Fragile States Index 2016

FSI and South Asia

10 Oct, 2016    ·   5149

Monish Gulati analyses the parameters used for evaluating the fragility of states

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 quantified.

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.