The Ungoverned World in 2015

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I’ll just point out that many of these states are governed, but by groups that are not seen as legitimate by the international community (usually for very good reasons, of course). ISIS, for example, actually does govern in the territory it controls–the “state part of its name really isn’t just for show. Check out this article, “[The Caliphate of Law](https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/syria/2015-04-15/caliphate-law)” (it’s partially gated) or this one called “[the Legal Foundations of the Islamic State](https://mararevkin.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/the-legal-foundations-of-the-islamic-state/)” (fully ungated). ISIS, by all accounts, *is* governing the territory it controls. That’s the scary part. Anyone who hasn’t watched the [Vice News documentary on the Islamic State](https://news.vice.com/video/the-islamic-state-full-length) and is even vaguely interested in the subject, should.

The Islamic State is the most obvious example, but several other areas on this list are administered and governed by similar non-governmental actors. FARC in Colombia, for instance, provides some social services and tries to clamp down on crime in at least some of the areas it controls (though it seems like it only does this effectively in some of the area it controls).

By my count, of the nine of these conflicts are at least partially Islamist in nature (Iraq-Syria, Afghanistan, CAF, Sinai in Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, southern Philippines, Somalia, Yemen, southern Thailand) though many of these also have ethnic or ethnic-religious elements to them. At least three (FARC in Colombia, the Naxalites in India, and the Zapatistas in far southern Mexico which is not even highlighted on the map) are long running Marxist insurgencies. Several of these conflicts are heavily funded by the trade in illegal drugs (Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico, apparently Thailand, some of the groups in Myanmar). Several of these conflicts have some sort of ethnic conflict or ethno-religious as their original primary characteristic (DR Congo, Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan, arguably Iraq-Syria, Central African Republican, Thailand, Nigeria, Yemen, Ukraine–minimally these started that way, though often rebel groups become self sustaining and alienated from their original goals) and some have it as a strong secondary characteristic (the Taliban is obviously associated most closely with Pashtuns in Afghanistan, and have persecuted non-Sunni groups, like the Hazara; the non-drug related Zapatistas in Mexico). By ethno-religious, I mean religious groups fighting against a separate religious identity in power (so the Houthis against the Sunni govt in Yemen; Muslims and Christians in CAR). The distinction between primary and secondary is pretty arbitrary (I list Syria-Iraq as primary because the conflict that gave rise to ISIS derives from the Sunni Islamist rebellion against the Shi’a government, but Syria’s original uprising was at least initially at most implicitly sectarian in orientation and focused more on good governance, though that has changed and the conflict is often quite sectarian and ethnicized) and several conflicts could be moved from one category to the other. It’s an interesting mix of conflicts, though there are several places that we could argue are equally or more “ungoverned” than some of these spots (parts of Balochistan come to mind, as do other conflicts in Africa and perhaps some other Maxist uprisings in Latin America, though I’m less sure of those). There are also places where the government is just so weak that it has little influence in its countryside.

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