The distinction of being a "failed state" is inarguably damning, but the 12 indicators factored into this determination highlight how complex it is to measure the weakness of states. A wide range of issues -- wars, hunger, brutal dictatorships, child mortality, economic failure, mass epidemics, political infighting, and the devastating aftermath of natural disasters -- pushes countries to the brink of failure, or right over the edge.
This year's Failed States Index -- the ninth annual collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Fund For Peace -- assesses 178 countries and ranks each by its total score, with 120 the maximum score a country can achieve (the higher a country's rank and score, the weaker the state). The following photos capture slices of daily life in the world's 60 most fragile countries -- snapshots that not only reveal strife and hardship, but also triumph and perseverance.
Above, a protester carries an injured boy away from clashes with Egyptian riot police in Cairo on Jan. 26, 2013.
Its score may have decreased slightly from 2012, but Somalia -- the most failed of failed states -- still tops the Failed States Index for the sixth straight year. On the bright side, 2012 saw the inauguration of the internationally recognized Federal Government of Somalia, following two decades of civil war and rule by successive transitional governments. In 2013, in fact, the United States officially recognized the new Somali government for the first time since 1993. But Somalia remains effectively divided and barely governed, with the northern provinces of Somaliland and Puntland functioning like independent states. Its per capita GDP of $115 is the lowest in the world, and human development indicators remain discouraging and in many cases nonexistent. Some progress has been made -- NATO's counter-piracy operations in the region, for instance, have been mostly successful -- but far more must be done if Somalia is to shed the dubious distinction of being the world's ultimate failed state.
Above, a Somali boy plays soccer with Ugandan soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia in February 2013.
Ten years after the conclusion of the Second Congo War -- the deadliest conflict since the end of World War II -- the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) resembles not so much a failed state as a state that doesn't exist at all. Tied with Niger for dead last on the U.N. Human Development Index -- and with a life expectancy at birth of only 48.7 years -- the DRC offers a brutal life to the majority of those who live within its borders. Joseph Kabila, the current president, was democratically re-elected in 2011, but the elections were marred by allegations of corruption and the federal government exerts practically no authority over massive areas outside of major cities. Multiple armed groups use this lawless land as a hideout, and the country's eastern region has been repeatedly referred to as the "rape capital of the world." In a positive development, Bosco Ntaganda, believed to be the leader of the rebel group M23, turned himself in this past March to face charges at the International Criminal Court.
Above, miners near the city of Goma, in eastern DRC, dig for minerals -- such as coltan, tin ore, and manganese -- to be used in consumer electronics.
Two years after South Sudan's declaration of independence split Sudan in two, the troubled East African nation continues to struggle with instability. At a glance, the country appears better off than it might have been. Despite worries that border skirmishes between Sudan and its former southern provinces could devolve into a regional war, the nations agreed in late 2012 to set up a demilitarized buffer zone and in 2013 to resume pumping oil and withdraw troops from the border. But just because things could have been worse does not mean they are good. An estimated 655,000 people have been displaced because of fighting between the army and rebel groups since South Sudan achieved independence in 2011, and violence has continued in the country's war-torn region of Darfur. The United Nations warns of a looming humanitarian crisis due to fighting in the Sudanese provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and tensions with South Sudan remain high.
Above, a woman stands with a wheelbarrow close to el-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, on June 17, 2013.
Not even two years old, South Sudan is the youngest country in the Failed States Index. While its per capita GDP of $1,859 is fairly respectable for the fourth-most failed state in the world (compared to $115 in Failed State No. 1 Somalia), South Sudan has struggled to establish a functioning government since its 2011 declaration of independence. Hopes that this newfound independence would end decades of fighting between the Muslim north and Christian south proved premature, as sporadic border skirmishes with Sudan continued through much of 2012. The suspension of oil production (due to conflicts with Sudan) further damaged South Sudan's economy, and rivalries and clashes with rebels threaten the fragile peace between the two neighbors.
