Failed States: Index Quantifies that Feeling in My Gut

United Nations, N.Y. What is a failed state?  Building orphanages and orphan care programs around the world, I have dealt in terrible conditions, where the government — and even people — have been broken.  Aceh and Sri Lanka after the Tsunami, and Haiti after Hurricane Jeanne and the recent earthquake to name only a few.  I know the feeling in my gut when I am operating in a failed state.  But I did not know how to quantify such ten years ago.  Today, I do.  Published annually by the U.S.-based Fund for Peace in Foreign Policy magazine, the Failed State Index is now in its sixth year.

The United Nations in New York is comprised of all nations.

Published annually by the U.S.-based Fund for Peace in Foreign Policy magazine, the Failed State Index is now in its sixth year.

Historically, the organization I founded, Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) has used the United Nations Human Development Index as our guide in knowing where to direct donor funds.  We have worked exclusively over the last decade in nations with a score over 80, because nations below this would not benefit as mush from our meager resources.  But we have not operated in countries with a score over 130 because these nations are in such disarray we are too small to be able to operate effectively there.

How does the U.N. Human Development Index of potential nations, scored 80-130, compared to the Failed State Index (FSI)?  Looking at the U.N. Index, over the last decade OIWW has actively explored or opened projects in the Dominican Republic, China, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia, Guyana, Viet Nam, India, Madagascar, Haiti, Tanzania, Ghana, Togo, Liberia, and Afghanistan.

The Failed State Index is presented from worst-to-best, whereas the U.N. Index is presented from best-to-worst.  As a cup-half-full man myself, I have reversed the Failed State Index in order to compare it to the U.N. Index.  The American think tank Fund for Peace collaborates annually with Foreign Policy magazine to produce the report on failed states.  The index was first published in 2005, and countries

The U.N. Index ranks countries in groups, with Norway (1), France (8), Japan (10), United States (13), Singapore (23), and Greece (25)  being in the top group, followed by Cuba (51), Mexico (53), Saudi Arabia (59), Malaysia (66), Russian Federation (71), Colombia (77), and Turkey (79).  Israel scores well (27), but Palestine not (110).

Then we get into nations that OIWW could work in, according to the U.N. Index: Dominican Republic (90), China (92), Sri Lanka (102), Philippines (105), Indonesia (111), Guyana (114), Viet Nam (116), Guatemala (122), India (134), Cambodia (137), Pakistan (141), Nepal (144), Madagascar (145), Bangladesh (146), Kenya (147), Haiti (149), Sudan (150), Tanzania (151), Ghana (152).

After that, with nations described by the U.N. as “Low Human Development,” it becomes increasingly more difficult to create programs.  These would include Togo (159), Benin (161), Timor-Leste (162), Senegal (166), Rwanda 9167), Liberia (169), Congo (176), and Afghanistan (181).  Beyond that – Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, D.R. Congo, I am not willing to risk my staff.

Somalia is this year’s most “failed state” on a list of 177 countries, determined by factors such as its human rights record, security, and economy.  The FSI focuses on the indicators of risk and is based on thousands of articles and reports that are processed by software from electronically available sources.  It is based on twelve indicators ranging from social and economic, to political criteria.  The twelve metrics include refugee movement, economic development, history of violence, de-legitimization of the state, and others.

Using the Failed State Index with reverse numbers to correlate with the U.N. Index, we find Norway ranked the same (1), followed by France (20), Japan (14), United States (19), Singapore (18), and Greece (31), and being in the top group, followed by Cuba (51), Mexico (53), Saudi Arabia (59), Malaysia (66), Russian Federation (71), Colombia (77), and Turkey (79).  Israel with the West Bank is 120.

On the Failed State Index, the Dominican Republic is in the same range as the U.N. Index (90), but China (121) and Sri Lanka (156), the Philippines (125) and Indonesia (117), Pakistan (168), Nepal (153), Bangladesh (160), Kenya (164), Haiti (166), Sudan (175), fair worse.

Interestingly, Ghana (54), Guyana (74), Viet Nam (84), India (91), Guatemala (102), Tanzania (108), Madagascar (110), Togo (128), Cambodia (129), Liberia (144), and Afghanistan (171) perform better on the reverse-engineered Failed State Index.

How does the U.N. Index and the reversed Failed State Index rate the nations in which Orphans International Worldwide has explored orphan care operations or operated?  The chart below offers a comparison:

U.N. Index

Failed State Index
(reversed)

Differential

Ghana

152

54

98

Sri Lanka

102

156

54

India

134

91

49

Tanzania

151

108

43

Guyana

114

74

40

Madagascar

145

110

35

Viet Nam

116

84

32

Togo

159

128

32

China

92

121

29

Liberia

169

144

25

The Philippines

105

125

20

Haiti

149

166

17

Afghanistan

181

171

10

Indonesia

111

117

6

Dominican Republic

90

90

0

Among the factors contributing to the report’s ranking of Somalia include heavy ongoing violence, no stable government for nearly two decades, and the world’s third-largest refugee community.  In second place was Chad, followed by Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Seven of the top ten slots are African countries, and the continent also contains about thirty of the sixty most “failed” countries; Asian states also comprise 30% of the top sixty, and the Middle East has about 10%.

The Fund for Peace encourages others to utilize the Failed States Index to develop ideas for promoting greater stability worldwide.  They state, “We hope the Index will spur conversations, encourage debate, and most of all help guide strategies for sustainable security.”  For their effort, the people of Fund for Peace must be acknowledged as true thought leaders and global citizens.

It is interesting to note that my own Luce Index™ only ranks individuals, not institutions or nations.  Perhaps one day the Luce Index™ will rank countries by their inherent goodness, but for now I will continue to rely on the U.N. and Failed State Indexes.

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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