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Research Report

Global Developments in State Failure: A Brief Analysis of the Failed States Index 2005-2010

Erwin van Veen
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2011
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 39

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-1)
  2. (pp. 1-1)
  3. (pp. i-ii)
  4. (pp. 1-4)

    State failure is a global challenge: it impedes or even reverses development and causes significant negative externalities.² If one takes the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as an indicator of developmental progress, failed states are making the least progress and, in some cases, are even losing ground.³ For instance conflict and violent crime put a heavy strain on development.⁴ This matters globally because the affected population is about half of the total population of all developing countries.⁵ Illicit financial flows, global crime, illegal trade (drugs and arms in particular) and terrorist groupings thrive in the governance voids, uncontrolled territories and areas...

  5. (pp. 5-6)

    The issue of state failure has been rising steadily on the international development agenda over the past decade. The forthcoming World Development Report (WDR, 2011) of the World Bank (WB) is expected to reinforce this by strongly endorsing the need to engage in situations of state failure, conflict and security, albeit in a more focused and sophisticated manner. This was not always the case. In fact, the current set of Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) do not mention fragility, conflict or security. Nor is the MDG discourse necessarily receptive to these issues yet. However, it would be surprising if the forthcoming...

  6. (pp. 7-12)

    Although the FSI is much larger and richer, sections 2, 3 and 4 focus on its top 10 for two reasons. First, the top 10 is the most problematic and urgent set of failed states within the FSI’s “alert” category. Over the period 2005-2010, the top 10 represented on average ca. 30% of the total number of countries in the alert category (see table 6, annex 1). It is, so to speak, the visible part of the iceberg of state failure. Second, it represents a limited list of countries that, potentially, are significant enough to test whether a closer look...

  7. (pp. 13-16)

    The five entrants into the top 10 from 2005 to 2010 are: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, CAR and Guinea-Conakry. Table 3 presents a snap shot of the pivotal year, the first year of entry. It reports the number of indicators that marked significant relative changes, as well as which indicators shifted. Although Pakistan and Guinea-Conakry enter, exit and re-enter into the top 10 in the period 2005-2010, their second entry has not been taken into account as their exit margin was low and re-entry occurred almost immediately (Figure 4).

    Two key findings stand out from analyzing entry into the top 10....

  8. (pp. 17-18)

    The five countries that left the top 10 over the period of 2005-2010 were: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Haiti and Cote d’Ivoire. Similar to Table 3, Table 4 takes the year of their exit from the top 10 as the pivotal year and presents the number of significant relative changes in their level of state failure as well as the indicators involved. The countries leaving the top 10 actually consist of two subgroups. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Yemen decreased their level of state failure considerably over the period of 2005-2008. Yemen, subsequently, fell back more than half the ranks it...

  9. (pp. 19-22)

    The preceding analysis has canvassed a broad picture of state failure on the basis of the FSI. Section 6 uses this picture and its insights to analyze the fragile states policy of the Netherlands. For the period of 2007-2010, Dutch foreign and development policies vis-à-vis fragile states were mainly based on two policy documents: “Our common concern: Investing in development in a changing world’’ (2007) and “Security and development in fragile states: The Netherlands’ strategy 2008-2011’’ (2008).28 Recently, the new government added a third document in the form of a letter to Parliament that outlines its approach to development cooperation...

  10. (pp. 23-24)

    Finally, this section highlights a number of issues that, based on the preceding analysis, would be worthwhile to study in more detail. In particular:

    It is striking that African countries constitute such a large percentage of the FSI top 10. Although generalizations are dangerous in relation to a concept that is known to be very context-specific, it begs the question as to why this is the case. Such research could include:

    More analysis of Africa’s connectivity with the global economy in terms of trade, investment and infrastructure. This is particularly interesting given the importance of the indicator reflecting economic decline...

  11. (pp. 25-27)
  12. (pp. 31-33)