Above, refugees from the violence-plagued province of South Kordofan play on the wreckage of a crashed aircraft near the Yida refugee camp in South Sudan in February 2013.
Chad has a long history of coups -- including one in 1990 that brought the country's current president, Idriss Déby, to power (in May, the government announced that it had foiled the latest effort to overthrow him). According to official results, Déby was re-elected in a landslide in 2011, but only after opposition candidates withdrew in a boycott over concerns about the results being fixed. Chad struggles with acute poverty -- 62 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, and the average adult receives just one and a half years of schooling -- but Déby has clashed with the World Bank, a potentially helpful ally. He first grew angry with the institution in 2008, when the World Bank withdrew funding from a key pipeline in Chad because it said the government had failed to honor its agreement to spend oil revenue on anti-poverty programs. And he complained again as recently as December, arguing that the bank was unfairly giving more aid to other impoverished countries.
Above, guards exercise during a parade on April 5, 2013, in Zakouma National Park, east of N'Djamena, in Chad.
Though Yemen's festering terrorist threat is the country's most visible problem, hunger is a far more pressing issue for the population as a whole. The rate of hunger in the country doubled between 2009 and 2012, according to the World Food Program, and rising food and fuel prices amid political turmoil have compounded these dire circumstances. As of May 2012, 10 million people -- 44 percent of the population -- did not have enough to eat, and 5 million needed emergency aid. The country is also rapidly depleting its water supply; the capital could run dry in the next decade, and in some cities tap water is only intermittently available.
While Yemen has climbed from 13th to eighth to sixth in the Failed States Index since 2011, there are signs of a turnaround. The country has been a leader in seeking a peaceful, negotiated transition from the turmoil of the Arab Spring. A cross-section of society has been meeting in a luxury hotel in the capital since March, working out a political plan for the future. President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who assumed office in a one-candidate election in February 2012 following President Ali Abdullah Saleh's resignation, has also stepped up cooperation with the United States to fight al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen's undergoverned regions. The number of drone strikes in Yemen reached a peak of 42 in 2012, and earlier this month the Yemeni military launched a new offensive against al Qaeda strongholds.
Above, a Yemeni man rides a motorcycle past a damaged house in the historical quarter of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on June 3, 2013.
Afghanistan's challenges span every metric. The country remains entirely reliant on foreign assistance; last year, the World Bank estimated that 97 percent of Afghanistan's GDP came from foreign aid, and the corruption associated with this aid was illustrated by reports in April that the CIA has been dropping off bags of cash at President Hamid Karzai's offices. Women are institutionally oppressed by the country's legal system -- more than 600 women are awaiting trial on charges of being raped or running away from abusive homes.
Terrorism also remains a persistent threat to civilians in Afghanistan, as Afghan forces and the International Security Assistance Force continue their efforts to pacify the country. Formal responsibility for security operations were handed over to Afghan authorities earlier this month as tentative negotiations with the Taliban began in Qatar, but the promise of this modest progress largely rests on the events of the next year. The drawdown of coalition troops and the results of the next Afghan presidential election, set for April 2014, in which, for the first time, term limits will bar Karzai from running, could bring about big changes for Afghanistan.
During a "Taliban capture" military exercise run by French and Canadian soldiers, Afghan National Army cadets secure the perimeter as smoke bombs, simulating detonated IEDs, cover the area at the Kabul Military Training Center on Nov. 13, 2012, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Haiti moved down one spot on the 2013 Failed States Index, but not much has changed since a massive earthquake rocked the island nation over three years ago. Billions of dollars in pledged aid for reconstruction has yet to materialize, and around three-quarters of Haitians are either "unemployed or trying to make ends meet in the informal economy," as a recent FP article put it. The country has not received adequate funding or supplies to address a still-ongoing 2010 outbreak of cholera that has resulted in "unnecessary deaths," according to Doctors Without Borders. The United Nations, which has been blamed for causing the outbreak, announced in 2013 that it would not offer any direct compensation to the victims. Despite all of this, luxury hotels are still opening in Haiti, and the country is trying to brand itself as a destination for adventure-seekers.
