The balance of power between strong states was for decades the dominant issue in discussions of international security. But today, it is fragile states that are seen by many as posing potentially greater threats. Weak infrastructures, internal conflict, and lack of economic development provide fertile ground for trafficking, piracy, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, disease pandemics, regional tensions, and even genocide.

As a result, there is a growing movement in the international community to find comprehensive ways to promote stronger states, as well as more effective solutions to deal with those that are already on the brink of failure.

In Governance, you'll find reporting from around the world—from East Timor to Haiti, from Guinea Bissau to Afghanistan. The reporting demonstrates the dangers weak states pose—and also the international interventions that appear to be making a difference.



Yemen: Doctors on the beaches

Night after night, from September to May, Yemen's wild, remote southern beaches provide the backdrop for a slow-burn humanitarian crisis.

Somali refugees stagger from the black sea in weak starlight. Some collapse on the sand flats, weak and exhausted. Others paddle in the silvery surf looking for plastic bags – thrown from the boat – containing their few belongings.

Yemen: Fake beards

I went to chew qat with the actors who play terrorists in a new feature film called 'The Losing Bet'. Ahmed was the first to wander in to the production offices. He had left his shoes outside and was wearing socks, Yemeni-style. He sat down next to me.

Ahmed plays Murad in the film – an unemployed youth turned suicide bomber. "What's in your bag?" I joked. "Don't worry. You're safe," he laughed. "I won't detonate."

Yemen's House of Peace

Tribal violence claims hundreds of lives every year in Yemen. The House of Peace encourages non-violent solutions to land disputes and 'love' crimes – violations of marriage arrangements that offend Yemen's conservative social code.

It's dangerous work. House of Peace members have died during mediation efforts, attempting to diffuse armed stand-offs.

But Sheikh AbdulRahman al-Marwani, the organization's director, also attends lengthy discussion forums with rival groups and arranges theatre workshops to spread the message of reconciliation.

Yemen: Facing forwards

Yemen's civil society is still in an early growth phase but non-profits and pressure groups will play an important role in strengthening democratic institutions for the future.

I wrote last Friday about the need for a new trust to support girls who escape from early, unwanted marriages.

But I recently spent the morning at an incubator organization, the Youth Leadership Development Foundation, which is training the next generation of managers and administrators who will help the civil society sector to grow.