The World’s Ten Most Fragile States in 2014

Published June 24, 2014
By Kendall Lawrence
Fragile States Index 2014
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Identifying and exploring the fragility of states creates the opportunity to address how they might be able to combat pressures in the future. Learning what pressures states have been able (or unable) to reduce in the past year gives insight into the capacities that exist (or do not) within each state and their governments.

The top ten are profiled to give context to why they fall on this end of the Index and how they have changed since the previous year. Only two countries within the top ten saw a worsening in their individual scores, South Sudan and Central African Republic. Seven showed improvement and one experienced little change.

Though the top ten may seem like a dungeon from which there is no escape, with some countries seemingly doomed to inhabit the dubious list forever, the ten year trends of the Fragile States Index would demonstrate otherwise. Only three countries have been ranked in the top ten every year of the Index’s existence: Sudan, D.R. Congo, and Somalia. Two of the countries in the first-ever top ten, back in 2005, are now well on the path to recovery, as Sierra Leone has gone from 6th in 2005 to 35th in 2014, and Liberia has moved from 9th in 2005 to 24th now. The experience of Liberia and Sierra Leone should demonstrate that fragility and instability is not a life sentence. And although neither Liberia or Sierra Leone are threatening to break-in to the Sustainable category any decade soon, this just goes to reinforce the generational and gradual nature of development.

Similarly, climbing out of the top ten is only one metric. Take Zimbabwe — it is ranked 11th this year, and has featured in the top ten in eight of the previous ten years, even ranking as high as second-most fragile country in 2009. Though a year-by-year view of Zimbabwe may imply some level of hopelessness, long-term trends actually demonstrate that it is the 24th most improved country on the Index in the past decade. Its rank may not have improved much, but its score has. Its lack of ranking movement is perhaps more indicative of a ’traffic jam’ among similarly ranked countries than a lack of change.

Recovery and development is not linear. Some countries that leave the top ten may be back again. With the exception of the recently added South Sudan, every country in the top ten has improved year-on-year at some point. There is much to be concerned with in this current top ten. But there is always room — and capacity — for improvement.

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South Sudan
Despite the international aid directed at South Sudan since its independence, the fledgling country has succumbed to the pressures of the region and to its own lack of internal capacity. The success the international community expected from South Sudan did not fully take into account the time and capacity that it takes to build a successful state.
Ethnic tensions within the young country are manifesting in large-scale massacres and other gross human rights violations. Mounting internal pressures within the country’s ruling party and its military culminated in an outbreak of massive violence, largely along group lines, in December 2013, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands seeking refuge in UN compounds across the country. State legitimacy had deteriorated significantly after President Salva Kiir dismissed the entire cabinet including Vice President Riek Machar in July. Earlier in the year, he had dismissed Finance Minister Kosti Manibe and Cabinet Affairs Minister Deng Alor allegedly over a multi-million dollar financial scandal and lifted their immunity from prosecution.
While oil flows resumed after a dispute over fees between South Sudan and Sudan had shut down production for more than a year, the economic situation in South Sudan remains dire. Taking the top spot on the Index for the first time, the country faces immense challenges with its fractured political structure and vast amounts of violence. It is unlikely that South Sudan will relinquish the top spot any time soon.
This year marks the first time since 2008 that Somalia has not appeared at the top of the Index as the most fragile state. It improved its score from last year, continuing an overall positive trend. In January 2013, the United States recognized the government of Somalia for the first time since 1991, setting the stage for the UN Security Council to partially lift the arms embargo in March. The progress of the new government was hampered in December by a falling out between the President and the Prime Minister, causing the Prime Minister to lose a confidence vote in parliament.
There has been a continued decrease in acts of piracy; however acts of terrorism by al-Shabaab increased from 2012. While al-Shabaab was forced to retreat from many of their strongholds in 2012, they increased activities and attacks in 2013 which triggered calls for increased UN troops, and an increase of 4,000 peacekeepers was authorized. The most notable attack by al-Shabaab did not happen within Somalia but was on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in retaliation for Kenya’s military presence in Somalia. The rise in attacks led the medical NGO, Doctors Without Borders, to shut down their operations within Somalia after 22 years due to the risk to their volunteers.
Areas of the country remain some of the most dangerous places in the world. Considering this, Somalia has made a huge amount of progress. As the first year in the past six that it has not been number one on the Index, it is possible and even probable that Somalia will continue to improve over the coming years.
Central African Republic
The CAR holds the distinction of the highest increase in its score over the past year, jumping from 9th to 3rd on the FSI, with each indicator across the board experiencing a worsening. The levels of religious violence across the country have caused over 200,000 internally displaced persons and have sparked warnings of genocide by the international community. Clashes between Christians and Muslims have continued despite the deployment of French troops.
After an attempt at a power sharing agreement with President Bozize’s government in January 2013, Seleka rebels led by Michel Djotodia seized the capital in March. Djotodia proceeded to suspend the constitution and dissolve the parliament. After he was sworn in as president, he dissolved the Seleka coalition, although, many of the rebels have refused to disarm. Unable to control the fighters once under his command, turmoil and fighting have continued across CAR. Authorities in CAR issued an international arrest warrant for deposed President Bozize accusing him of crimes against humanity and incitement of genocide on May 31, 2013.
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon stated in August that the CAR has suffered a “total breakdown of law and order” and the majority of humanitarian organizations have fled the country. In April 2014, the UN Security Council approved deployment of UN peacekeepers to support the African Union troops already on the ground.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo has reversed its upward trend on the Index this year and lowered its score for the first time since the 2011 FSI. While it appeared last year that the DRC might claim top of the Index, it has now dropped to the 4th spot. The largest improvement was in the security indicator. After the rampant violence that took place in 2012, this marked improvement in security is a surprising turn for the better.
Following the ceasefire declared by the M23 rebels in February of 2013, warlord and alleged founder of M23, Bosco Ntaganda, surrendered to the U.S. in Rwanda. He was transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to face prosecution. This was followed by an unprecedented UN Intervention Brigade of 3,000 to take action against rebels in the east of the country. This included the Democratic Forces for the Liberation for Rwanda. In December, the M23 rebels signed a peace deal with the DRC government.
While the general security situation has improved, human rights abuses continue. Also, a rebel group led by self-proclaimed prophet Paul Joseph Mukungubila attacked State Television Headquarters, the international airport and Congolese Army Headquarters in Kinshasa.
The country is moving in the right direction, but there is much left to be done before it can be claimed that it is out of the woods.
Sudan has reversed a 3-year negative trend on the Index. Much of the improvement can be attributed to the cessation of hostilities with South Sudan. In March 2013, Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement to resume pumping oil, a shutdown that began in January 2012. This agreement included promises to withdraw troops from the border, creating a demilitarized zone.
While conflict with South Sudan has stopped, the country continues to have widespread instability. There was continued violence in the south and in Darfur, including an attack on a UN peacekeeping team killing seven and wounding another 17 in July, the deadliest single assault on the international force within Sudan. Two more UN peacekeepers were killed in December. Violence also continues in Blue Nile state with increased fighting between government soldiers and rebels.
Large scale protests and demonstrations across the country over government cuts to fuel subsidies were met with violent crackdowns that killed scores in September. The harsh crackdown was accompanied by the closure of newspapers, continuing Khartoum’s negative legacy with freedom of the press.
Thirty members of the ruling National Congress Party announced plans to form a new party in October. This followed allegations of corruption and stagnation within the party leadership. President Bashir allegedly removed his first Vice-President and long-time ally Ali Osman Taha from his cabinet, though Bashir denied rifts in the government, claiming Taha had voluntarily resigned.
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