Above, children and adults scavenge for recyclables and other usable items around a garbage truck at the Trutier dump on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on March 7, 2012.
Conditions in the Central African Republic continued to decline in 2013 when a rebel group, Seleka, led by former government minister Michel Djotodia, seized power in March, suspending the country's constitution and dissolving parliament. But this isn't the first time this has happened in the country: 10 years ago, François Bozizé, the president ousted by Djotodia, came to power in his own coup. A warrant has been issued for Bozizé's arrest, and he has been accused of "kidnappings, murder, crimes against humanity, and economic crimes," as a BBC article put it. The former president has since fled the country, while governments around the world have refused to recognize Djotodia as head of state.
Above, supporters of Bozizé cheer for soldiers as they follow the presidential convoy heading for the airport in Bangui on Jan. 10, 2013.
Zimbabwe presented a new constitution in 2013, paving the way for elections and ending the power-sharing government that has been in place since 2008. President Robert Mugabe, 89, who has been leader since 1980, decreed that an election will be held on July 31, sparking outcries from opposition Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as well as concerns over security. Zimbabwe's days of infamous runaway inflation appear to be over, and the International Monetary Fund has taken steps to begin a fiscal monitoring program -- a significant improvement from just earlier this year, when only $217 remained in the government's public account. The European Union also suspended sanctions on many top officials.
Above, a woman walks past an election billboard urging people to register to vote in Harare's Mbare township on June 11, 2013. The country is expected to hold presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.
Iraq continues to struggle following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Ten years after the United States invaded, the country is racked by sectarian violence that many fear will spiral into full-blown civil war. Mostly Sunni insurgent groups are still doing battle with the fragile government, led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. More than 1,000 Iraqis were killed this past May, making it the deadliest month for the country in five years.
Above, Iraqi Shiite pilgrims look at a mock grave where people donate money along the road leading to Imam Musa al-Kadhim shrine in the capital, Baghdad, on June 2, ahead of the anniversary of the death of the Seventh Imam.
Ivory Coast has faced political instability for more than a decade, and the country is still contending with the aftermath of a dramatic 2010-2011 standoff in which incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing an election. Gbagbo was eventually arrested and is currently awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court, but many believe his supporters are continuing to carrying out attacks on villages and military installations in Ivory Coast. U.N. peacekeepers and French troops maintain a heavy presence in the country.
Above, soldiers of the Ivory Coast Republican Force patrol the streets of Dabou on Aug. 16, 2012, after a series of attacks.
Pakistan -- the world's most unstable nuclear power -- did reach a milestone this year with an election that saw power handed from one elected government to another for the first time in the country's history. The elections were also hailed as free and fair -- no small achievement in a nation with a long track record of corruption. The newly elected government has plenty of problems to contend with: Taliban-linked insurgencies in the tribal regions, ongoing border tensions over Kashmir, and the illegal drugs that continue to flow into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Above, supporters of Pakistan Muslim League-N celebrate election results in front of a party office on May 11, 2013, in Lahore, Pakistan.
With a poverty rate of more than 50 percent, Guinea remains one of the poorest countries in West Africa. It's been two years since President Alpha Condé assumed power in the first competitive elections since the country achieved independence in 1958, but Guinea has yet to hold elections to form a parliament. The situation looks ominous, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group. While elections are necessary, they would take place against a backdrop of ethnic tensions and rampant police and army brutality. "Electoral turmoil could degenerate into significant violence," the report says.
Above, Guinean police charge to disperse opposition activists in Conakry on May 25.
Decades of government instability in Guinea-Bissau continued with a military coup in 2012, which prevented a second round of presidential elections. The BBC notes that no leader has served a full term since the country's independence.
Above, student Rachid Malam peers off the edge of a colonial-era dock on the island of Bolama in Guinea-Bissau on Nov. 5, 2012. Established in 1890, Bolama was the first Portuguese colonial capital of Guinea-Bissau. In 1941, the Portuguese moved to the present capital, Bissau.
