The Methodology Behind the Index

Weak and failing states pose a challenge to the international community. In today’s world, with its highly globalized economy, information systems and interlaced security, pressures on one fragile state can have serious repercussions not only for that state and its people, but also for its neighbors and other states halfway across the globe. Witness in recent times, for example, the negative ripple-effects from weak and failing states such as Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire and the Balkan states.Since the end of the Cold War, a number of states have erupted into mass violence stemming from internal conflict. Some of these crises are ethnic conflicts. Some are civil wars. Others take on the form of revolutions. Many result in complex humanitarian emergencies. Though the dynamics may differ in each case, all of these conflicts stem from social, economic, and political pressures that have not been managed by professional, legitimate, and representative state institutions. Fault lines emerge between identity groups, defined by language, religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, class, caste, clan or area of origin. Tensions can deteriorate into conflict through a variety of circumstances, such as competition over resources, predatory or fractured leadership, corruption, or unresolved group grievances. The reasons for state weakness and failure are complex but not unpredictable. It is critically important that the international community understand and closely monitor the conditions that create weak and failed states—and be prepared to take the necessary actions to deal with the underlying issues or otherwise mitigate the negative effects of state failure.To have meaningful early warning, and effective policy responses, assessments must go beyond specialized area knowledge, narrative case studies and anecdotal evidence to identify and grasp broad social trends. An interdisciplinary combination of qualitative research and quantitative methodologies is needed to establish patterns and acquire predictive value. Without the right data, it is impossible to identify problems that may be festering ‘below the radar.’ Decision makers need access to this kind of information to implement effective policies. The Fragile States Index (FSI), produced by The Fund for Peace, is a critical tool in highlighting not only the normal pressures that all states experience, but also in identifying when those pressures are pushing a state towards the brink of failure. By highlighting pertinent issues in weak and failing states, the FSI — and the social science framework and software application upon which it is built — makes political risk assessment and early warning of conflict accessible to policy-makers and the public at large. The strength of the FSI is its ability to distill millions of pieces of information into a form that is relevant as well as easily digestible and informative. Daily, The Fund for Peace collects thousands of reports and information from around the world, detailing the existing social, economic and political pressures faced by each of the 178 countries that we analyze.The FSI is based on The Fund for Peace’s proprietary Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) analytical platform. Based on comprehensive social science methodology, data from three primary sources is triangulated and subjected to critical review to obtain final scores for the FSI. Millions of documents are analyzed every year. By applying highly specialized search parameters, scores are apportioned for every country based on twelve key political, social and economic indicators (which in turn include over 100 sub-indicators) that are the result of years of painstaking expert social science research.The Fund for Peace’s software performs content analysis on this collected information. Through sophisticated search parameters and algorithms, the CAST software separates the relevant data from the irrelevant. Guided by twelve primary social, economic and political indicators (each split into an average of 14 sub-indicators), the CAST software analyzes the collected information using specialized search terms that flag relevant items. Using various algorithms, this analysis is then converted into a score representing the significance of each of the various pressures for a given country.The content analysis is further triangulated with two other key aspects of the overall assessment process: quantitative analysis and qualitative inputs based on major events in the countries examined. The scores produced by The Fund for Peace’s software are then compared with a comprehensive set of vital statistics—as well as human analysis—to ensure that the software has not misinterpreted the raw data. Though the basic data underpinning the Failed States Index is already freely and widely available electronically, the strength of the analysis is in the methodological rigor and the systematic integration of a wide range of data sources.