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Failed States And Human Progress

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We are more than half way through the first decade of the third millennium. Approximately 250 generations have passed since the Pyramids were built and no more than three or four generations since the dawning of the post-colonial new order, and the making of nations as we know them.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIn this time, most larger aggregations of society have held together well, apart from those formed by ideology or religion like the Soviet Union. In 1950, the GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) of the world as a whole was estimated at 5 trillion dollars. In 2005, it was estimated at between 55 and 60 trillion dollars, an increase of over 1000%.

This success, however, masks the bitter realities of the modern age. There are at least 25 ongoing wars in the world today. The top 10 nations account for 65% of the world’s GDP, and the top 40 account for 90% of the world’s GDP. Given there are approximately 180 nation-states, the others don’t really count for much, GDP-wise. Much of the disparities have been attributed to colonial excesses, and others to long-festering ethnic conflicts that have limited growth. At the same time, growth has been observed in hitherto colonial regions like India, and some ethnically divided countries have been able to overcome their differences and show significant progress.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicForeign Policy magazine and a US-based think-tank, the Fund for Peace, ranked 146 nations by their viability to prepare the 2006 Failed States Index. 12 social, economic, and political indicators were used to arrive at the rankings. The ranking defines the term ‘failing state’ as:

‘a failing state is one in which the government does not have effective control of its territory, is not perceived as legitimate by a significant portion of its population, does not provide domestic security or basic public services to its citizens, and lacks a monopoly on the use of force. A failing state may experience active violence or simply be vulnerable to violence


It recognizes that many of the states in the index are not presently failed states, but the index measures perhaps propensity to failure, or vulnerability to internal or external risks.

The top 60 positions were filled mostly by African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries. The most glaring decline in the South Asian context was perhaps that of Pakistan, which moved from 34th to 9th place, driven mainly by the devastation caused by the earthquake and the tribal tensions near the Afghan border.

Top Ten Failed States 2006
1. Sudan (3)
2. DR Congo (2)
3. Ivory Coast (1)
4. Iraq (4)
5. Zimbabwe (15)
6. Chad (7)
and Somalia(5)
8. Haiti (10)
9. Pakistan (34)
10. Afghanistan (11)

The numbers in parentheses indicate the 2005 ranks. The bottom-ranked state was Norway, while India placed 93rd.

A visual depiction of the Index is sobering and frightening in its global reach. The new order might be overdue, a breaking of nations might be soon coming.

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The twelve CAST indicators used are:

1 – Mounting Demographic Pressures
2 – Massive Movement of Refugees and IDPs
3 – Legacy of Vengeance – Seeking Group Grievance
4 – Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
5 – Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
6 – Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
7 – Criminalization or Delegitimization of the State
8 – Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
9 – Widespread Violation of Human Rights
10 – Security Apparatus as “State within a State”
11 – Rise of Factionalized Elites
12 – Intervention of Other States or External Actors

A few selected scores on the FSI Index are educational. Remember that a lower score is preferred.

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In a related report, titled From Failed State to Civil War: The Lebanization of Iraq, 2003-2006, the Fund for Peace called for an international conference to explore a negotiated settlement based on greater autonomy or a peaceful partition of the country.

Making changes in the international landscape is never easy, especially in a unipolar world. The United Nations is unable to act forcefully enough or fast enough to resolve many conflicts. Development is stymied by commercial and local interests.

No answers or solutions here — sorry. Harry Truman said in 1949, “We must embark on a bold new program from making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. The old imperialism — exploitation for foreign profit — has no place in our plans. What we envision is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair dealing.”

Much of the promise of the global fair deal has been realized, but there are many miles to go before we can sleep.

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  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Very interesting article, Aaman. You can see on the scale you posted above that Israel is in a troubled state – a more trouble one than India.

    When I say my country is falling apart from within, you have this series of measures – not objective, to be sure – to see the truth of my words…

    The journey to something better may be long indeed.

  • Baronius

    The graphics failed on my computer. They might be set up incorrectly.


    Very interesting. There were a couple of big surprises, at least to me. Like Turkey and Algeria being in the same category. I had no idea that Turkey was in so much trouble, or that Algeria was bordering on success. Of course, there are some countries that serve as benchmarks for failure. I bet when they print out the results of the index, they double-check it by making sure that Haiti failed completely. If Haiti shows any signs of hope, there’s a column out of place.

    I question their methodology with regard to demographics. Under what assumptions is population growth considered a government failure? Sure, it can lead to difficulties down the road, but not necessarily and not immediately. Russia’s national infertility (so to speak) is hardly a sign of success. One solution to population decline, immigration, is increasingly perceived as risky in the long run. I suppose that China’s solution to population growth shows a strength of government that this index might reward, but that’s for another discussion.

  • Aaman

    Funny, they load for me on different computers

    I agree that the indicators may be questionable, but I doubt they are biased in favor of any particular agenda, rather they tell it like it is