ASTK18304U The International Community in Fragile States - Doctrine, Experience, Critique

Volume 2019/2020

Security Risk Management

Political Science students: Limited intake

SRM students have priority



Fragile states continue to present a security threat to the West and there is little evidence to show that our policy toolbox has an adequate response. The past 25 years have shown with spectacular clarity that the optimistic aim of state-building and democratization in weak and fragile states has not been realized. Critics say it’s too expensive, too ambitious and destabilizing to world order. Defenders claim we have no choice and must learn to do it better.


This course looks at the theory and practice of contemporary policy and practice towards fragile states, a remarkable policy area that fuses security policy on terror, migration and trafficking with development policy aimed at human rights, good governance and democracy.


We look at the dominant approaches to fragile states as expressed in the policies of the UN, EU, US and other major actors, drawing in concrete experiences in selected areas, for example, The Sahel, Somalia, Afghanistan and others.


We investigate how fragile states are diagnosed, how they are legitimated as objects of international political intervention and what happens when the international community decides to act upon fragile states.


We also look at the major critiques of current policy and practice towards fragile states, partly from those who continue to believe that fragile states can be fixed by external actors and partly from those who are deeply suspicious of the West and would prefer that it went away.


This includes bio political and postcolonial critiques of fragile state intervention, which in different ways are fundamentally opposed to Western engagement in fragile states.



Learning Outcome


  • Contemporary fragile states – extent, characteristics, tendencies
  • Dominant approaches to fragile states their theoretical basis
  • Empirical knowledge about actual engagements in selected fragile states
  • The most significant theoretical, political and operational critiques, within and outside dominant approaches



  • Describe contemporary policy towards fragile states, account for its logic in its own terms and for its allocated role in foreign and security policy
  • Confront contemporary policy towards fragile states with its practical experiences
  • Account for and assess the cogency of the main critiques of contemporary policy towards fragile states



  • Identify and analyze the main characteristics of fragile states
  • Use different theoretical approaches to analyze and assess the implemented policy in concrete engagements in fragile states
  • Participate in a qualified manner in professional discussions and current political debates about approaches to fragile states

Selected literature:


  • Bridoux, J. and M. Kurki (2014). Democracy Promotion - A Critical Introduction. London, Routledge.


  • Chandler, D. (2010). International state-building, the rise of post-liberal governance. London, London: Routledge.


  • Chomsky, N. (2012). A new generation draws the line, humanitarian intervention and the "responsibility to protect" today. Boulder, Colorado, Paradigm Publishers.


  • Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2014) - Evaluation of the Danish Peace and Stabilisation Fund. Copenhagen, Denmark.


  • Dean, M. (2013). The Signature of Power: Sovereignty, Governmentality and Biopolitics, Sage Publications Ltd.


  • Duffield, M. (2007). Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples. London, Polity Press.


  • Fukuyama, F. (2004). State Building - Governance and World Order in the Twenty-First Century. London, Profile Books.


  • Hansen, T. B. and F. Stepputat, Eds. (2001). States of Imagination: Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State. Durham and London, Duke University Press.


  • Hansen, T. B. and F. Stepputat (2005). Sovereign Bodies: Citizens, Migrants and states in the Postcolonial World. Princeton, N.J, Princeton University Press.


  • Jabri, V. (2012). The postcolonial subject, claiming politics/governing others in late modernity. New York, New York: Routledge.


  • Leander, A. and O. Wæver, Eds. (2019). Assembling Exclusive Expertise: Knowledge, Ignorance and Conflict Resolution in the Global South. Worlding Beyond the West. Abingdon, Routledge.


  • Mamdani, M. (2009). Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, politics, and the War on terror. New York, Pantheon Books.


  • Moe, L. W. (2011). "Hybrid and Everyday Political Ordering: Constructing and Contesting Legitimacy in Somaliland." Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law (63): 143-177.


  • Paris, R. (2010). "Saving liberal peacebuilding." Review of International Studies 36: 337-365.


  • Mezzadra, S., J. Reid and R. Samaddar, Eds. (2014). The Biopolitics of Development: Reading Michel Foucault in the Postcolonial Present, Springer.


  • Romaniuk, S. N., F. Grice, D. Irrera and S. Webb (2017). The Palgrave Handbook of Global Counterterrorism Policy. London, Palgrave MacMillan.


  • Sonnichsen, A. (2015). "Udfordringerne i Mali." Udenrigs2015(3): 79 - 89.


  • Sonnichsen, A. (2015) ”Demokratieksport i krise.”, DJØF-Bladet, Nr.19, 20 november 2015


  • Sørensen, G. (2011). A Liberal Order in Crisis. Choosing between imposition and restraint. Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press.




Selected policies:


  • United States Institute for Peace (2018). Beyond the Homeland - Protecting America from Extremism in Fragile States.


  • International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding (2015) – A New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States.


  • Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2010). Peace and Stabilization: Denmark's Policy Towards Fragile States. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Copenhagen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.


  • Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2013) - Denmark’s Integrated Stabilisation Engagement in Fragile and Conflict-affected Areas of the World. Copenhagen, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.


  • OECD (2015) – States of Fragility: Meeting Post-2015 Ambitions, OECD Publishing, Paris.


  • European External Action Service – The Common Security and Defence Policy.


Lectures, plenum discussion and active participation from students – modes of student participation will be decided in dialogue with students at the start of the course, which could include: workshops, debates, presentations, feedback.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner