Most-Worsened Country for 2011: Haiti

Published June 18, 2011
By J. J. Messner
The collapse of the Presidential Palace on Port-au-Prince after the January 2010 earthquake was sadly symbolic of the overall collapse of the Haitian state’s capacity to deal with that disaster, a lack of capacity that had become endemic across all aspects of Haiti’s governance. Though the exact figures are disputed, the earthquake claimed between 80,000 and 300,000 lives and displaced countless hundreds of thousands of Haitians. In the weeks and months following the disaster, scenes of human suffering poured out of Haiti, capturing the attention of the international community.

Though the 2010 earthquake clearly contributed significantly to Haiti’s poor score in this year’s Failed States Index, it should be understood that the country was hardly starting from a position of strength. Indeed, though Haiti shot to 5th on the 2011 Failed States Index, it ranked not much better in 11th position last year.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the earthquake, along with the resulting chaos and humanitarian catastrophe has catapulted Haiti into an even worse position than it had been before. Some of the most significant movements within Haiti’s indicator scores are consistent with the earthquake and its aftermath. The country’s Demographic Pressures score rose 0.7 points to a maximum 10.0, though this increase was overshadowed by the massive jump in the country’s Refugee and IDP score, which nearly doubled, from 5.6 to 9.2, an almost unprecedented single-year indicator increase of 4.6 points. Both of these indicators point to the significant pressures felt by the population, including displacement and disease.

The immense scale of destruction and the stunningly poor response of the state also impacted the country’s Public Services indicator score, which rose 0.5 points to its maximum level possible, of 10.0. The significant international response led to a 0.4 point increase in the country’s External Intervention indicator score (also to a maximum possible 10.0), which was already high due to the presence of the MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission.

Sadly, the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon for Haiti. Last year’s most-worsened country, Honduras, managed to bounce-back in 2011, with only a slight slip in rank, but an overall improvement in score. Though Haiti has every chance of improving its rank and score in 2012, its record of never ranking outside of the Failed States Index “Worst 15” indicates that it is probably going to stay there for some time to come.