The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria is grappling with the threat posed by the Islamist group Boko Haram, which earlier this year managed to seize control of territory in Nigeria's northeast. The group was blamed for the deaths of over 600 people in 2012, but the government too has responded with what Human Rights Watch calls a "heavy hand" -- burning homes during raids on Boko Haram territory, engaging in torture, and executing suspects without trial.
Above, children paddle boats to their Makoko shanty home in Lagos on Aug. 30, 2012.
Kenya braced for unrest earlier this year, fearing a repeat of the violence that followed the country's disputed 2007 election. The elections, thankfully, were relatively peaceful, but, as the International Crisis Group writes, "the conflict drivers that triggered the 2007 bloodshed, including a culture of impunity, land grievances, corruption, ethnic tensions, weak institutions and regional and socio-economic inequality, have yet to be addressed adequately." This year's victor, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the first International Criminal Court indictee to be elected head of state.
Above, protesters hold fake Kenyan currency bills with the image of a pig during a demonstration outside Parliament after lawmakers voted to give themselves hefty salary increases on June 11, 2013, in Nairobi.
Landlocked Niger ranks at the very bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index, tied with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With an estimated GDP per capita of $800, this vast and arid country is also among the world's poorest. Last year, it took on the additional weight of about 50,000 refugees fleeing the March 2012 military coup in Mali.
Above, people ride by the entrance of Niger's gendarmerie national barracks on June 12, 2013, in Niamey.
Africa's second-most populous nation was shaken by the sudden death of its long-serving strongman, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, last summer. Zenawi was recognized for stoking the engines of Ethiopia's development, but human rights organizations lamented his repressive tactics and have voiced hopes that with his passing, the government will implement reforms. So far, however, their hopes have gone unfulfilled. "Dissent was not tolerated in any sphere. The authorities imprisoned actual and perceived opponents of the government. Peaceful protests were suppressed. Arbitrary arrests and detention were common, and torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres were rife," notes a recent Amnesty International report.
Above, Ethiopian Orthodox clergy members stand outside Bete Giyorgis, also called St. George's Church, at the Lalibela holy sites on March 19, 2013, in Lalibela, Ethiopia. Lalibela is among Ethiopia's holiest of cities and is distinguished by its 11 churches hewn into solid rock that date back to the 12th century.
Burundi is a small, landlocked country with a bloody history of conflict and poverty and an economy dominated by subsistence agriculture. The country is still recovering from more than a decade of ethnically fueled civil war. While there was some progress last year -- political killings declined following a sharp spike in 2011 -- the country has a ways to go. Members of the security forces still act with impunity, as do members of the youth league of the ruling party, according to Human Rights Watch.
The photo above, taken on Nov. 14, 2012, shows a bus full of Burundian refugees returning from Tanzania and arriving at a transit camp in southern Burundi, in the hopes of being resettled.
The civil war in Syria grows bloodier and more destructive every day, with the conflict's death toll recently reaching nearly 93,000. The Obama administration's recent decision to provide small arms to the rebels is unlikely to change the military balance of power significantly, and a conflict that began with largely peaceful protests against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's rule has grown increasingly sectarian in nature.
Above, a Syrian man stands on the rubble of his house while others look for survivors and bodies in the Tariq al-Bab district of the northern city of Aleppo on Feb. 23, 2013.
Uganda celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from British colonial rule last October -- but those celebrations were marred by protests and widespread arrests, as the government moved to stop opposition rallies and placed several prominent political figures, including the mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago, under house arrest. Uganda remains a very poor country, with a per capita income of just $506. It also suffers from the highest levels of bribery in East Africa.
Above, a Ugandan policeman beats up a journalist in Kampala on May 28, 2013, outside the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper newspapers, which were closed on May 20 by armed police.
