‘Failed States’ concept discussed at PSIC symposium

CAPTION: Dr Steven Ratuva speaking during a symposium at the 12th PSIC, hosted by the University of the South Pacific.

At a symposium titled Oceans and Nations, Failed States and the Environment in the Pacific, organised as part of the 12th Pacific Science Inter-Congress (PSIC), participants had the opportunity to engage in deliberations with experts on the topics of Environment, Climate Change, and Governance.

Senior Lecturer in Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland and former USP academic, Dr Steven Ratuva, through his presentation titled Reconceptualising the nexus between ‘fragility’ and (in)securitization: a critical appraisal of the Pacific situationencouraged discussion on the interpretation and usage of the term ‘failed states’.

“Noam Chomsky’s approach to the term in his book, Failed States, has changed the whole paradigm. He introduces the idea of America being a failed state, and that gives an entirely different view of the term,” he said.

He also introduced a measurement of failure for state governance, known as the failed state index, which questionsexactly how the measurement ofa state’s failure can be orchestrated, through a Western perspective. He said there are cultural complexities which needed to be considered, when using the terminology.

“They have failed to mention that some of the states which have a very good rating on the failed states index, have been having issues which go by unreported and unconsidered, for example ethnic riots in Sweden,” DrRatuva added.

He also touched on the perspective of failed states in the Pacific due to the region’s label of ‘the arc of instability’, that have come about as a result of the wars, coups and riots which are reported by the media.

“So, the term, ‘failed states’ is a failed concept. There is a moral debate that is surrounding this term with insecurity being the key concept driving this” he said.

Participant and USP academic, Associate Professor Virginia Tilley commented on the way the term has been treated and the context in which it has been used. She gave the example of Solomon Islands, where RAMSI( the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) had stepped in at the right time, just when the state was not being able to effectively control the situation.

DrRatuva said it depends on the usage and who uses it, indicating that the language used in any case, expresses sentiments and reflects on the ideology of the user.

The PSIC has seen intensive discussions over the past four days, and culminates in the closing ceremony on Friday, July 12, 2013, with the Pacific Science Association (PSA) Secretariat delivering the outcomes of the Inter-Congress.


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