The Failed States Index 2007-Sudan tops the list

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The Failed States Index 2007

There are 177 states included in the 2007 index, compared to 148 in 2006 and 75 in 2005. A small handful of countries were not included because of a lack of data. The Fund for Peace used its Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST), an original methodology it has developed and tested over the past decade. CAST is a flexible model that has the capability to employ a four-step trend-line analysis, consisting of (1) rating 12 social, economic, and political/military indicators; (2) assessing the capabilities of five core state institutions considered essential for sustaining security; (3) identifying idiosyncratic factors and surprises; and (4) placing countries on a conflict map that shows the risk history of countries being analyzed.

For the second year in a row, Sudan tops the rankings as the state most at risk of failure. The primary cause of its instability, violence in the country’s western region of Darfur, is as well known as it is tragic. At least 200,000 people—and perhaps as many as 400,000—have been killed in the past four years by janjaweed militias armed by the government, and 2 to 3 million people have fled their torched villages for squalid camps as the violence has spilled into the Central African Republic and Chad. These countries were hardly pictures of stability prior to the influx of refugees and rebels across their borders; the Central African Republic plays host to a modern-day slave trade, and rebels attacked Chad’s capital in April 2006 in a failed coup attempt. But the spillover effects from Sudan have a great deal to do with the countries’ tumble in the rankings, demonstrating that the dangers of failing states often bleed across borders. That is especially worrying for a few select regions. This year, eight of the world’s 10 most vulnerable states are in sub-Saharan Africa, up from six last year and seven in 2005.Iraq and Afghanistan, the two main fronts in the global war on terror, both suffered over the past year. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy. Just as there are many paths to success, there are many paths to failure for states on the edge.

The year wasn’t all bad news, though. Two vulnerable giants, China and Russia, improved their scores sufficiently to move out of the 60 worst states. That is in part due to the fact that 31 additional countries were assessed this year. But some credit must be paid to the countries themselves. China’s economic engine continues to propel the country forward at a breakneck pace, but the growing divide between urban and rural, as well as continued protests in the countryside, reveals pockets of frailty that the central government is only just beginning to address. Russia’s growing economy and a lull in the violence in Chechnya have had stabilizing effects, despite fresh concerns about the country’s democratic future.

The world’s weakest states are also the most religiously intolerant. Countries with a poor freedom of religion score are often most likely to meet their maker.

Freedom of worship may be a cornerstone of democracy, but it may also be a key indicator of stability. Vulnerable states display a greater degree of religious intolerance, according to scores calculated by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. Persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh, Burma, Iran, and Uzbekistan has deprived millions of faithful of the freedom to follow their beliefs. The columns highlight the 12 political, economic, military, and social indicators of instability. For each indicator, the highest score (greater instability) is in black; the lowest score (less instability) is in white.

Many states must endure poverty, corruption, and natural disasters. But, for the weak, there is nothing more costly than a strongman calling the shots.

As the world warms, states at risk face severe threats to their groundwater, agriculture, and ecosystems, factors that can rapidly undo political and economic gains. This year’s index found a strong correlation between stability and environmental sustainability, a country’s ability to avoid environmental disaster and deterioration. That means that in poorly performing states on the edge, including Bangladesh, Egypt, and Indonesia, the risks of flooding, drought, and deforestation have little chance of being properly managed. And that suggests storms are brewing on the horizon for the world’s most vulnerable.

Nowhere to Run
The violence in Darfur has created the most extreme ripple effect. The Sudanese government has been accused of backing rebel groups in both Chad and the Central African Republic, creating hundreds of thousands of additional refugees. Vast camps throughout the region are vulnerable to the violent, marauding militias that have terrorized Darfur for the past four years.

States of Disorder
Somalia, hostage to factional fighting between warlords for more than 15 years, convulsed with violence in 2006, when short-lived stability installed by the Union of Islamic Courts was upended by the invasion of Ethiopian troops in favor of an interim government. Over the years, refugees from the fighting have spilled into Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya, destabilizing a large portion of the Horn of Africa.

Sowing Instability
Fighting by a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and in the lawless Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan has the potential to spread instability across Central Asia. Pakistan and Uzbekistan have shown only marginal gains in their index scores during the past year and are at risk not only from spillover but from growing internal dissent. But it is Afghanistan’s record poppy yield that has neighboring states most concerned. Drug trafficking routes, fueled by underground heroin factories, cut swaths through the former Soviet republics to the north, bringing crime, addiction, and HIV/AIDS in their wake.

For the Failed States Index, FfP focused solely on the first step, which provides snapshots of state vulnerability or risk of violence during a window in time. The CAST software indexed and scanned tens of thousands of open-source articles and reports using Boolean logic. The data are electronically gathered using Thomson Dialog, a powerful data-collection system that includes international and local media reports and other public documents, including U.S. State Department reports, independent studies, and even corporate financial filings. The data used in each index are collected from May to December of the preceding year. The software calculates the number of positive and negative “hits” for the 12 indicators. Internal and external experts then review the scores as well as the articles themselves, when necessary, to confirm the scores and ensure accuracy. The Fund for Peace (FfP) is working to improve data collection and analysis, and its principal information provider, Thomson Dialog, is constantly adding additional sources. The world’s weakest states aren’t just a danger to themselves. They can threaten the progress and stability of countries half a world away. In the third annual Failed States Index, FOREIGN POLICY and The Fund for Peace rank the countries where the risk of failure is running high.

That conclusion becomes especially worrisome when the weak states in question possess nuclear weapons. Today, two countries among the world’s 15 most vulnerable, North Korea and Pakistan, are members of the nuclear club. Their profiles could hardly be less similar: The former faces the very real prospect of economic collapse, followed by massive human flight, while the latter presides over a lawless frontier country and a disenchanted Islamist opposition whose ranks grow by the day. History is full of brutal leaders who have plunged their lands into poverty and war through greed, corruption, and violence. And though many events—natural disasters, economic shocks, an influx of refugees from a neighboring country—can lead to state failure, few are as decisive or as deadly as bad leadership. This year’s index reveals that while failing states like Iraq and Somalia may suffer from poor governance, they are kept company by a number of countries ruled by long-serving strongmen who have presided over their nations’ collapse. Three of the five worst performing states—Chad, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—have leaders who have been in power for more than 15 years.

But the problem is not restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov, who has continued a brutal crackdown on dissent since the massacre of hundreds of unarmed protesters in May 2005, has been in power since 1991. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has clung to power for the past quarter century, is now orchestrating his own succession, with his son as the heir apparent. And Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled since 1978, was overwhelmingly reelected to another seven-year term last September in an election roundly condemned by the opposition as fraudulent.

Likewise, effective leadership can pull a state back from the brink. Indonesia’s first directly elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has helped steer the country, long marred by endemic corruption and devastated by the 2004 tsunami, toward greater stability since coming into office three years ago. He has initiated reform of the country’s crooked security sector, negotiated a peace agreement with rebels in Aceh Province, and made moderate improvements in government services. These efforts haven’t necessarily made him popular. But then, such leadership is exactly what more failing states need: a head of state who chooses continued reforms over his own power and recognition.

The raw data are from millions of news articles and reports. As a practical matter, it is not readily transferable without the methodology and the software. However, the index values can be downloaded for free from the Web sites of FfP and Foreign Policy .

iqbal.latif@gmail.com

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