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Total Scores Are Not All That They Seem: The Cases of Iran, Lebanon, and Russia

Published June 17, 2015 | By Hannah Blyth

In viewing the annual Fragile States Index scores for a particular country, it is important to look at the underlying indicators to properly understand a country’s challenges and performance. Even where a country may have an overall trend in one direction, its individual indicators may actually be heading in very different directions.Russia, for example, is the fourth most-worsened country year-on-year in 2015, and yet over the past decade it ranks among the most improved. How is this possible? Well, it’s complicated. Russia faces well-publicized challenges that have suddenly taken a turn for the worst. Its adventures and increasingly hostile overtures in its region are placing pressure on the country, as are the related economic sanctions from the West. Meanwhile, falling oil prices have further harmed an economy that banks on commodity prices being at a higher level.

A Long Way from the Orange Revolution: Ukraine’s Fall from Grace

Published June 17, 2015 | By Hannah Blyth

With the memories of optimism that came with the 2004 Orange Revolution fading, 2014 saw Ukraine once again become a regular fixture in the media headlines, but this time for far less hopeful reasons. The removal of a president, incursions by Russian-backed rebel forces and conflict throughout much of the country’s east, the shooting down of a Malaysian commercial jet over its territory, and the annexation of Crimea, it has been an annus horribilis for Ukraine in 2014. This sharp decent in fragility has been clearly reflected in the country’s score in the 2015 Index, but also prompts a reflection about the state’s underlying structural issues which enabled such a rapid fall from grace.

A Reform Agenda: Cuba Comes in from the Cold

Published June 17, 2015 | By Patricia Taft and Kendall Lawrence

At the end of 2014, Cuba suddenly became news again when U.S. President Obama announced a plan to normalize relations with the country after nearly fifty years of political and economic isolation. But even before the announcement, Cuba was already on track to be one of the most improved countries in the 2014 Fragile States Index. In areas like the provision of Public Services, Cuba’s score has worsened slightly over ten years although all other indicators have improved. In the areas of Human Rights and State Legitimacy, there was a worsening over the past year as reports alleged extrajudicial abuse by public security forces and the continued repression of political opposition. Despite these negative marks, the trend over the past decade continues to be positive.

Acropolis Wow: Greece Continues on a Slippery Slope

Published June 17, 2015 | By Sebastian Pavlou

South Sudan has topped the Fragile States Index for the second year in succession, as the country continues to be wracked by internal conflict, fractious politics, and poverty. South Sudan is joined at the most fragile end of the Index by countries that have long struggled, such as Somalia, Central African Republic, Sudan, and D.R. Congo. However, a lack of change at the most fragile end of the Index (not to mention a similar lack of change at the sustainable end of the Index) belies the significant movement of a number of countries over the past year and indeed the past decade.

Looking Beneath the Total Score: United States

Published June 17, 2015 | By Nate Haken

As the United States heads into a heated political campaign season, candidates are beginning to frame their take on the social, economic, and political track the country is on and what they would do to calibrate those trajectories. Certainly, to listen to pundits you might suppose that the U.S. is either going to hell in a hand-basket or is the rock upon rests the salvation of the world. The Fragile States Index is unlikely to resolve that debate. The overall Index score has hardly budged over the last half a dozen years, ranging from a low of 33.5 in calendar year 2012 (Highly Stable) to a high of 35.4 in calendar years 2013-2014 (also Highly Stable). The U.S. may well be reliably highly stable as the overall score suggests.

Sparkling Finnish: Sustainable Scandinavia

Published June 17, 2015 | By Hannah Blyth and J.J. Messner

Every year, the most stable end of the Fragile States Index appears to tell a familiar story. Since the Fund for Peace began assessing all major countries in 2006, Scandinavia has held a near-monopoly on the least fragile end of the Index. It comes as no surprise that once again, 2015 saw the four main Nordic countries come away with the best Index scores. The Nordic Model has garnered praise over the past two decades for its unique mix of social welfare and economic efficiency. This benchmark of a happy, healthy and productive populace amongst Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, has proven not only to work, but is sustainable.

How Renewable Energy Can Learn from the Carbon-Based Energy Sector

Published June 10, 2015 | By Hannah Blyth and J.J. Messner

On Monday, the leaders of the G7 made clear that our future will strongly be based on clean energy. In their meeting in the Bavarian Alps, the world’s largest industrialized economies pledged to dramatically reduce or altogether eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century, a commitment likely to be solidified in December in Paris. As pressure builds for the world economy to expedite a shift away from coal, oil, and natural gas in order to avert the effects of climate change, attention will turn to cleaner energy, such as wind, solar, and hydro power. This should be applauded. But we should not kid ourselves that clean energy will be completely free of challenges. Despite the many positive elements that renewable energy can bring to these countries, the construction and operation of these major projects does not render them immune from the challenges of implementation.

Conflict Bulletin: Rivers State - May 2015

Published May 8, 2015 | By Nate Haken and Patricia Taft*

Among the largest of the oil-producing Nigerian states, Rivers had been at the heart of the Niger Delta militancy until 2009. Now the state remains beset with a different array of political, communal, and criminal issues, including cult and gang-related violence, protests, and kidnappings. Rivers was a pivotal state in the 2015 general elections and experienced elevated levels of election-related tension and violence throughout 2014.

Conflict Bulletin: Ondo State - May 2015

Published May 8, 2015 | By Nate Haken and Patricia Taft*

Ondo state has a population of approximately 3.44 million according to the most recent census (2006). The majority are of Yoruba descent, with a sizable minority of those from Ijaw subgroups, particularly along the coast. Ondo derives most of its revenue from the production of cocoa, palm oil, rubber, lumber, and cassava. Approximately 65% of the labor force is employed in the agrarian sector. The state is also rich in oil and minerals. Violence in Ondo has historically been relatively low in comparison to the other Niger Delta states according to Nigeria Watch data. After the 2012 gubernatorial election, in which Olusegun Mimiko was re-elected, the losing party raised concerns about alleged election irregularities and intimidation. The next gubernatorial elections are slated for 2016.

Conflict Bulletin: Imo State - May 2015

Published May 8, 2015 | By Nate Haken and Patricia Taft*

Imo state has a population of approximately 3.9 million people, according to the 2006 census. The population is predominantly Igbo (98%). The capital city of Owerri is the largest in the state. Imo is made up of 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs). Natural resources include palm oil, mahogany, crude oil, and natural gas. Owelle Rochas Okorocha has been the governor of Imo since May 2011. In 2011, he left the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to run for governor with the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

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