Sudan and Iraq are at number 1 and 2 in the 3rd annual “Failed States Index“, produced by the US non-profit Fund for Peace and the journal Foreign Policy. The index is built up from scores on 12 criteria (listed lower down) and the full matrix can be seen on the site so you can take your own view on whether you agree. 32 of the 177 states reviewed are in the worst ‘alert’ category. Norway is at the bottom of the list (i.e the most stable state in the world) and the UK is at 21st from bottom, four places higher (i.e. slightly less stable) than the United States. There’s an article about the Index in Foreign Policy. (And thanks to my colleagues Jake and Becky for the tip).

The 12 criteria used to build the index are:

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

Based on data collected in the second half of 2006, each country is scored out of a maximum of 10 (so each of the 12 factors has the same weighting) and the maximum score is therefore 120. Sudan rated at 113.7, Iraq at 111.4, and third placed Somalia at 111.1. 18 of the top 32 are in Africa.

Some quick points from the Foreign Policy article:

The complex phenomenon of state failure may be much discussed, but it remains little understood. The problems that plague failing states are generally all too similar: rampant corruption, predatory elites who have long monopolized power, an absence of the rule of law, and severe ethnic or religious divisions. But that does not mean that the responses to their problems should be cut from the same cloth. Failing states are a diverse lot.

The second point is that the quickest way to climb up the failure rankings is to have a failed state as a neighbour or near neighbour. Chad’s problems have worsened because Sudan’s have spilled across its border.

And the third point is that failure is not necessarily reduced by international interest. As they put it, drily:

Iraq and Afghanistan [8th from top], the two main fronts in the global war on terror, both suffered over the past year. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy. Just as there are many paths to success, there are many paths to failure for states on the edge.

But it isn’t all bad news. Both Russia and China have climbed out of the top 60 failed states in the last year.

One final thought from me. It looks on the face of it as if there’s a strong inverse correlation between the Failed States Index and the UNDP’s Human Development Report. This isn’t that surprising: they measure different things, but the negative issues captured by the Failed States Index would make it harder to deliver the positive things measured in the HDR (e.g. clean water , health, literacy). Nonetheless, combining the two would produce a rich picture of a state’s potential.