Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, June 18, 2007

Speaking of failed states

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published a report about the latest "failed state index." It even proposes an interesting hypothesis that long-term individual leadership leads to failed states. Could your students test that idea?

By The Numbers: Failed States

"Analysts for Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, a non-profit, released their third "failed state" index. A look at their findings:

"8: The number of countries in sub-Sahara Africa that are among the 10 nations in the world most vulnerable to violent internal conflict and deteriorating conditions...

"Off the list: The growth of China's economy and a lull in violence in Chechnya helped China and Russia to move out of the category of the 60 worst states...

"Usually, long-serving strongmen preside over a nation's collapse, the report said. For instance, it said, three of the five worst-performing states -- Chad, Sudan and Zimbabwe -- have leaders who have been in power for more than 15 years. On the other hand, effective leadership can pull a nation from the brink of failure, it said..."

The Fund for Peace web site says that the Failed State Index "is compiled using the Fund for Peace's internationally recognized methodology, the Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST). CAST is used to assess violent internal conflicts and measure the impact of mitigating strategies. In addition to the risk of state failure and violent conflict, it assesses the capacities of core state institutions and analyzes trends in state instability. The FSI focuses on the indicators of risk and is based on hundreds of thousands of articles and reports that are processed by our CAST Software from 12,000+ sources. Given the vast amount of data processed, it is impractical to make the articles and reports available directly to the public."

The Index is online at Failed States Index Scores 2007.

Countries are ranked by four social indicators (like demographic pressures), two economic indicators (economic cleavages and economic decline), and six political indicators (like legitimacy, rule of law, and factionalized elites).

Nigeria is no. 17 on the list. Iran is 57th while Russia and China are tied at 62nd with Lesotho, and Azerbaijan. Mexico is 102nd and the UK is 157th on the list


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