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Widespread Violence and Insecurity Strikes the Central African Republic

Published June 17, 2015 | By Nate Haken and Hannah Blyth

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a vast, beautiful land about the size of Texas, but with a fraction of its population. It is home to sprawling herds of forest elephants roaming the Dzanga-Ndoki national park along the Sangha River. Logging towns have sprung up where Muslim merchants sell bread and flip-flops. On the outskirts of town, Bayaka pygmies harvest honey, and play stringed instruments with their thumbs.

Arab Spring Turns to Winter for Much of Middle East, North Africa

Published June 17, 2015 | By Felipe Umaña

Only a few years ago, much of the Fragile States Index analysis was following the aftermath of the Arab Spring. At the time, there was significant hope for the future, as the despotic regime of Muammar Gaddafi fell in Libya, similarly undemocratic regimes collapsed in Egypt and Tunisia, and other countries hastily rushed through liberal, democratic reforms in the hopes of staving off their own demise. But fast forward only a few years, and (despite generally positive signs in Tunisia) most of that hope has evaporated. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen — among the 2015 Index’s most high risk nations — have witnessed some of the most significant declines over the past year.

Beating the Odds: Nigeria Defies Predictions of Doom

Published June 17, 2015 | By Nate Haken

The world is not deterministic. People have a say. If ever there was any doubt, Nigeria belied that notion with elections in March and April of this year in which the sky did not fall as just about everybody feared it might. Yes, there were reports of rigging and violence at various levels. But cooler heads prevailed and Nigeria stepped away from the brink.

Crumbling Roads and a Health Crisis: West Africa Confronts Ebola

Published June 17, 2015 | By Patricia Taft

In December 2013 in a tiny village in Guinea, a young child fell ill and died of a disease that would come to define much of the news in 2014. The Ebola virus, previously only known in Central and East Africa, laid ravage to large swaths of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, three countries that had just begun to recover after years of civil war. Indeed, Liberia and Sierra Leone were featured in last year’s Fragile States Index as two success stories, climbing back, slowly but steadily, from the abyss. Last year however laid bare where years of both national and international attention (or lack of attention, as in the case of Guinea) failed to address some of a country’s most basic needs: a functioning public health system and passable roads.

A Tough Neighborhood: Kenya Weathers Regional Instability

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

Long considered an anchor of relative stability in East Africa, Kenya is considered to be one of the strongest emerging markets in Africa. Despite significant pressures, their economy continues impressive growth, with the World Bank projecting continued gains over the next few years. Kenya has also made significant gains in the technology sector, leading the region – and in some cases, the continent – in the development and deployment of mobile banking and telecommunications platforms.

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.