The Fragile States Index (FSI) is an annual ranking
of 178 nations, conceived with the core notion that weak and failing states
pose a challenge to the international community and in a highly interconnected
world, ‘pressures’ on one fragile state can have repercussions for the larger
global community too. The FSI is based on the premise that the reasons for
state weakness and failure are complex but not unpredictable, and can hence be
Furthermore, the FSI aims to take the understanding
of weak and failing states beyond identifying and analysing broad social
trends, by adopting a mixed approach using qualitative and quantitative
techniques to establish patterns and trends. The strength of the FSI is its
ability to distil millions of pieces of information into a form that is suitable
to analyse, easy to comprehend and informative.
The FSI generated by the Fund for Peace (FFP) is
based on its proprietary Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) analytical
platform. The Index is designed to be a critical tool in not only identifying
the normal pressures that all states experience, but also to provide an
indication in the time domain when such pressures begin to impact the stability
of a state.
The 2016 FSI is the 12th edition of the annual Index.
In the case of stability of South Asian countries, it considers India along
with Bhutan and Maldives be as being at an ‘elevated warning’ stage as distinct
from the six higher (and more stable) classifications that range from ‘very
sustainable’ to ‘warning’.
The remaining South Asian countries find themselves
evaluated at more alarming stages with Sri Lanka at ‘High Warning’; Nepal, Bangladesh and
Myanmar at ‘Alert’, and Pakistan being graded even lower, at ‘High Alert’. In
terms of past performance, the Maldives is seen to show strong improvement and
India is seen to be worsening.
These outcomes in the FSI raise a few questions about
its methodology, gathering and processing of data, moderation of the value of
parameters implemented for diversity etc. For example, in the case of Pakistan,
does the FSI take into account the complex nature of its insurgency before
evaluating the fact that it is one of the few countries in the world that is
using its air force against its own citizens and military courts with tentative
jurisprudence to try the captured/suspected insurgents? This fact is possibly
recognised by the FFP itself, which has sought to remedy the lacunae by
comparing a country with its own past parameters in addition to those of other
states/countries. However even this adjustment to the FSI does not seem to
adequately capture the context in each country individually.
When considering relative assessments, the question
that comes to mind is whether the index gives an adequate representation of the
South Asia region? However, the lack of detailed knowledge of the FSI’s
assessment process limits the discourse to its outcomes. Therefore, since the
FSI seeks to inform and address the global community and shapes its outlook
towards a country or a region, it would be appropriate to ask if it as a
concept takes into account the contribution to global peace and development by
the target country or region. Therefore, does it recognise the contribution of
Bangladesh or India to UN peacekeeping while it penalises countries for having
an UN mission or peacekeeper on its soil? Does it discount ‘forced
interventions’ and the destabilising influence of certain countries to a
country or a region. The FSI appears to penalise the country whose sovereignty
is violated rather than the intervener.
The next question is as to whether the FSI takes into
account new age threats/issues. Has the Maldives been penalised for its failure
to prevent the outflow of Jihadis of Maldivian nationality to Iraq and Syria or
should Belgium be penalised for a lax security setup which has cause certain
elements to use its soil to launch attacks in France? On the other hand, does it accord merit to a country’s efforts to
combat climate change, which draws on its economic resources or do those initiatives
fall outside the evaluation framework?
The FSI appears to have an ‘end of pipe’ or a
one-dimensional approach to evaluating the stability of a state. It is alright
when one is informing the target state, but when the index is for the
consumption of the global community, it needs to factor in more interrelated
issues to aid balanced and informed decision making.