Top 10 Failed States (2011)

With Foreign Policy’s endorsement, the Fund for Peace prepares ranking of failed and failing states every year. The study examines at 12 indicators of instability, including demographic pressures. My list borrows information provided by Fund for Peace and uses research to assess current situations.

Background Info: Since the notion of ‘failed states’ entered the dictionary in the early 1990s, it has come to occupy an important place in international peace and security. The attacks of September 11, 2001 focused much of the world’s attention on the failure of the Afghan state to prevent the rise of al-Qaeda extremism on its territory. The situation in that country, and subsequent growing concern about other similar states only intensified our concern about the role of ‘failed states’ in aiding and abetting  terrorism and terrorist organizations.

Yet the ‘failed states’ concept—and the interrelated terms like ‘failing’, ‘fragile’, ‘stressed’ and ‘troubled’ states—have become more of a burden and danger than an asset. Foundations and think-tanks have rushed to work on assisting ‘failing’ states, resulting in a proliferation of divergent and poorly defined usages of the key term. Not only does the term ‘failing state refer to the linear index defined by a uni-vocal Weberian end state, but it has also grown to encompass states as diverse as Colombia, East Timor, Indonesia, North Korea, Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Iraq, and the Sudan.

About The Failed States Index: The Failed State Index is an annual ranking of 177 nations based on their levels of stability and capacity. The list was first created in 2005 and continues to be a globally recognized, frequently cited and widely praised as an independent non-governmental organization that addresses key 21st century international security issues.

This Top 10 list is original and includes the following failing states that are in danger of being fragile, stressed and troubled. In other words, these states are on the brink of becoming a burden and a danger to the world order.

1. Syria:

Syria has been through an internal struggle since January of 2011. The situation became worse as protestors demanded the resignation of the President, Bashar al-Assad. Assad has not been co-operative and has resisted protests and their calls for democracy. He has resorted to violence, murdering protestors and children using security forces.

Arab springs have not been kind to opposing and militaristic leaders. In Libya, Quadaffi met an untimely fate when he refused to step down. The Egyptian President had no other choice but to step down before further violence ensued. It is thus a matter of time until Assad is overthrown, the easy way or the hard way.


2. Somalia:

Somalia has topped the list of Failed States for 4 years now. The crisis is a failure in the international community. It is also a disgrace in the eyes of Americans who saw the 1990s intervention as a complete disaster.

There are other reasons why Somalia is a failing and is frequently described as failed state. The root cause of this is the widespread lawlessness, an unstable government, terrorism and high crime rates.


3. Chad:

This country is second to Somalia on the list provided by Fund for Peace. They continuously are threatened by regional and domestic instabilities. Cross border attacks between Sudanese and Chadian forces have contributed to the destabilization of the state.


4. Sudan:

Sudan topped the charts of Failed Nations categorized by Fund for Peace at # 3. It is vulnerable to high fertility rates, malnutrition and food and water scarcity. Population Institute reports that 49% of births are attended by a physician, increasing mortality rates significantly. The institute also report that 6% of women use contraceptives. The state has done nothing to address these issues.


5. Democratic Republic of Congo:

This country was ranked as #4 on the 2011 list of Failed States prepared by Fund for Peace. The state has a role of protecting its citizens, except in this case. World Dialogue reported that when the Lord’s Resistance Army invaded an eastern province in D.R.C in 2008, the latter government was absent. It failed to carry-out three elementary and important functions of a modern state. World Dialogue reports that these functions include: “1) ensuring the security of the national territory, its inhabitants and their property; 2) providing economic, social and cultural services to the population as a whole (service delivery); and 3) mobilizing the resources needed to fulfill all state functions (revenue collection)”. With failed elections in November of 2011, things are not looking any better for the people of D.R.C.

Politics is not the only source of divide. The Democratic Republic of Congo is famously plagued by a rape epidemic. About 48 women are raped per hour and on the east front armed militias terrorize villages. Formerly known as Zaire, the DRC is the world richest nation- full of natural resources. Instead, it is now termed as one of the poorest, most underdeveloped countries on earth. With insecurity, impunity and existence on the edge, you can blame, Mobutu, former dictator of Zaire and Belgium the former colonizers for the DRC being one of the worst places to live.

6. Haiti:

Haiti has been included on this list by Fund for Peace. The state has suffered a blow during the 2010 earthquake. The Presidential palace was unable to withhold the tremors. In 2011, the country moved up 6 spots on the index.

Haiti is historically significant as it was the first black republic to gain independence from the Europeans when 500,000 slaves revolted against the white colonizers. Haitians to this day still believe that they were not forgiven for their uprisings by the Europeans.

It is also economically significant as one of the first embargoes in history was that against Haiti. The United States did not recognise Haiti as a country until the 1860s when their own slave regime crumbled. France also did not recognise Haiti as a country until it paid a crushing multi-million dollar indemnity.

Patrick Eli, a Haitian politician, argues that Haiti will always be an example of a failed state because of the  way it is perceived by the world. Slaves did what was unthinkable in other nations at that time and since then violence, corruption and poverty have plagued Haiti’s history. It remains one of the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, corruption is rampant and unemployment has skyrocketed to over 70 per cent.

Internal fights for power and an unequal distribution of resources are partly to blame. Up until 2010, a group of families control the Haitian economy and until no one has been able to change this even with the earthquake that shattered the country in 2010.


7. North Korea:

North Korea has suffered a tremendous loss of their Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il, on December 17, 2011. The new leader, Kim Jong-un is inexperienced and young. He also had only 2 years of preparation, according to The Daily Beast. Is this enough for him to keep running a state embroiled in famine, hunger, poverty and political corruption? Only time will tell.


8. Russia:

Large oppositions have arisen against Putin and his powers in Russia. Many protestors have lined up on the streets of Moscow to demand fair and non-rigged elections. Could this be enough to bring down Putin? We can only wait and see. What we already know is that the protestors are persistent. Putin may not have any other choice.


9. Zimbabwe:

This country has also topped the list of Failed States, despite power sharing agreement in place. The country is rocked by political instability, government repression and economic poverty.


10. Iraq:

The future of this country is uncertain as the Vice-President keeps on supporting violence in the country. The withdrawal of United States forces has seen more instability than ever before. Future is uncertain in this case as well.


There is a high correlation between terrorism and failing states.  Critics have stressed that failed states indicators are mostly based on aggregated scores for different performances, such as security, governance, economics etc. They are partly correct in their assumptions. Other critics believe that there should be some differentiation between a government’s willingness to deliver and assist and governments that are refusing to help boost their state activities.

One thing is for sure, among the top 10 failing states on this list, 8 of them are run by governments that are unwilling to co-operate. Almost all face different challenges from global strife, to post-conflict recovery to terrorist threats. Let’s examine this further in 2012 to see if any of the following countries made any progress.


Word Dialogue,

Population Institute,


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