Liberia ranks 182 out of 187 countries on the U.N. Human Development Index. The country is still recovering from 14 years of civil war that destroyed a great deal of its infrastructure -- much of the capital, Monrovia, still doesn't have access to public electricity. More than 60 percent of the country lives in poverty, and the United Nations still maintains a peacekeeping force of more than 8,000 in the country, though there are plans to reduce that number to fewer than 4,000 troops by 2015. It remains to be seen whether Liberian forces will be able to fill in once international troops leave.
Above, a woman stands at her window in Monrovia on Jan. 29, 2013.
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Massive military spending in the Hermit Kingdom continues to hinder the economy, while the population of the country's notorious gulags is reportedly growing. New leader Kim Jong Un has continued to focus on launching missiles -- a preoccupation that nearly led to an international nuclear crisis this year.
Above, a young policewoman conducts traffic on April 3, 2011, in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Despite improving by two spots on this year's Failed States Index, Eritrea continues to struggle under the repressive government of Isaias Afewerki, who has been president since the country achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Amnesty International says Afewerki's regime has jailed at least 10,000 political prisoners, many of them in "unimaginably atrocious conditions."
Above, scrap-metal artisans make various tools inside Medebr metal market in Asmara, Eritrea, on May 12, 2008.
Myanmar's remarkable opening to the outside world continued in 2012, earning it a place five slots lower on this year's list. But the country continues to struggle with ethnic conflict -- in particular, between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim Rohingya minority. The next general election -- in which once-shunned democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is considering running for president -- will take place in 2015.
Above, a Rohingya woman sits by a fire at a crowded internally displaced persons camp on Nov. 23, 2012, on the outskirts of Sittwe, Myanmar.
Despite having one of the highest literacy rates, at 75.9 percent, in Africa, Cameroon's development has been limited by the country's endemic corruption. President Paul Biya -- who has been in office since 1982 -- was re-elected in 2011 in a contest regarded with suspicion after a constitutional limit on presidential terms was removed. Biya is now eligible to run for president for the rest of his life.
Above, a group of men gather to read headlines about Cameroon's president at a newsstand in Yaounde on Nov. 6, 2012.
Sri Lanka's more than 25-year civil war ended in 2009, but relations between the government and the Tamils -- the ethnic minority group pursuing an independent state -- remain tense, and human rights abuses stemming from the conflict continue. The authorities, for example, still rely on a terrorism-related law to arrest and detain suspects without charge or trial. Nevertheless, the country has been experiencing strong economic growth for the past few years, and most projections indicate that it will continue. The Asian Development Bank, for one, expects growth rates of 6.8 percent for 2013 and 7.2 percent for 2014.
Above, Sri Lankan Muslim schoolgirls stand on the edge of a seaport in Colombo on May 20 after traveling from their town of Kalmunai, over 231 miles east of the capital.
Roughly half of Bangladesh's more than 150 million people live on less than $1 a day, and the deadly factory collapse that garnered headlines around the world for weeks earlier this year served as yet another reminder of how far Bangladesh still has to come despite economic progress.
Above, Bangladeshi rescuers carry a worker out of the wreckage of a garment factory that collapsed on April 24, 2013. The disaster left more than 1,000 dead and sparked international outrage over working conditions in Bangladesh.
Nepal is still struggling to establish a permanent government following the abolition of the monarchy in 2008. Despite years of negotiations with former Maoist rebels, the small Himalayan country remains without a constitution and is deeply fractured along political and ethnic lines.
Above, a Nepalese woman is pictured in the streets of Khokana, near Kathmandu, on June 11, 2013.
Once the last stronghold of legal slavery on Earth -- it was not formally abolished until 1981 -- an estimated 10 to 20 percent of Mauritania's population remains illegally enslaved. Things are not much better for the free, however. More than 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty.
Above, men run from tear gas during clashes with police at an anti-slavery demonstration in Nouakchott on May 26, 2012.
After centuries of occupation by the Portuguese and Indonesians, East Timor finally achieved independence in 2002 but struggled through its first decade as a sovereign nation. Last year saw successful elections and the withdrawal of a U.N. peacekeeping mission, but the young island nation remains one of the poorest in Asia.
