Fragile states an early-warning signal for potential conflict


2016 was a dismal year for liberal internationalism. But a new index of global “fragility” by the Fund for Peace (FfP) think-tank suggests that, overall, the world did not become less stable, The Economist reports:

Finland is the world’s most stable country and South Sudan the least. After weighting each country’s score by its population, overall global fragility changed little from 2015 to 2016. But this masks regional shifts: greater stability in Asia and the European Union has been balanced by greater fragility in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Last year’s polarising American presidential election increased the country’s fragility score by 1.6 points.

South Africa’s fragility score increased

The index is perhaps most valuable as an early-warning signal for potential conflict, it adds:

For that, what matters are changes from year to year, rather than long-lasting differences between nations—although there are some counter-intuitive results. For example, Brazil’s stability deteriorated twice as fast as Venezuela’s in 2016 (though from a much better base). Meanwhile, South Africa’s fragility score increased by 2.4 points last year, and would be worse if it were not for the strength of its institutions, says J. J. Messner, the FfP’s director. RTWT

Fragile states may seem like a distant and abstract concern, but they are at the center of much of today’s regional disorder and global upheaval, according to a report from  William J. Burns [a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy], Michèle A. Flournoy, and Nancy E. Lindborg.

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