Failed states in 2008

The Fund for Peace is an independent nonprofit research and educational organization founded in 1957 by investment banker Randolph Compton. Since its inception, it aimed at prevention of conflicts and alleviation of causes of conflicts. Due to its historic role and analysis conducted in socio-economic, political and demographic fields, the Fund came up with the idea of evaluating countries based on indicators such as demographic pressures, economic development, and deterioration of environment, among others. From 2005 co-operating with Foreign Policy magazine, the Fund publishes its annual “Failed States Index” that provides results of analysing a large set of factors causing/contributing for a state to fail or become weak. While generally a good starting point of information for decision-makers, few criticize the notion of “a failed state” because its frequent references to countries considered a threat to the US government.

The index provides assessment only for sovereign states (determined by membership in the United Nations). Territories such as Taiwan, the Palestinian Territories, and Northern Cyprus are not figuring on the list until their political status and UN membership is ratified. Ranking is measured based on 12 indicators, which are divided into three categories: social, economic and political. For each indicator, the ratings are placed on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the lowest (most stable) and 10 being the highest (least stable). The total score is the sum of the 12 indicators and is on a scale of 0 (least failed) to 120 (most failed).

Social Indicators

I-1. Mounting Demographic Pressures
I-2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
I-3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia
I-4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight

Economic Indicators
I-5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
I-6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline

Political Indicators
I-7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State
I-8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
I-9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights
I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State”
I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites

I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors

In the words of the people from Foreign Policy:

Because it is crucial to closely monitor weak states—their progress, their deterioration, and their ability to withstand challenges—the Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, and FOREIGN POLICY present the fourth annual Failed States Index. Using 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, we ranked 177 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict and societal deterioration. To do so, we examined more than 30,000 publicly available sources, collected from May to December 2007, to form the basis of the index’s scores. The 60 most vulnerable states are listed in the rankings, and the full results are available at and

According to this year’s Index, Somalia is the number one failed state in the world while Norway is the most prosperous. Moreover, seven out of the ten most failed states in the world are from Africa (only exception being Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq). There are currently 35 failed states (marked in red) of which 19 are African.

The report claims Somalia is the most failed state in the world. Many researchers believe that Somalia is a collapsed state since the collapse of its national government in 1991. Somalia scored a record amount of points this year: 114.2 (out of maximum possible 120), which is also the closest a state got to complete failure since the Failed States Index was first published. The country report shows that none of Somalia’s indicators improved since the last year’s index.

Due to ongoing crisis in financial markets, Iceland (172nd on the 2008 list), considered one of the least failed or best countries in the world (the best country to live according to the UN Development Index 2007) turned in a matter of few weeks (mainly due to its almost exclusive economic reliance on the global financial markets) into a state on the verge of national bankruptcy.

Iceland is a glaring example of how “well” globalization works its magic in the modern era of interconnectedness and interdependence.