The Failed States Index 2005

About 2 billion people live in countries that are in danger of collapse. In the first annual Failed States Index, Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace rank the countries about to go over the brink.

America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." That was the conclusion of the 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy. For a country whose foreign policy in the 20th century was dominated by the struggles against powerful states such as Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union, the U.S. assessment is striking. Nor is the United States alone in diagnosing the problem. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that "ignoring failed states creates problems that sometimes come back to bite us." French President Jacques Chirac has spoken of "the threat that failed states carry for the world's equilibrium." World leaders once worried about who was amassing power; now they worry about the absence of it.

Failed states have made a remarkable odyssey from the periphery to the very center of global politics. During the Cold War, state failure was seen through the prism of superpower conflict and was rarely addressed as a danger in its own right. In the 1990s, "failed states" fell largely into the province of humanitarians and human rights activists, although they did begin to consume the attention of the world's sole superpower, which led interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. For so-called foreign-policy realists, however, these states and the problems they posed were a distraction from weightier issues of geopolitics.

Now, it seems, everybody cares. The dangerous exports of failed states -- whether international terrorists, drug barons, or weapons arsenals -- are the subject of endless discussion and concern. For all the newfound attention, however, there is still uncertainty about the definition and scope of the problem. How do you know a failed state when you see one? Of course, a government that has lost control of its territory or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of force has earned the label. But there can be more subtle attributes of failure. Some regimes, for example, lack the authority to make collective decisions or the capacity to deliver public services. In other countries, the populace may rely entirely on the black market, fail to pay taxes, or engage in large-scale civil disobedience. Outside intervention can be both a symptom of and a trigger for state collapse. A failed state may be subject to involuntary restrictions of its sovereignty, such as political or economic sanctions, the presence of foreign military forces on its soil, or other military constraints, such as a no-fly zone.

How many states are at serious risk of state failure? The World Bank has identified about 30 "low-income countries under stress," whereas Britain's Department for International Development has named 46 "fragile" states of concern. A report commissioned by the CIA has put the number of failing states at about 20.

To present a more precise picture of the scope and implications of the problem, the Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, and Foreign Policy have conducted a global ranking of weak and failing states. Using 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, we ranked 60 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict. (For each indicator, the Fund for Peace computed scores using software that analyzed data from tens of thousands of international and local media sources from the last half of 2004. For a complete discussion of the 12 indicators, please go to www.ForeignPolicy.com or www.fundforpeace.org.) The resulting index provides a profile of the new world disorder of the 21st century and demonstrates that the problem of weak and failing states is far more serious than generally thought. About 2 billion people live in insecure states, with varying degrees of vulnerability to widespread civil conflict.

The instability that the index diagnoses has many faces. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Somalia, state failure has been apparent for years, manifested by armed conflict, famine, disease outbreaks, and refugee flows. In other cases, however, instability is more elusive. Often, corrosive elements have not yet triggered open hostilities, and pressures may be bubbling just below the surface. Large stretches of lawless territory exist in many countries in the index, but that territory has not always been in open revolt against state institutions.

Conflict may be concentrated in local territories seeking autonomy or secession (as in the Philippines and Russia). In other countries, instability takes the form of episodic fighting, drug mafias, or warlords dominating large swaths of territory (as in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Somalia). State collapse sometimes happens suddenly, but often the demise of the state is a slow and steady deterioration of social and political institutions (Zimbabwe and Guinea are good examples). Some countries emerging from conflict may be on the mend but in danger of backsliding (Sierra Leone and Angola). The World Bank found that, within five years, half of all countries emerging from civil unrest fall back into conflict in a cycle of collapse (Haiti and Liberia).

The 10 most at-risk countries in the index have already shown clear signs of state failure. Ivory Coast, a country cut in half by civil war, is the most vulnerable to disintegration; it would probably collapse completely if U.N. peacekeeping forces pulled out. It is followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Yemen, Liberia, and Haiti. The index includes others whose instability is less widely acknowledged, including Bangladesh (17th), Guatemala (31st), Egypt (38th), Saudi Arabia (45th), and Russia (59th).

Weak states are most prevalent in Africa, but they also appear in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Experts have for years discussed an "arc of instability" -- an expression that came into use in the 1970s to refer to a "Muslim Crescent" extending from Afghanistan to the "Stans" in the southern part of the former Soviet Union. Our study suggests that the concept is too narrow. The geography of weak states reveals a territorial expanse that extends from Moscow to Mexico City, far wider than an "arc" would suggest, and not limited to the Muslim world.

The index does not provide any easy answers for those looking to shore up countries on the brink. Elections are almost universally regarded as helpful in reducing conflict. However, if they are rigged, conducted during active fighting, or attract a low turnout, they can be ineffective or even harmful to stability. Electoral democracy appears to have had only a modest impact on the stability of states such as Iraq, Rwanda, Kenya, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Indonesia. Ukraine ranks as highly vulnerable in large part because of last year's disputed election.

What are the clearest early warning signs of a failing state? Among the 12 indicators we use, two consistently rank near the top. Uneven development is high in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states -- and not merely poverty -- increases instability. Criminalization or delegitimization of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal, or ineffective, also figured prominently. Facing this condition, people often shift their allegiances to other leaders -- opposition parties, warlords, ethnic nationalists, clergy, or rebel forces. Demographic factors, especially population pressures stemming from refugees, internally displaced populations, and environmental degradation, are also found in most at-risk countries, as are consistent human rights violations. Identifying the signs of state failure is easier than crafting solutions, but pinpointing where state collapse is likely is a necessary first step.

