention, have become entities for negotiation of the pace and scope of the external intervention and not indisputable principles of international relations. Sovereignty in fragile states can thus be seen as a matter of interaction rather than an absolute and indisputable fact of international relations. UN peacebuilding interventions should be seen in the light of the fact that the fragile state, in recent years, has become a centre of focus for international relations as international security has grown to be seen as interconnected. The fragile state is here seen, as the exemplification of the connection between security and development. In this thesis UN peacebuilding is seen as the extension of the international community’s, though primarily the West’s, project of ideology expansion. Furthermore, UN peacebuilding is seen as demonstrating a widening of traditional intervention areas. With its current focus on building state capacity, UN peacebuilding has moved into domestic policy areas and as demonstrating a degree of co-authorship over the national project of statebuilding. It is argued that the focus on building state capacity in conjunction with liberal demands of good governance and democratisation has been instrumental in moving the condition of sovereignty in fragile states from a condition of interaction to one of shared sovereignty. UN peacebuilding alongside the character of the fragile state can thus be seen as having influenced the structure of sovereignty in fragile states to the point that it has become a matter of shared sovereignty. As such UN peacebuilding is seen to influence sovereignty in fragile states beyond its already augmented form. In the short to medium-term this can be seen as decreasing the scope, latitude and policy options of the fragile state. However, if the peacebuilding project is successful and then withdrawn, it has the potential to increase domestic sovereignty areas over the long-term.

UddannelserGlobal Studies, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato21 jun. 2012
VejlederePeter Kragelund


  • Sovereignty
  • fragile states
  • statebuilding
  • intervention