Resilience, Peace and Security

These are the world's most fragile states

A general view shows damaged buildings in the northwestern Homs district of Al Waer January 18, 2015.  REUTERS/Stringer (SYRIA - Tags: CITYSCAPE CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT) - RTR4LWWS

Syria is ranked no.4 on the 2016 Fragile States Index Image: REUTERS/Stringer

Adam Shirley
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Fragility, Violence and Conflict

Somalia is the world’s most fragile state, according the Fragile States Index (FSI), according to the US-based Fund for Peace.

The FSI assesses the fragility of countries based on 12 social, economic and political indicators. Since 2004, it has analyzed how wars, peace accords, environmental calamities and political movements have pushed countries toward stability or closer to the brink of collapse.

 World's most fragile states 2016
Image: Fragile States Index 2016

Somalia was ranked as the most fragile state. Civil war has caused instability and violence. The east African nation previously topped the list between 2008 and 2013.

Somalia scored over nine (with 10 being the worst score) for every category in the index with ‘demographic pressures’, ‘refugees’ and ‘internally displaced persons’ being some of the worst problems faced by the country.

Since gaining independence in 2011, the Republic of South Sudan has faced enormous challenges including famine and horrific ethnic violence, and now civil war is threatening to return. The fledgling nation came second in the index this year, falling one place from 2015. In a report the United Nations described the situation in the country as "one of the most horrendous human rights situations in the world”.

The Central African Republic was also given a ‘Very High Alert’ status and ranked as the third most unstable state. A large number of internally displaced people, violence and high levels of poverty are among the major problems the country faces.

 Country fragility colour map
Image: Fragile States Index 2016

The impact of the refugee crisis

The countries on the frontlines of the on-going refugee crisis are coming under increased pressure, and their scores on the Index have suffered accordingly.

Turkey, now home to more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, has seen its ‘refugee pressure’ score rise from six in 2011 to 8.8 in this year’s index.

Lebanon and Jordan have also struggled to cope with the number of refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict – refugees now comprise one-quarter and one-tenth of their populations respectively.

The refugee crisis has also made these countries more dependent on international aid, a situation that the Fund for Peace deems ‘unsustainable’ and likely to make them more fragile.

Some good news

On the other hand, Sri Lanka is the index’s most improved country, moving up nine spots in the rankings. Following his election early last year, President Maithripala Sirisena began working towards a new constitution that would limit the power of the president’s office and put his country on the path towards ethnic reconciliation after decades of civil war. He has also created a special court to prosecute human rights abuses committed during the conflict.

The country’s legitimacy score has improved by 0.6 points in the last year. Despite progress, however, Sri Lanka remains in the ‘High Warning’ category.

Unsurprisingly, the countries that scored the best in the index were the likes of Finland, Norway, Switzerland and New Zealand. Finland was named the most stable state and given a designation of ‘Sustainable’ – the only country to fall into this category. The US and UK both fell into the ‘Very Stable’ category.

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