22 June 2009

2009 Failed States Index Released

The Fund for Peace has released their fifth annual (for 2009) Failed States Index. This is an extraordinary project and a very user-friendly presentation, and I highly recommend it.

Overall, the Top Ten hasn't shifted much since the 2008 report. Somalia still leads the list, although Iran has jumped up 11 ranks and Zimbabwe slips into 2nd place.

Somalia, which has devolved rather than improved since last year, once again holds the top spot. Last year marked that country's 18th consecutive year of civil war. An offshoot of continued lawlessness, the lack of a central government and economic devastation, piracy has grabbed international headlines with a surge of attacks on ships in the critical Gulf of Aden. The Ethiopian and African Union-backed provisional government endured a steady stream of attacks from Al Shabab, a radical faction of the Islamic Courts group that was deposed in early 2007. The outlook for peace and effective government looks bleak.

As #2 ranked Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed due to the ZANU-PF government’s policies, incumbent President Robert Mugabe claimed victory over Morgan Tsvangirai in a March election that most believed he had soundly lost. Although a power-sharing agreement with Tsvangirai was crafted in September, implementation lags and the country faces numerous severe problems. The volatile combination of political instability, election violence, economic devastation, a cholera epidemic, and human flight propelled Zimbabwe into second place among the states most at risk of failure in 2008.

Coming in at #3 is Sudan, a nation plagued by continuing violence, factionalization, and uneven development. It remains a model of group grievance and low-intensity warfare. Besides the conflict in Darfur in the West, a nascent rebellion in the East, and halting progress on the 2005 agreement with South Sudan, a local confrontation in the town of Abyei turned into a national incident when the government intervened. Furthermore, the International Criminal Court indicted President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes. In response, Bashir restricted humanitarian access in Darfur and slowed progress on South Sudan. With the 2011 national referendum looming, Sudan could face real risks of breakup.

The 2009 Failed States Index ranks 177 states according to 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators based on data from more than 90,000 publicly available sources. A listing of the 60 most vulnerable countries is featured in the July/August 2009 issue of FOREIGN POLICY. For a complete ranking of all countries and methodology, please go to www.fundforpeace.org or www.foreignpolicy.com.

Source: The Fund for Peace