Lawlessness is a lack of law, in any of the various senses of that word. Lawlessness may describe various conditions.
The United Nations defines the rule of law as “a principle of governance in which all individuals, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are subject to laws that are publicly promulgated, enforced equally and applied independently, in addition to being compatible with international human rights standards and principles.
The rule of law of a society is characterized by respect for a legal order emanating from the will of its citizens that has been expressed without obstacles, within the framework of a representative democratic system, where free, competitive elections under equal conditions exist.
Developed countries presume that in their societies the rule of law applies, which guarantees the separation of powers, respect for the law, human rights and private property which means security for foreign investors, among other things. All this is true, with the respective nuances, also for many developing countries, where equality before the law applies to all citizens – in theory at least.
In 1994 the increasing level of long-term unemployment was seen as raising the probability of widespread lawlessness as many, especially the young, became marginalized and turned to crime, racism and extreme political views resulting in growing violence. Half of the unemployed of the EEC/EU had been without jobs for more than a year. It was estimated that by the end of 1994 young people would represent more than 25% of the 20 million without jobs. The dilemma of the UN and USA forces in withdrawing from Somalia in 1994 related largely to a widespread fear that the country would backslide into lawlessness.
A report on the future of Africa in 1994 forecast the withering away of central government, the rise of tribal and regional domains, the unchecked spread of disease and the growing pervasiveness of regional conflicts. This was expected to be accompanied by violent crime and armies of refugees on the move, as was already the case.
In January 2019, the European Parliament (MEPs), agreed to back proposed measures to cut funding for member states where the rule of law was seen to be undermined. They will come into force if backed by EU member states.