NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 7, 2005

In the first "Failed States Index," Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace rank the countries about to go over the brink. They used 12 social, economic, political and military indicators to rank 60 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict.

The resulting index demonstrates that the problem of weak and failing states is far more serious than generally thought:

  • About two billion people live in insecure states, with varying degrees of vulnerability to widespread civil conflict.
  • The 10 most at-risk countries already show clear signs of state failure and include Ivory Coast at the top of the list, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Yemen, Liberia and Haiti.
  • The index includes others whose instability is less widely acknowledged, including Bangladesh (17th), Guatemala (31st), Egypt (38th), Saudi Arabia (45th) and Russia (59th).

Uneven development is high in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states -- and not merely poverty -- increases instability. Criminalization or delegitimization of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal or ineffective, also figured prominently. Facing this condition, people often shift their allegiances to other leaders, like opposition parties, warlords, ethnic nationalists or rebel forces.

Demographic factors, especially population pressures stemming from refugees, internally displaced populations and environmental degradation, are also found in most at-risk countries, as are consistent human rights violations. Identifying the signs of state failure is easier than crafting solutions, but pinpointing where state collapse is likely is a necessary first step, says Foreign Policy.

Source: Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace, "The Failed States Index," Foreign Policy, July/August 2005.

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