The Failed States Index 2007

The Failed States Index 2007

By The Fund for Peace and FOREIGN POLICY magazine

It is an accepted axiom of the modern age that distance no longer matters. ….

 A hermit leader’s erratic behavior not only makes life miserable for the impoverished millions he rules but also upends the world’s nuclear nonproliferation regime. The threats of weak states, in other words, ripple far beyond their borders and endanger the development and security of nations that are their political and economic opposites.

 What makes these alarming headlines all the more troubling is that their origins lie in weak and failing states. World leaders and the heads of multilateral institutions routinely take to lecterns to reiterate their commitment to pulling vulnerable states back from the brink, but it can be difficult to translate damage control into viable, long-term solutions that correct state weaknesses. Aid is often misspent. Reforms are too many or too few. Security needs overwhelm international peacekeepers, or chaos reigns in their absence.

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.

  • Burma and Haiti are two of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International,
  • and yet Burma’s repressive junta persecutes ethnic minorities and subjects its population to forced resettlement…..

 but it may also be a key indicator of stability.

  • Vulnerable states display a greater degree of religious intolerance, according to scores calculated by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.
  • Persecution of religious minorities in Burma, Bangladesh, Iran, and Uzbekistan has deprived millions of faithful of the freedom to follow their beliefs.
  • But religious repression is often nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to muzzle the country’s civil society. 
  • It seems the leaders of many failing states distrust any higher power that may be greater than their own.


The world’s weakest states are also the most religiously intolerant. Countries with a poor freedom of religion score are often most likely to meet their maker.

Look at the original/clear/big/complete graph here

This year, several vulnerable states took a step back from the brink.

Leading the Way to the Bottom

 Likewise, effective leadership can pull a state back from the brink. Indonesia’s first directly elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has helped steer the country, long marred by endemic corruption and devastated by the 2004 tsunami, toward greater stability since coming into office three years ago. He has initiated reform of the country’s crooked security sector, negotiated a peace agreement with rebels in Aceh Province, and made moderate improvements in government services. These efforts haven’t necessarily made him popular. But then, such leadership is exactly what more failing states need: a head of state who chooses continued reforms over his own power and recognition.

Nature vs. Nurture

Long Division

What holds back many of the world’s most fragile regimes is that they were never truly in charge in the first place.


When it comes to assessing state failure, some countries emerge with split personalities. That is, states may be the picture of stability, peace, and economic growth in some areas, yet no-go zones in others. A dozen countries among the 60 most vulnerable contain “virtual states,” areas that are essentially self-governing, but claimed by the central government.

 Governments will often go to great lengths to regain such breakaway regions, and their efforts can be tremendously costly. A brutal 2002 civil war aimed at retaking the rebel-held northern half of the Ivory Coast split the country in two, blunting its otherwise impressive economic growth and leaving thousands of U.N. forces to keep the peace. In Pakistan, government efforts to crack down on suspected al Qaeda operatives in the restive border regions have led to violent protests. And attempts by the Sri Lankan government to regain territory from the Tamil Tigers last year sparked some of the worst violence in the country in years.

History is full of brutal leaders who have plunged their lands into poverty and war through greed, corruption, and violence. And though many events—natural disasters, economic shocks, an influx of refugees from a neighboring country—can lead to state failure, few are as decisive or as deadly as bad leadership.

 To provide a clearer picture of the world’s weakest states, The Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, and FOREIGN POLICY present the third 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. The index scores are based on data from more than 12,000 publicly available sources collected from May to December 2006. The 60 most vulnerable states are listed in the rankings, and full results are available at and

The vast majority of the states listed in the index have not yet failed;

  • they exhibit severe weaknesses that leave them vulnerable,
  • especially to shocks such as natural disasters,
  • war,
  • and economic deprivation.

The power of such events should not be underestimated.

But while these states’ failings may be frequent fodder for headlines around the world, it is obvious that there are few easy answers to their troubles.

In highlighting which states are at the greatest risk of failure, we can only hope that more effective and long-term solutions emerge over time as we compare the index from year to year. In that way, positive reversals of fortune can occur for the world’s most vulnerable nations and, in the process, improve the security and prosperity of everyone.

  • The world’s weakest states are also the most religiously intolerant.
  • Countries with a poor freedom of religion score are often most likely to meet their maker.

 Freedom of worship may be a cornerstone of democracy,

Look at the original/clear/big/complete table here