Measuring South Sudan: How Soon is Too Soon?

Published July 6, 2014 | By J.J. Messner

Every year the Fragile States Index (FSI) receives its fair share of compliments and criticism, the former often from those who wish to highlight and measure the challenges faced by countries, the latter often from those whose interests or sensibilities have been offended. This is par for the course for any organization that seeks to undertake the kind of research and analysis that FFP has done for 57 years. But every year we are often surprised by particularly unexpected commentary.

Statehood or Bust: The Case of South Sudan

Published June 24, 2014 | By Patricia Taft

It took three years, a slide from growing dysfunction to rapid escalation in violence, and more than a fair share of international hand-wringing to arrive at this place: South Sudan is the world’s most fragile state. What occurred in the twelve months since the last Fragile States Index — when the world’s newest country ranked fourth — to this year, where it is the chart-topper, is as complicated as the facets of state-building itself. Nonetheless, a few salient lessons might be culled even at this early stage, if not to prevent a further slide, but to at least manage expectations going into the future.

The World’s Ten Most Fragile States in 2014

Published June 24, 2013 | By J. J. Messner & Kendall Lawrence

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.

Failed States Index 2013: The Troubled Ten

Published June 24, 2013 | By J. J. Messner & Kendall Lawrence

Though it is called the Failed States Index, that is not to say that every country on the FSI is a failed state — after all, Finland is ranked on the FSI. That is also not to say that any country on the FSI is necessarily failed — though Somalia might be the closest approximation to what many people may consider to be a failed state. Rather, the Failed States Index measures the pressures experienced by countries and thus adjudges their susceptibility to state failure. Ranking top on the FSI does not in and of itself mean that a country is failed — it simply means that of all countries, that one country is the most at risk of failure.

The Dark Side of State Building: South Sudan

Published June 24, 2013 | By Nate Haken & Patricia Taft

For sustainable human security, statebuilding is the only endgame. Absent the state, traditional mechanisms and authority structures might indeed manage communal issues, perhaps even better than would the state. Trans-communal issues like environmental degradation, complex humanitarian emergencies, and large scale conflict, however, go beyond the jurisdiction and capacity of such entities. Building a legitimate, professional, and representative state, therefore, is the only way to address the problems of the modern, interconnected world. This process is inherently messy, however, as demonstrated in the case of the world’s newest state, South Sudan, number four on this year’s Failed States Index.

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.

An Inauspicious Welcome to South Sudan

Published June 20, 2012 | By Kendall Lawrence

Holding the title as the world’s newest nation, South Sudan gained its independence on July 9, 2011. With only a half year of data belonging to the new country, it was scored but not ranked on this year’s Failed States Index (FSI). Had it been ranked, it would have come in 4th on the index, just better than its parent to the north, Sudan. It represents only the third occasion that the Fund for Peace has divided a country for the purpose of analysis. Most recently, Serbia has been divided twice since the beginning of the FSI: in 2007, Serbia and Montenegro were analyzed separately after the previous union was dissolved. More recently in 2011, Kosovo was removed from analysis on Serbia (though Kosovo is not analyzed as part of the Failed States Index as it is not a UN-recognized state). As countries split, pressures will shift, historically reducing, though that may not be the case with Sudan and South Sudan. Despite the split, active conflict between the neighboring states has continued.