State Failure, 2009

Foreign Policy has just released its 2009 Failed State Index. The index calculates the likelihood of state failure, ranking states into five categories (critical, in danger, borderline, stable, and most stable) based on twelve measures of political and economic stability (such as demographic pressure, internal cleavages, uneven development, economic performance, and security). Here are the top 10 failed states (glossary), according to this year’s rankings.  For sake of comparison, I’ve listed their 2008 ranking in parentheses.

  1. Somalia (1)
  2. Zimbabwe (3)
  3. Sudan (2)
  4. Chad (4)
  5. Democratic Republic of the Congo (6)
  6. Iraq (5)
  7. Afghanistan (7)
  8. Central African Republic (10)
  9. Guinea (11)
  10. Pakistan (9)
  11. Ivory Coast (8)
  12. Haiti (14)
  13. Burma (13)
  14. Kenya (26)
  15. Nigeria (19)
  16. Ethiopia (16)
  17. North Korea (15)
  18. Yemen (21)
  19. Bangladesh (12)
  20. East Timor (25)

These twenty states share a number of common features. While defined by their inability to deliver political goods (glossary), they are all heavily dependent on a small number of primary commodities for foreign exchange earnings, making them particularly vulnerable to commodity price shocks and the ravages of the global economic crisis. Many have also suffered from years of poor governance and civil war. And all are likely to be dramatically affected by global climate change  which is likely to undermine food production, exacerbate water shortages, and further facilitate political and economic instability in already fragile countries.

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