Failed States Index 2009, with interactive map

August 14, 2009

     By Duncan Green     

Foreign Policy magazine has teamed up again with the Washington DC-based ‘Fund for Peace’ thinktank to produce an interactive map of state fragility, to failed statesillustrate their Failed States Index 2009, covering 177 countries. Most fragile are Somalia, followed by Zimbabwe, Chad, Sudan and DRC. Most stable are (inevitably) the Scandinavians – Norway, followed by Finland and Sweden. Annoyingly, I can’t find anywhere on the site that says which countries have fallen/risen the most over the four years the FSI has been reporting, but you can work it out for yourself by clicking on the league table for each year.

The methodology uses the Fund for Peace’s ‘Conflict Assessment System Tool’ (CAST), an original methodology it has developed and tested over the past decade. This rates 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, which provides snapshots of state vulnerability or risk of violence for one time period each year. The data used in each index are collected from May to December of the preceding year. The CAST software indexed and scanned more than 90,000 open-source articles and reports using Boolean logic, which consists of key phrases designed to capture the variables measured.

Full-text data are electronically gathered from a range of publicly available print, radio, television and Internet sources from all over the world, including international and local media reports, essays, interviews, polling and survey data, government documents, independent studies from think tanks, NGOs and universities, and even corporate financial filings. The software determines the salience of the 12 indicators as well as hundreds of sub-indicators by calculating the number of “hits” as a proportion of the sample for a given time period. Quantitative data is also included, when available. Subject-matter experts then review each score for every country and indicator, as well as consult the original documents, when necessary, to ensure accuracy.

The 12 categories are:

Social Indicators
Mounting Demographic Pressures
Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating
 Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia
Chronic and Sustained Human Flight

Economic Indicators
Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline

Political Indicators
Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State
 Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
 Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread 

Violation of Human Rights
Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State”
Rise of Factionalized Elites

Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors

It all feels very odd – a nice tidy clickable map for desk jockeys looking for numbers on the human mayhem and misery of collapsing states. The methodology looks impressive, but obviously reflects the sources on which it is based – is it a reflection of media coverage rather than reality? Hard to say without spending some serious time picking over it – anyone done so?

August 14, 2009
Duncan Green