The Rankings: In the table, the columns highlight the 12 political, economic, military, and social indicators of instability. Higher scores (in black) represent more instability; lower scores (in white) suggest less.


Weapons of Mass Seduction

Want to discern what global leaders really mean? Read between the seams.

Earlier this year, on her first European tour as U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice set tongues wagging by strutting into Germany wearing a powerful, all-black ensemble: tall boots, long, military-style jacket, above-the-knee skirt. The backlash to such coverage was not far behind. "I don't recall any commentary about Colin Powell's fashion sensibilities," said one observer. "Do we really want our politicians to face the same scrutiny as our musicians, actors, and Paris Hilton?" asked another. The truth is, in geopolitics, fashion does matter -- for men as well as women. Leaders are inevitable symbols of their respective nations, and their fashion choices, with all their subtlety, increasingly shape and reinforce global perceptions, for good and ill.

As if to combine the great military strategist Sir Basil Liddell Hart's writings on tank maneuvers and high fashion of a century ago -- yes, he was an authority on both -- Rice's charm offensive reminded Europe's onlookers that the United States is a force to be reckoned with. Robin Givhan of the Washington Post said that Rice "looked as though she was prepared to talk tough, knock heads and do a freeze-frame 'Matrix' jump kick if necessary." If the newly appointed top diplomat wanted to show the world that she -- and the United States, by extension -- is up to the simultaneous challenges of a second term, a war on terror, and an ongoing morass in Iraq, she couldn't have dressed more appropriately.

Rice may have learned a thing or two about sartorial symbolism from her boss. U.S. President George W. Bush knows that it is often not a leader's own apparel that matters, but the clothes he asks others to wear on his turf that can shift the balance of power. At last summer's G-8 summit at Sea Island, Georgia, French President Jacques Chirac appeared overdressed in a double–breasted suit and crisp red cravat; others were in jeans and sports shirts. As Kenneth Dreyfack pointed out in the International Herald Tribune, "That's the very reason that Bush, like his predecessors, tries to impose casual wear for important encounters between world leaders. Purportedly designed to put the participants at ease, it actually makes them uncomfortable and, more important, puts them at a disadvantage. By requiring them to modify a highly personal accouterment, the clothing they wear, foreign White House guests are accepting White House ground rules even before they sit down to talk." Likewise, no amount of protocol could stop the sheepish grins of 21 world leaders at last year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Santiago, Chile: In a bow to tradition, they all wore colorful alpaca ponchos -- and the diplomatic playing field was immediately leveled.

Chirac is not alone in his embarrassment. Just days after the second Bush inauguration in January, Vice President Dick Cheney committed the first major fashion faux pas of 2005. He showed up at the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz wearing, as Givhan put it, the kind of attire one normally puts on "to operate a snow blower." Whereas other world leaders wore dark overcoats and dark shoes, Cheney donned a drab olive parka with a fur-trimmed hood, brown hunting boots, and a cheap ski hat. Clearly, American diplomacy still suffers from too much preaching and not enough prep. Is it any wonder the rest of the world doubts America's diplomatic sincerity?

Conversely, politicians' fashions can also garner much-needed sympathy and awareness for their countries. Although Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is often lauded for his stylish astrakhan cap and traditionally elegant coats, he insists that he is not simply fashionable for fashion's sake. Through his sartorial style, weaving various tribal symbols into flowing capes, Karzai is changing international perceptions of Afghans and reinforcing a sense of national unity. When former Gucci designer Tom Ford labeled Karzai the "best-dressed man in the world" in 2002, he helped push the embattled leader into the spotlight, winning international attention for his nation's plight from fashion critics and foreign donors alike.

If you don't believe that fashion can be deeply political, playing to national sympathies and comfortable historical myths, just look at what's going on in Pakistan. When Pakistan's history books were Islamicized in the 1970s and 80s, the country's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was portrayed wearing a traditional sherwani instead of his preferred Savile Row suits of a London-trained barrister. It's fitting, then, that the one-time captain of Oxford University's cricket team, Imran Khan, now wears similarly traditional kurtas (pajama-style clothing) in an attempt to build street credibility for his self-styled Justice Movement party. Having abandoned his cozy ties to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Khan no doubt hopes his cricket victories will translate onto Pakistan's political playing field.

Of course, one man's street cred is another's shoddy unprofessionalism. Pakistani Citibank executive-turned-prime minister Shaukat Aziz demands that his cabinet ministers dress Western business formal at meetings, hoping the right clothes will make his core team more efficient. (The Karachi stock exchange has been on an upswing ever since.) For decades, Cuba's strongman Fidel Castro rebelled against the hegemony of Western fashion, but even he now sports a crisp navy suit to meet with the pope and attend international summits.

Elsewhere, the suit and power tie may be a symbol of transcending colonial animosities. Isaac Maria Dos Anjos, Angola's ambassador to South Africa, recently gave a stirring speech on reconciliation, in which he remarked, "After five hundred years of colonialism, I now wear a suit and tie. That is enough. I don't want another five hundred years of African colonialism to be taught how to lose the tie and wear clothes from the Democratic Republic of [the] Congo or anywhere else. I keep my tie and move on."

Sartorial symbolism pervades high diplomacy. So much so, in fact, it now seems as though where you stand depends not on where you sit, but rather on what you wear.