Above, an East Timorese man carries bananas at a market in Dili on June 5, 2013.
Famous for its so-called "blood diamonds" and brutal, decade-long civil war, Sierra Leone is still struggling to recover 11 years after the end of fighting. On a positive note, the West African nation held its first non-U.N.-supervised elections in 2012. But due to poverty and disease, life expectancy at birth in the country is a dismal 48.1 years.
Above, a man sits in front of a painted mural in Freetown on Nov. 19, 2012.
Though Egyptians ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and the country is no longer ruled by a dictatorship, the state is rapidly eroding. Homicides have tripled in post-revolutionary Egypt, while economic difficulties and encroachments on political freedom have led to further protests against the divisive Muslim Brotherhood government. As Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei writes in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, "The feeling right now is that there is no state authority to enforce law and order, and therefore everybody thinks that everything is permissible."
Above, an Egyptian woman sits with her laptop near the Presidential Palace prior to a protest against the government of Mohamed Morsy in December 2012.
The days of Burkina Faso's military coups are thankfully over, but the landlocked African country remains one of the poorest in the world, ranking 183 out of 186 on the U.N. Human Development Index.
Above, women attend a talk on HIV prevention at a clinic in Ouagadougou on April 13, 2013. In 2009, there were 110,000 people living with HIV in Burkina Faso, though the rate of infection is believed to be falling.
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Though a model of good governance compared with the other Congo, the Republic of the Congo has plenty of problems of its own. Over 70 percent of the population lives in poverty, and current President Denis Nguesso's term has been plagued by disputed elections and allegations of corruption.
Above, a Congolese woman and her children sit outside the Potopoto mosque in Brazzaville on March 30, 2013.
Iran scores relatively high on most development indicators compared with other states on the index -- it has a literacy rate of 77 percent, for example -- but widespread human rights violations and the effects of crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy earn it a spot on the list.
Above, Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani in Tehran on June 15, 2013.
An influx of arms entering Mali following the Libyan revolution in 2011 only served to exacerbate tensions between the central government in the south and al Qaeda-affiliated forces in the Tuareg-dominated deserts to the north. A French military intervention in early 2013 defeated the Islamist militants, but the northern region of the country remains unstable.
Above, Malian soldiers patrol the streets of Timbuktu on Feb. 1, 2013, as French-led troops fight to expel Islamist troops from the northern city.
Rwanda, site of perhaps the worst genocide since the end of World War II, has come a long way since the bloody 1990s, with poverty falling under 50 percent for the first time between 2006 and 2011. In 2012, however, the United Nations accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Above, Rwandans gather to watch television in the town of Rutare, 28 miles north of the capital, Kigali, on May 15, 2013.
In the late 2000s, it looked as if Malawi could descend into an autocracy, judging from the authoritarian and increasingly erratic behavior of former President Bingu wa Mutharika. Following his death, however, his successor, Joyce Banda, has promoted economic development and the liberalization of Malawi's strict anti-homosexuality laws. Nevertheless, HIV and underdevelopment remain chronic problems.
Above, children gather to receive a meal at the Mphandula Childcare Center in Namitete prior to a visit from Madonna on April 5, 2013.
Over the past 27 years, Prime Minister Hun Sen's rule in Cambodia has been marked by corruption and increasing violence against activists and political opponents. Nevertheless, Cambodia's economy grew at a rapid pace in the 2000s, averaging almost 10 percent growth per year between 1998 and 2008 and nearly halving the poverty rate.
Above, mourners stand outside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh to pay their respects to former King Norodom Sihanouk, who died in October 2012.
With a poverty rate nearing 60 percent, Togo continues to struggle with economic development at a time of increased political instability, anti-government protests, and the curtailment of political freedoms.
Above, a police vehicle drives through smoke during clashes with opposition supporters in the capital, Lome, on Aug. 22, 2012.
Although Angola is nominally a democracy, the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party and its leader, President José Eduardo dos Santos, have ruled Angola since 1979. The 2012 elections, which granted the MPLA a parliamentary majority and extended dos Santos's term for another five years, failed to meet international standards.
