|Oh no, they're talking about|
“”A nation does not have to begin in the third world, but it will usually stay there.
|—the Ignoble Retserrof, Urban Dictionary|
A failed state is a recognized state incapable of fulfilling the basic requirement of being a state, i.e., it does not hold a monopoly on the "legitimate means of coercion." This means that the state's apparatus does not have the legitimacy of its people in matters of punishing criminals or defending borders.
This can be for a few different reasons. This is usually due to citizens of the state being too invested in some subgroup within the state, such as tribal affiliation or religious organizations. However, it can also come because the existing state apparatus has wholly abdicated the role, or else because the state has lost legitimacy, but no one else has been able to put forward a competing claim strong enough to rally the population.
Not every failed state exists in complete anarchy, but there is often some degree of it. Technically, a state where non-governmental actors (such as tribes or corporate associations) keep the peace while an ineffective central government does nothing would be considered a failed state. Still, it would be expected for the true holders of the monopoly on legitimate coercion to become the state. The term "failed state" is usually only applied to places with no actors who have legitimacy across the state.
The quintessential modern example of a failed state is Somalia, although it has finally begun to overcome this, while the current situation in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria also qualify. Zimbabwe is also on the road to being a failed state. Due to the proxy war being conducted by Saudi Arabia and Iran, Yemen became a failed state sometime around 2018.
- Plagued By War and Famine, Yemen Is 'No Longer A Functioning State,' Journalist Warns by Terry Gross (November 8, 20182:37 PM ET) NPR.