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: A cry for help

Twelve-year-old Reem has done so many interviews with journalists, she's lost count. "She's like Nancy Ajram now," her mother joked - referring to a famous Lebanese singer.

I visited Reem in her mum's Sana'a appartment for my Christian Science Monitor story on child brides. Reem's parents are separated. Since the start of her summer vacation in June, Reem has been kidnapped by her father, married, repeatedly raped by a man twice her age, rescued by police and reunited with her mother - but she is still waiting for a judge to annul her wedding contract.

Yemen: On the road

"You're much more likely to die in a traffic accident than get caught up in a terrorist attack," said a friend, who works here as a private security consultant.

If you've ever found your taxi driver hurtling the wrong way down a dual carriageway or seen little boys behind the wheel of their dad's car struggling to see over the dashboard, you'll know you're on the road in Yemen.

A recent article in the Yemen Times reported 43 deaths and 396 injuries in traffic accidents in a single week.

Yemen: Ministry of Dreams

Yemen's Ministry of Information is tucked away in the streets behind Liberation Square. The Arabic word for information is elam. It looks simple enough, but there's an 'ayn' letter squeezed in there and I just can't get the pronunciation right – which leads to some frustrating and surreal moments with taxi drivers. It seems I've been asking to go to the Ministry of Dreams (ahlam) instead.

Yemen: Family values

A while ago, when I first came to Yemen, there was a TV adv run by a cell phone manufacturer on the Arab satellite channels. It started with a close-up shot of an Arab woman's face. She seemed to be writhing with pleasure, but the camera pulled back to show her wriggling into a pair of skin-tight jeans. The new slim-line handset was thin enough to fit into the tightest pocket – that was the message.

Yemen Divided on Vice and Virtue

A hairdryer whirrs. Teenage girls reach for sequins, glitter and hairpins. It's the weekend in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and seven sisters are dressing for a wedding.

The eldest, Ashwaq, 21, a university graduate, wants to be a journalist.

Asked what she thinks about Yemen's new self-appointed morality authority, she looks up from styling her sister's hair.

"The first thing they'll do is stop women from working. Then they'll force us to wear the veil."

Yemen is a conservative Islamic society, where parliament boasts only one woman out of 301 MPs.