Wherever armed conflict erupts, its causes can almost always be traced back to weak or broken social contracts between government and its people. The U.S. Institute of Peace sees such “state fragility” as a complex issue that needs urgent attention. USIP strives to address the challenge of fragility through new approaches to conflict prevention and by strengthening resilience that promotes a sound social compact between the state and society. USIP has joined in convening the Fragility Study Group, a non-partisan initiative aimed at improving the U.S. government’s approach to reducing global fragility.
After several years of efforts by a bipartisan group of members of Congress and outside groups, Congress last month took legislative aim at a threat behind many of the world’s most pressing problems: fragile states. On December 20, as part of an appropriations package, President Donald Trump signed into law the Global Fragility Act, marking a new—if largely unnoticed— U.S. approach to conflict-prone states that can be vectors of violent extremism, uncontrolled migration, and extreme poverty.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting in Baghdad and southern provinces against the failure of the Iraqi government and the political class in delivering basic services, providing jobs, fighting corruption, and more. Iraqi security forces and armed groups reportedly linked to Iran have used lethal force in response to the protests, leaving over 260 dead and over 10,000 injured. As the protests have progressed, demands have expanded to include calls for regime change, the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, early elections, pushing back against Iranian influence, and accountability for killing peaceful protesters.
Throughout the eight-year-long conflict in Syria, the movement of people and goods—including vital foodstuffs, medicines, equipment, and fuel—has often been severely restricted by periods of prolonged fighting. Yet in many areas, local arrangements, historical circumstances, and key actors have facilitated trade and movement across the lines of conflict. This report examines four cross-line areas in Syria and draws lessons for how these local dynamics might affect the resolution of the larger conflict and these communities in the long term.