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fragile states 2012For over a century the balance of power among the world’s strongest nations was the dominant issue in discussions of global security. Many of today’s policies and international institutions were created to deal with conflicts between the major powers.

But today fragile states, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bosnia, East Timor, and Haiti, are emerging as the most serious threat to global security. These countries straddle the thin line between survival and chaos, suffering from weak governments, internal conflict, ethnic conflict, poverty and sometimes all of these. Fragile states’ weaknesses often permit extremist groups to thrive within their borders, create breeding grounds for disease pandemics, stimulate mass migrations, and offer safe havens for drugs or arms traders and for human traffickers.

On October 4th, the the West Triangle Chapter of the United Nations Association, the UNC Curriculum in Peace War and DefenseCurriculum in Global StudiesCenter for Global Initiatives, student United Nations Organization, and the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, hosted a conference that examined the global challenge of fragile states.

The event began with light refreshments, followed by a screening of a video on the topic produced by the Stanley Foundation. The audience then split into groups to discuss comprehensive ways to promote stronger nations and deal more effectively with those that are already on the brink of failure. Finally, participants reconvened to report their findings in a group forum led by Dr. Robert Jenkins, director of the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The conference brought high school, undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and local community members together to generate meaningful conversation on the world’s responsibility to troubled nations and the role of the United Nations today.