Top 10 Failed States (2012)

Last year we posted an article titled Top 10 Failed States (2011). The article highlighted  Top 10 countries that were identified by Foreign Policy Magazine’s Fund for Peace index as failed states on the alert or worsening failed states. The list combined the two and examined countries that were in need of our attention.

This year, we compare and contrast the list and see where there has been improvement. In many cases there were slight improvements. In others, things look bleak.

Six African nations are still occupying the top 10 of an annual failed-state index, including Somalia, which heads the list for the fifth straight year after continued struggles with lawlessness and piracy. On this list, we have 7 countries from Africa, including Libya which worsened since 2011 reports.

Let’s hope next year’s report will be better for each of these top 10 failed states.


1. Somalia


Somalia has once again topped the Failed States Index for the 5th year in a row. Widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgencies and crime are big determining factors of why it’s number one on this top 10 list.

Somalia did not top this Top 10 List’s list of failed nations of 2011; however, I feel that this year it deserves this status. For 5 years, nothing has been done to correct the issues inside the country. The chaos is constant.


2. Syria



I disagree with Foreign Policy Fund for Peace’s assessment here. I believe that the civil war in Syria is leading the country in the opposite direction. For the past two years, there’s been nothing but brutality, chaos, political instability as well as widespread slaughter.

Syria’s many denominational groups lived together under the repression and human rights abuses that can characterize the rule of Bashar Al Asasd.

The situation remains quite hostile and this much is for certain: the regime’s once daunting aura has crumbled before the people’s eyes. Al Assad cannot even assure control over his country, never the capital, Damascus. The fuming cities of Homs, Hama and Idib are in worse condition than ever before.

Looking ahead, I agree with the Washington Post that the United States and its Western allies need to encourage a more stable transition of power and wherever possible, maintain national institutions, such as state services and the army, before shifting control of them to a new, elected democratic leadership. That’s what happened in the mostly bloodless revolutions of Egypt and Yemen, where the United States pushed the resistance movements to overthrow the dictators.

The United States made a half-hearted attempt to deal with this problem, by reassuring and supporting “military councils” in Aleppo, Idlib and other areas. The idea was that these groups would foster disciplined command and control among the rebels — helping them overthrow Assad and also providing some structure for orderly transition and governance. There is one problem with this: the military councils have largely dissolved.

Why number 2 on the top 10 list? It moved 8 spots in the wrong direction between 2011 and 2012.


3. Democratic Republic of Congo


People in the Democratic Republic of Congo expect very little from the state, government or civil servants. In fact, ordinary Congolese citizens frequently repeat expressions like “the state is dying but not yet dead” or “the state is ever present but completely useless”.  It seems there can be little argument that DR Congo is indeed a failed state. It’s been on the Foreign Policy The Fund for Peace list at #3 for 2 years in a row.

The average person living in the country is poor, hungry and under-informed. The government is unable to provide decent education or health services. The country – two-thirds of the size of Western Europe – is a battleground. The citizens of DR Congo live in fear from the brutal militias that still control parts of the eastern provinces, where rape has become almost normal. In fact, UN has called DRC the Rape Capital of the World.

It moved up 2 spots to #3 since 2011.


4. Sudan/South Sudan


Foreign Policy’s The Fund for Peace assessed South Sudan this year for the first time following the declaration of independence in the second half of 2011.  Although the FSI did not formally rank South Sudan because it was an incomplete year of data, the young nation has a place on this list, immediately behind its northern neighbor, Sudan. South Sudan’s brittle infrastructure, severe poverty, weak government and tense relations with Sudan continue to be a major concern.

During the recent Second Civil War (1999-2005), roughly two million people have died as a result of war, famine and disease, caused by internal conflicts. Four million people in southern Sudan have been banished and exiled at least once during the war. The civilian death toll is one of the highest of any war since World War II. The conflict officially ended with the signing of a peace agreement in January 2005, but things did not get better.

Darfur Genocide: In 2003, two rebel movements in Darfuri – the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) instigated an armed resistance movement against the Sudanese government, sighting concerns about the ostracism and the failure of the government to protect the people from attacks by nomads.

The Sudanese government, under the leadership of Omar al Bashir, retorted by unleashing Arab militias known as Janjaweed.  Sudanese forces and Janjaweed militia attacked hundreds of villages throughout Darfur; over 400 villages were completely destroyed and millions of people were forced to leave their homes.

Through the conflict, which was determined to be a genocide, African farmers and others in Darfur were being systematically displaced and murdered by the Janjaweed. The genocide in Darfur has taken the lives of 400,000 and displaced over 2,500,000 people. Over one hundred people continue to die each day; that is roughly five thousand every month. The Sudanese government begs to differ with these estimates and denies any linkage to the Janjaweed.


5. Chad


Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Chadian politics have been pigeonholed by uncertainty, volatility and coups d’état. The consolidation of power under Francois Tombalbaye led to an exacerbated religious and ethnic divide, which ultimately led to civil war. Political infighting led to periodic eruptions of violence, culminating in the ascendancy of Idriss Deby to the presidency in 1991.

Though Deby has seemingly supported augmented democratization, the results of the various multi-party elections held since 1996 have widely been viewed as defective. Following the 2010 Chad-Sudan peace accord, relations between the two countries improved dramatically, ending the long-standing proxy war between them.

Since 2011, Chad’s political and economic situation has gotten better significantly. The improvement in Chadian-Sudanese relations has led to a fall in the number of refugees and displaced persons. However, though oil extraction has granted the government more than US$754 billion in additional revenues, poverty-alleviation projects still continue to be quite low. Rising aggressiveness and volatility in nearby countries such as Nigeria and Mali could still spill over into Chad, threatening its current improving stability.