Above, people walk at the former site of an open-air market in the Sambizanga shantytown in Luanda, Angola.
The former Soviet republic remains an authoritarian, single-party state ruled by President Islam Karimov. According to the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, torture is "endemic" within the criminal justice system, and Karimov's regime tolerates almost no political opposition.
Above, Uzbek soldiers march in an Independence Day celebration in Tashkent on Aug. 31, 2012. Uzbekistan became independent in 1991.
Though it is located in one of the most violent regions in Africa, Zambia has enjoyed relative peace in recent years, with a reputation for transparency and democratic governance. Nevertheless, at 13.5 percent of the population, Zambia has the sixth-highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world.
Above, HIV-positive farmer Glandwell Muleya looks at his cattle at his farm during a visit by a home-based care team in the village of Munyona in southern Zambia on April 18, 2012.
Lebanon's internecine political conflict has been exacerbated over the past year by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Groups sympathetic to both sides have skirmished in cities across the country, especially in Tripoli, forcing the Lebanese military to step in and quell the violence. The instability has spread outward from Lebanon as well, with Lebanese Hezbollah forces beginning to fight overtly on behalf of the Assad government in Syria. As Hezbollah forces press into Syria, 462,425 Syrian refugees have registered in Lebanon, crowding old Palestinian refugee camps.
Above, a Lebanese woman walks past closed shops owned by Syrian nationals in a largely Shiite neighborhood of Beirut on April 10, 2013.
ANWAR AMRO/AFP/Getty Images
Though nominally a democracy, Equatorial Guinea has been ruled firmly by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo since his 1979 coup. That doesn't seem like it's about to change, either. In the country's May 26 election, which was widely seen as rigged, the president's Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea was awarded 99 of 100 seats in the lower house and 54 of 55 seats in the upper house of the country's bicameral legislature.
Above, children stand by a street in Malabo on Feb. 1, 2012.
Kyrgyzstan has experienced fits of instability, with coups in 2005 and 2010 exacerbating tensions between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities. The Kyrgyz government is also increasingly concerned with the threat of terrorism, and the country's deputy prime minister told a parliamentary committee last month that there may be as many as 20,000 members of the terrorist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir active in the country.
Above, assistants help an Orthodox believer take a bath in the icy waters of a lake in the village of Leninskoe, just over 10 miles from Bishkek, the capital, on Jan. 19, 2013, as part of Epiphany celebrations.
Under the monarchic rule of King Mswati III, who has absolute authority in the country, most of the population of Swaziland -- 69 percent in 2006 -- lives below the poverty line. It also has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world, with more than one-fourth of the population infected.
Above, a Swazi correctional services officer supervises Swazi girls performing the reed dance for King Mswati III at the Ludzidzini royal palace in Mbabane on Sept. 2, 2012.
In 2012, the International Monetary Fund approved a $14 million loan to Djibouti following a damaging drought, but this rentier state remains completely reliant on the money flowing from military basing rights. Both France and the United States have bases in the tiny country, with the U.S. base playing an instrumental role in counterterrorism missions in the Horn of Africa and the Persian Gulf. Though this year's elections were freer than those in years past, the country's autocratic president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, is now in the 14th year of his rule and does not seem eager to leave power.
Above, two women chat on April 5, 2011, in Djibouti's Balbala district, a series of makeshift dwellings around several islands of concrete houses.
A civil war between ethnic groups from 1998 to 2003 has had lasting effects on the Solomon Islands. The war left the government essentially bankrupt, and a drop in commodity prices in 2009 has severely damaged the logging industry, on which the country's economy relies even at the expense of World Heritage sites. Over the past decade, the Solomon Islands has also struggled with a series of natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis.
Above, a girl fishes on her boat at a polluted beach in central Honiara on Sept. 14, 2012.
