The Brookings Institution
recently released the Index of State Weakness in the Developing World
, which finds that extreme poverty and recent experience with conflict correlate strongly with state weakness or failure
. Topping the index are Somalia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Iraq, all current or recent hosts to severe conflict. The report, co-authored by Brookings Senior Fellow Susan E. Rice and Center for Global Development
(CGD) Research Fellow Stewart Patrick, is intended to serve as a tool for policymakers.
Rather than focusing exclusively on a single measure of performance or attempting to sharpen the often-murky distinction between “effectiveness” and “legitimacy,” as many rankings do, Rice and Patrick evaluate every developing country across 20 indicators—each a proxy for a core state function—in four “baskets” of government performance (economic, political, security, and social welfare).
Eight countries appear in the top (i.e., worst) 10 of both the Brookings index and the well-known Failed States Index published annually in Foreign Policy magazine. However, Rice and Patrick employ—uniquely, they say—fully transparent metrics, introduce policy prescriptions, and assess a broader-than-usual swath of government performance in the hopes of creating a more precise and practical description of current circumstances.
Since September 11, 2001, the security community has paid increasing attention to the threats that weak or failed states pose to the United States. The 2002 National Security Strategy asserted that weak and failing states “pose as great a danger to our national interest as strong states.” A 2004 Christian Science Monitor op-ed by two CGD experts on weak states declared that “where poor states lose control, it’s often Americans who pay the price.” Weak or failed states are susceptible to “a host of transnational security threats,” argue Rice and Patrick, “including terrorism, weapons proliferation, organized crime, infectious disease, environmental degradation, and civil conflicts that spill over borders.”
Tucked in with the report’s policy implications is a recommendation that the United States support multi-sector aid programs that simultaneously address security issues and other drivers of state weakness, including lack of access to water and sanitation. The Environmental Change and Security Program recently hosted a panel discussion exploring the efficacy of a multi-sector approach to development.