Al Jazeera Coverage of Failed States Index 2012

Broadcast August 26, 2012 | With J. J. Messner

What makes a failed state? Each year the Fund for Peace (FFP) releases its Failed States Index, a country ranking based on a set of indicators assessing stability and vulnerability. FFP hopes that governments and NGOs can use it as a policy tool for improvements. But critics question the value and fairness of the Index, suggesting it paints an incomplete picture. In this episode of The Stream, we speak to J.J. Messner, Co-Director of the Failed States Index.

Failed States Index 2012: Change is the Only Constant

Published June 20, 2012 | By J. J. Messner

Upon first glance, it could be easy to assume that there is very little new to be found in the 2012 Failed States Index. After all, Finland has managed to win back-to-back best-place on the Index and Somalia now has the ignominious distinction of five-straight worst-place finishes. Nine of the worst ten in 2012 are the same as in 2011; meanwhile, the “best ten” at the sustainable end of the index are the same ten countries as in 2011. So, nothing has really changed, right? Wrong.

Failed States Index 2012: The Troubled Ten (Plus One)

Published June 20, 2012 | By T. Anderson, R. Jaeger, F. Umaña, N. Manning, A. Whitehead.

As the situation in Somalia continued to deteriorate in 2011, the country remains at the top of the Failed States Index for the fifth year in succession. Ten out of twelve of Somalia’s indicators scores were above 9.0 on a scale of 10. Indeed, the Refugees and IDPs as well as the Security Apparatus indicator scores remain at the highest possible level of 10.0. The absence of a permanent national government for twenty years was aggravated in 2011 by an upsurge of violence, massive human rights abuses and natural disasters. Worsened social conditions have added to political instability which led to mass displacement and impoverishment. Somalia also continues to be a relentless headache for international shipping, with the unrelenting activities of Somali pirates deep into the Indian Ocean. Despite attempts by external actors such as the African Union and neighboring Kenya to intervene in the conflict, terrorist activity by al-Shabaab and general unabating lawlessness has hampered such efforts.

Most Worsened Country for 2012: Libya

Published June 20, 2012 | By J. J. Messner

It probably comes as little surprise that the most worsened country in the 2012 Failed States Index was Libya. As the convulsions of the Arab Spring reached Libya, the nation spiraled from protest to brutal repression to civil war to regime change. Though Libya’s decline in the 2012 Index is hardly shocking, what does make it all the more remarkable is the scale of that decline. Indeed, the 16.2 point year-on-year increase since the 2011 Index marks the largest single year decline of a country in the history of the Failed States Index, eclipsing the previous record of 11.9 point jump experienced by Lebanon between 2006 and 2007 as a result of the short conflict with neighboring Israel. Libya also shot up 61 places, from 111th in 2011 to 50th in 2012.

Most Improved Country for 2012: Kyrgyzstan

Published June 20, 2012 | By Patricia Taft

The most improved country in the 2012 Failed States Index, the landlocked Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan, seems an unlikely one. Since independence from Russia in 1991, the country has been beset with a host of problems that have spanned political, social and economic lines. Like several of its Central Asian neighbors, the country plays host to various ethnic minorities, with Uzbeks the predominant group in the South of the country. Keeping in line with several other Central Asian Republics, Kyrgyzstan was ruled from independence by a series of authoritarian regimes which brutally quelled opposition and strangled freedom of expression in all its forms. Adding to the tinderbox are myriad demographic pressures resulting from disputes over natural resources, particularly in the Ferghana Valley, as well as the country’s complex relationship with Russia and, at times, the U.S.

Delayed Effects: The Arab Spring

Published June 20, 2012 | By Nate Haken

In analyzing the Arab Spring, metaphors matter. If it was a seasonal awakening of democracy we should throw open the windows, that is, welcome it. If it was a contagion of unrest, then we should board up the doors, i.e., control it. If it was a pressure cooker blowing its top, the response should be cautious and deliberate; in other words, we should manage it. The Failed States Index (FSI) does not conclusively answer the question of which metaphor is most apt, though CAST, the methodology behind the index would tend to preference the last one, with its basic construct of pressures and institutional capacities as a theoretical framework for understanding state fragility and failure.

Pressure Mounts on Syria

Published June 20, 2012 | By Natalie Manning

The Arab Spring was one of the biggest stories of 2011, and many of its effects have been registered in the 2012 Failed States Index — Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen all saw their scores seriously worsen. For some, the tension has eased, at least for now. For others, conflict and instability continues. The Arab Spring hit Syria in April 2011 with demonstrations in the southern town of Dara’a against the government’s heavy handed response to students who had spray painted anti-government slogans. The uprising quickly spread and President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces brutally cracked down on the population. By late 2011, the opposition had transformed from a peaceful movement into an armed insurrection. An estimated 13,000 people have died since the conflict began, and thousands more have been displaced as the country spirals further towards civil war.

A Greek Tragedy

Published June 20, 2012 | By Patricia Taft

Continuing its downward spiral in the 2012 Failed States Index, Greece, the cradle of democracy, continued to fall into chaos. For a second year running, the country worsened across almost every indicator score with the political and economic indicators experiencing the deepest decline. In 2011, the Greek economy continued to backslide as the unemployment rate hovered around 20% for the year, with an estimated 50% of young Greeks unemployed. As in 2010, political crises ensued, and the perceived legitimacy of the Greek government plunged as more and more Greek citizens questioned the ability of elected officials to drag their country out of the morass. Indeed, throughout 2011, the general worsening of the indicators which measure economic, political and social pressures evidenced that the financial crisis that had gripped the country for two years was quickly spreading across multiple sectors. Public rage was palpable with tens of thousands of Greeks taking to the streets in June to protest proposed austerity measures that included significant tax hikes.

The Meltdown of Japan

Published June 20, 2012 | By Felipe Umaña

The year 2011 was a difficult one for Japan. On March 11, the 9.0-magnitude Tōhoku earthquake struck the northeastern coast of Japan, triggering a powerful tsunami that left destruction in its wake as it traveled over five miles inland. Numerous landslides occurred in the countryside and several large-scale nuclear meltdowns were reported in a number of nuclear facilities that were found to be unprepared for the strength of the waves. In the resulting calamity, the government of Japan was forced to declare a state of emergency and focus its first response teams on the afflicted northeastern areas.