Measuring failed states

I had suggested in an earlier post that Malaysia is heading towards a failed state. In the discussions that followed, we realised that defining  failed states can be a challenge. Foreign Policy (FP) has a cool way to define and measure failed states.  The Failed States Index of course is a subjective measure but it provides a context for cross-country comparison.

The FSI defines a failed state and interprets its scores as follows:

A state that is failing has several attributes. One of the most common is the loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes of state failure include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. The 12 indicators cover a wide range of elements of the risk of state failure, such as extensive corruption and criminal behaviour, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalized persecution or discrimination, severe demographic pressures, brain drain, and environmental decay. States can fail at varying rates through explosion, implosion, erosion, or invasion over different time periods.

The rank order of the states is based on the total scores of the 12 indicators. For each indicator, the ratings are placed on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the lowest intensity (most stable) and 10 being the highest intensity (least stable). The total score is the sum of the 12 indicators and is on a scale of 0-120.

The higher the score, the more likely that it is a failed state. Hence, above 100 is Critical, 90 – 99 is In Danger, and 60 to 89 to be in Borderline. Countries with scores between 30 and 59.9 are considered Stable . Countries that have scores lower than 30 are categorised as Most Stable.

How did the ASEAN member states perform and where is Malaysia? Somalia provides the benchmark.

About Greg Lopez

Greg Lopez is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political and Social Change, Australian National University.