It moved down 2 spots from #3 to #5.


6. Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe gained its independence from Great Britain in 1980. Since then, Zimbabwe has thrived with one of the best education systems in Africa, coupled with a prosperous agricultural sector, and growing international business and tourism.

But, the increased centralization of the government and the failure to address fundamental issues of land conflict, economic mismanagement, and corrupt land reform policies has destroyed the agricultural sector and drove the economy into a complete collapse, especially with the ongoing drought issues. The healthcare and education systems have drastically been unsuccessful and the country has endured some of the most prevalent political violence, lawlessness, and human rights abuses under the 32 year rule of President Robert Mugabe.

The economy is beginning to recovering and the 2009 ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) power-sharing agreement after the 2008 post-election violence, has been weakly held. Zimbabwe still is an unstable country. Political violence, human rights abuses by government and police, and widespread unemployment has left Zimbabwe in a state of profound insecurity.

It remains to be seen whether things will drastically improve with the new elections and the power-sharing authorities. It is ranked # 5 on the Failed States Index and #6 on this list.


7. Haiti


Haiti ranked 7th in the world on the “2012 Failed State Index” published by the Foreign Policy magazine.  It was the only country in the Western Hemisphere to make, at least, the top 60. This list is based on various factors, including human flight, economic decline and degree of external intervention.

Scholars argue that Haiti was a failed state prior to the time the term “failed states” entered the post-cold-war dictionary. As the record-setter for poverty, hunger, disease, transnational crime and corruption, it has become the western-hemisphere’s poster-child for almost everything that could go wrong with growth, development and progress. In spite of decades of investment from the international community, there is little to development or progress to report. Since the 1980s, Haiti is the only country to see a long-term decline in GDP per capita.

Between 1990 and 2008, official donors spent $6.9 billion (of which $911 million was spent in 2008 alone after three hurricanes in quick succession). The United States has been the largest bilateral donor of humanitarian and development assistance in Haiti since 1990; Canada and the European Union are next on that list. Yet these funds have brought little or no relief to Haitians, who have continued to suffer the effects of uncertainty, grinding poverty and disease. They’ve been living in absolute slums.

Open Democracy argues that Haiti’s situation is more like the nursery-rhyme Humpty Dumpty. After the death and destruction of the earthquake – there was a sense that this time Haiti’s reconstruction would be different. Today, however, the sense is different because “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” none can put Humpty Dumpty (aka. Haiti) back together again.

It was ranked #7 on the Failed States Index.

Haiti Earthquake: A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on Jan 12, 2010; the large urban disaster in modern history. More than 200,000 people were killed and another 1.5 million were displaced left homeless. The tremor struck 15km southwest of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and was the most powerful to hit the impoverished country in over 200 years. Thousands of buildings, homes, schools and hospitals were destroyed, including as the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince, the presidential palace and the main prison. Estimated damage and losses range between $8 and $14 billion. To make matters worse, a raging cholera epidemic spread in October 2010 in an area unaffected by the quake, and spread across the country, whipping out thousands.


8. Libya


Libya is on this list because it moved up the most by 16.2 points on the index between 2011 and 2012.

The chaos is still engulfing the country one year after the fall of Gaddafi and this chaos is largely attributed to Libya’s lack of a unified government.  Journalist Morris Herman argues that the weak government is a product of Western doing since it is sending weapons to the rival town of Misrata so that they could fight the capital, Tripoli. As the country rests on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, people are wanting help – but not necessarily from NATO.

It’s hard to tell which international organizations can be trusted anymore, he said, to uphold human rights or defend the needy.


9. Yemen


Yemen is in the midst of a turbulent transition that began in 2011 with the wave of unrest that swept the region and that is why it is placed on this list of top 10 failed states. It remains stalled in the age-old problems of tribalism, poverty, as well as regional splits.

The United States has bee concerned with preventing Islamist terrorist groups based in Yemen from targeting the U.S. homeland, U.S. facilities and personnel inside Yemen, and destabilizing the Arabian Peninsula and Bab al Mandeb1 region.

But, Yemen is an penurious mountainous country with a weak central government, Yemen is an attractive base of operations for Yemeni, Saudi, and other foreign militants determined to attack the United States. This has created much controversy over the years and still is ongoing to do this.

It remains to be seen whether Yemen will improve and will be bumped out of the alert section of the Top 10 Failed States. It was not ranked on 2011 list, but ranked #8 on the Failed States Index and #9 on this list.


10. Iraq


Iraq found itself in hot water while under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. Its population has recently been ravaged by wars carried out against neighbors and also foreign powers alike. The effects of its war-torn society have left a permanent mark on its politics and have ominously limited its economic output.

A decade of American military intervention has greatly shaped the country’s present conditions. Marked by the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, the course of Iraq’s history has changed forever for the better by external interventions. A fragmented democracy and pervasive social divisions are therefore indicative of its overwhelmed past.

An important transition began in 2011 when the Iraqi government took greater control of the country after the withdrawal of the coalition forces. However, the continuance of denominational violence has slowed any considerable reform and preexisting prejudices instill distrust amongst various ethnic groups. Furthermore, the damaged oil infrastructure and continued disputes over the administration of oil fields between Baghdad and the Kurdish authorities are obstacles to the increase of oil revenues.

It remains to be seen whether Iraq will be able to get back on its feet in the near future.

By Alex Noudelman

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.