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Burma 18th on ‘Failed State’ ranking

Burma is ranked No. 18 in the “Failed State Index (FSI)” issued by the Fund for Peace on Monday, highlighting global political, economic and social pressures experienced by states.

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The ranking is in the “In Danger” category. In 2010, Burma ranked No. 16, two notches lower.

The 2011 FSI ranks Somalia as the No. 1 failed state for the fifth consecutive year, citing widespread lawlessness, ineffective government, terrorism, insurgency, crime, and well-publicized pirate attacks against foreign vessels.

Meanwhile, Finland has remained in the No. 1 most-free position, with its Scandinavian neighbors Sweden and Denmark rounding out the best three rankings.

All three nations benefit from strong social and economic indicators, paired with excellent provision of public services and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The FSI ranks 178 countries using 12 social, economic, and political indicators of pressure on the state, along with over 100 sub-indicators.

These include such issues as Uneven Development, State Legitimacy, Group Grievance, and Human Rights. Each indicator is rated on a scale of 1-10, based on the analysis of millions of publicly available documents, other quantitative data, and assessments by analysts. A high score indicates high pressure on the state, and therefore a higher risk of instability.

Other notable changes this year included countries affected by the Arab Spring. Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Tunisia all ranked significantly worse than the previous year.

Libya’s decline was the most remarkable, with the country registering the worst year-on-year worsening in the history of the FSI as a result of civil war, a NATO-led campaign of airstrikes and the toppling of the Qaddhafi regime.

Similarly, Syria registered the fourth-greatest year-on-year worsening in the history of the FSI as the campaign of violence by the Assad government took hold.

In the wake of the massive earthquake and resultant nuclear crisis, Japan also worsened significantly. Though Japan continues to rank among the best seven percent of countries, Japan’s near-record worsening on the FSI demonstrates how susceptible even the most stable of nations are to sudden shocks.

Greece continued to decline as the economic crisis has gripped the country. A loss of confidence in the state, coinciding with the state’s lessened capacity to provide public services, have led to growing social pressures.

The Fund for Peace assessed South Sudan this year for the first time after the new nation gained its independence in the second half of 2011. Though the FSI does not formally rank South Sudan due to an incomplete year of data, the young nation nevertheless would have ranked approximately fourth, immediately behind its northern neighbor, Sudan. South Sudan’s fragile infrastructure, severe poverty, weak government, fraught relations with Sudan and heavy reliance on oil continue to be of concern.

Kyrgyzstan is the most improved nation, rebounding from a marked fall the previous year that was precipitated by the mid-2010 revolution that led to significant political reforms and ultimately a stable transition of power.

Krista Hendry, the executive director of The Fund for Peace, said the value of the FSI is in its application on the ground by governments, media, civil society and others to consider and work to improve the underlying conditions of conflict.

“We assess 178 countries because we recognize that all countries have pressures upon them that need to be managed. The difference between livelihoods within the countries is largely a product of the capacity of the state and society. This year we will develop a capacity index to test our assumption that states manage pressures better when they have open societies with strong state institutions based on the rule of law and democracy,” Hendry said.

The Fund for Peace is an independent research and educational organization based in Washington, D.C., with a mission to prevent conflict and promote sustainable security. The survey is conducted in cooperation with the Foreign Policy Journal.