Failed State Index

Via the Z+ Partners blog, we learned about the Failed States Index. According to the Fund for Peace, the first Annual Fund for Peace/Foreign Policy Failed States Index shows that "about 2 billion people live in countries that are in danger of collapsing."

With index factors like "Legacy of Vengeance" and "Progressive Deterioration of Public Services", we are often times left wondering if the same index can be applied to urban neighborhoods in the US!

From FfP article:

"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."

So, who are the top 3 biggest failures, according to the 12 factors used by the index?

  • Dem. Rep. of the Congo - 105.3
  • Sudan - 104.3
  • Iraq - 103.2
The purpose of the Index is to "encourage others to utilize the Failed States Index to develop ideas for promoting greater stability worldwide."

The hope is that the Index will "spur conversations, encourage debate, and most of all help guide strategies for sustainable security."

In failed states, the commerce of destabilization becomes an industry in and of itself. In Iraq, the business of building and selling IEDs or "Improvized Explosive Devices" is--pardon the bad pun--booming.

Thomas P. M. Barnett's basic idea in The Pentagon's New Map is that Gap States (aka. failed states) are the source of all war, terrorism, disease, ethnic cleansing, mass migration, environmental degradation, etc. And, that the real game is keeping Seam States (those on the border of failure) from "slipping into the Gap".


Global Guerrillas is a blog by Jon Robb focused on "networked tribes, infrastructure disruption, and the emerging bazaar of violence. An open notebook on the first epochal war of the 21st Century." Robb gives good insight into the complex ecosystem of insurgents, governments, NGOs and reconstruction/security contractors that make up the landscape of failed states.

The Failed State Index

  1. Mounting Demographic Pressures
  2. Massive Movement of Refugees and IDPs
  3. Legacy of Vengeance - Seeking Group Grievance
  4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
  5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
  6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
  7. Criminalization or Delegitimization of the State
  8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
  9. Widespread Violation of Human Rights
  10. Security Apparatus as "State within a State"
  11. Rise of Factionalized Elites
  12. Intervention of Other States or External Actors