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The Fragile States Index 2013: A Snapshot of Global Stability

Posted on the 22 July 2014 by Center For International Private Enterprise @CIPEglobal


The year 2013 proved to be politically dynamic, with many countries seeing political strife or even regime change — among other crises, Ukrainians took the streets to demand more political and economic freedoms and closer ties with the West and the civil war in Syria raged on. The Fragile States Index (FSI) attempts to measure the factors driving such upheaval on a country-by-country basis.

Created by The Fund for Peace and published by Foreign Policy, for ten years the FSI has tried to put into perspective the relative stability of nations and rank them accordingly. The index develops an aggregate total score for each country by taking in a host of different social, political, economic factors: demographic pressure, the quantity of refugees and internally displaced persons, group grievances, human flight and brain drain, the unevenness of economic development, poverty and economic decline, state legitimacy, public services, human rights and the rule of law, the security apparatus, factionalized elites, and external intervention.

According the FSI, the lower the score, the more stable the country. This year’s index is lead by Finland in 178th place, receiving the lowest total score of 18.7, with relative newcomer South Sudan ranking 1st with an aggregate 112.9 (the United States is close to the top, occupying 159th place with a score of 35.4).

One conclusion established by the FSI is that states rarely fundamentally change from year to year. For instance, 9 out of 10 of 2013’s most fragile states still occupy the lowest spots. That being said, the FSI is useful for determining significant and surprising developments and trends. This year’s notable changes and scores included:

  • Turkey. Despite a year marked by corruption scandals and anti-government protests, the country managed to improve in areas such as Demographic Pressures, Public Services, and Security Apparatus. CIPE has previously undertaken corporate governance work in Turkey.
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina(BiH). Regardless of the fact that just ten years ago BiH was still struggling to build a stable and healthy state after the 1990s war that ravaged the country, BiH impressively has improved more than any other country on the index.
  • Zimbabwe. In spite of a generally poor human rights record, President Robert Mugabe’s administration has enacted some positive political reforms which include a new constitution that establishes a two-term limit on the presidency, and has succeeded in achieving significant economic growth after years of sharp declines. Read more about CIPE’s work in Zimbabwe here.

At its very core, the goal of the FSI is to measure the livelihoods of citizens. Unfortunately, judging by these statistics, the index paints a gloomy portrait of the global population. Concluding that while 17 percent of the population live in subjectively ‘Stable’ nations, the remaining 83 percent of the global population live in countries designated ‘Warning’ or worse.

Sobering statistics such as these only serve to highlight the necessity of work by CIPE – as well as other organization – which works in many of the most fragile countries identified in the survey, including Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Kenya among many others.

The results of the index also stress the importance of patience and perseverance in our work. Democracy, stability and an equitable free market take not years, but generations to gain traction and become institutionalized, and we must be in it for the long haul if we truly wish to improve global standards of living.

Kurt Hagemann is a Global Program Assistant at CIPE.

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