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 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.

Sudan: "Because we are peaceful, they neglect us"

Beads of sweat run down Rajaa Tag's face, as she crouches in the dark mud room that serves as her bathroom in a small village in northern Sudan. Her young son is screaming wildly - he hates being washed. She holds the small, malnourished boy in one hand, resting him against her hip, and washes him with the other. "It's ok. It's ok," she insists to him gently.

Yemen: Peace breaks out in Saada

President Ali Abdullah Saleh's July declaration that the four-year, stop-go guerrilla war in the northern province of Saada was "over" took everyone in Yemen by surprise.

Now, rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi has agreed to come down from the mountain.

In a letter publicised by Yemen's state-run media today, al-Houthi accepted Saleh's peace terms. The rebels will surrender their strategic mountaintop positions and hand over their heavy and medium weapons to the authorities.

Yemen: Reform or bust

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world. Its 22 million-strong population is set to double by 2035 at the current rate of growth, but it's fast running out of water – and oil. Yemen's state structures are weak and incomplete, and the country faces substantial development challenges.

I reported from Yemen for a year – from 2006 to 2007 – and now I'm back to see whether recent reforms are diffusing social, political and economic pressures in this fragile state.

Sudan: From Rebels to Soldiers? The SPLA's Transformation

At the new headquarters of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), some 10km north of Juba town, signs mark the finance, administration and operations directorates.

Laminated name plates with Southern Sudan's official colours line the desks in the new air-conditioned offices. Laptops and internet service are coming soon.

It is a new look, and a new way, for the former rebel movement that fought for liberation in the forests of Southern Sudan for two decades.

Cattle Raids and Clashes Still Plague Jonglei

Forced by civil war to flee her village in Southern Sudan, Rebeka James Galwak found her way to the northern capital of Khartoum and lived there until the conflict formally ended.

With a peace agreement signed in Nairobi in January 2005, Galwak thought her Nuer village in Jonglei state would be safe enough for her to return. But within a year of returning, she said, fighters from the Murle community attacked her home.