The Tajik government -- a nominal democracy that has been ruled by President Emomalii Rahmon since 1994 -- has struggled to cope with its porous border with Afghanistan and ungoverned swaths of the country. Drug smuggling from Afghanistan remains a significant concern, along with domestic and cross-border terrorism, though the government has denied harboring Islamist rebel training camps.
Above, people play a game of buzkashi, a Central Asian sport similar to polo but with a goat carcass instead of a ball, in Tajikistan on Feb. 2, 2013.
Papua New Guinea continues to struggle with uneven development. Subsistence farming provides a livelihood for 85 percent of people, while natural resources such as copper, gold, and oil remain largely untapped. Since a parliamentary vote of no confidence in 2011, Papua New Guinea has been racked by an on-again, off-again political crisis that has resulted in a military mutiny and the arrest of the country's Supreme Court chief.
Above, members of the public wait to see Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her tour of the Gerehu Market on May 10, 2013, in Port Moresby.
Libya improved slightly in the Failed States ranking compared to 2012, but instability persists in the country as it recovers from its 2011 civil war. Terrorists attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in September 2012, and roving militias have undermined the government's efforts to assert sovereign control of the country. This was most evident when militia groups besieged government ministries for two weeks in the spring of 2013 to protest the government's retention of some Qaddafi-era officials.
Above, an armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after an attack on the U.S. Consulate compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and several other Americans.
Despite its motto, "Strength in unity," Georgia is a deeply fractious country. The nation has grappled with internal divisions over how closely to associate itself with Russia, and in 2008, its sovereignty was challenged by a Russian invasion and occupation of the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This past year, the country went through a peaceful power transfer as President Mikheil Saakashvili lost a national election to Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Above, Orthodox observers celebrate Easter at the Sion Cathedral in Tbilisi early on May 5, 2013.
The islands of Comoros have few natural resources, and the economy is struggling, consistently underperforming in terms of GDP growth compared with other countries in the struggling sub-Saharan African region. Sixty percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and per capita GDP is among the lowest in the world, at $1,300 per person.
Above, rescue workers hold parts of the wreckage from a small aircraft that plunged into the Indian Ocean while taking off from the main airport on the Comoros Islands on Nov. 27, 2012, in Moroni. All 27 passengers and crew on board the plane survived.
Colombia's strides in combating a long-running FARC insurgency has improved its Failed States ranking from 44th just two years ago, though some of that progress has come at the expense of human rights. Colombia also still faces endemic economic disparities -- in 2010, 44 percent of the nation's income went to just 10 percent of the population.
Above, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas with a machine gun mans a checkpoint near the municipality of Toribio, department of Cauca, Colombia, on July 11, 2012.
The communist government of Laos has implemented some preliminary economic reforms, but it is still grappling with a dearth of arable land. Eighty percent of Laotians are employed in subsistence agriculture, though only 5 percent of the land is suitable for such work. Nonetheless, Laos has improved its Failed States ranking from 40th place in 2010.
Above, soldiers in Laos restrain hundreds of supporters of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his visit to the That Luang Stupa in the capital, Vientiane, on April 12, 2012.
Mozambique has had a strong economic growth rate of 6 to 8 percent annually for the past decade, as it taps into natural coal and gas resources. But foreign investment is increasingly threatened by a growing insurgency that has threatened the country's limited transit arteries. The country also still relies on foreign assistance for 40 percent of its budget, and more than half of Mozambique's population lives in poverty.
Above, armed rebels stand guard as Afonso Dhlakama, a leader of the former Mozambican rebel movement Renamo who has since become an opposition party chief, gives a press conference on April 10, 2013.
Though the Philippines made some tentative strides in the past year toward ending a decades-long insurgency, the country continues to grapple with insecurity, particularly on the island of Mindanao (in 2009, the United States extended the deployment of 600 U.S. counterinsurgency forces assisting the Philippine Army). Poverty also remains a crucial stumbling block in the country's development, with 28 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Government reports out this year demonstrated that the country's efforts to reduce poverty rates have stagnated since 2006.
In the picture above, taken on June 19, 2013, residents stand near a dump site in Manila.
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