Still, the 2006-2009 increasing trend is certainly eye-catching.
However, looking at the data a different way suggests caution in over-interpreting that trend.
The index is based on giving scores on a scale of 0-10 for 12 different socio-economic indicators of badness. Then all the scores are added together. Countries with a score over 90 are on "Alert" status, whereas countries over 60 are "Warning" status. The variables look generally reasonable to me (things like "Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons" are clearly a bad sign), but most of them involve at least a certain amount of subjective judgement. For example, as a US resident, I'm certainly willing to agree that "Rise of Factionalized Elites" is not a good thing in a country, and that the US deserves it's high-for-a-developed-country score of 4.0 on that. OTOH, it's clearly not the kind of thing that can be measured with too much exactitude.
Just to give you a little more feeling for it, without you having to click the link above and go off and read it all, in 2009, the top ten most failed countries (with score) were:
|5||Democratic Republic of the Congo||108.7|
|8||Central African Republic||105.4|
Worth noting that the al-Sharistani plan is to occur in #6 on the global list of failed states...
The top ten most stable countries, according to this list, were:
Here's the exact list of variables:
- I-1. Mounting Demographic Pressures
- I-2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
- I-3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia
- I-4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
- I-5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
- I-6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
- I-7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State
- I-8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
- I-9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights
- I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a "State Within a State"
- I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites
- I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors
- Fragmentation of ruling elites and state institutions along group lines
- Use of nationalistic political rhetoric by ruling elites, often in terms of communal irredentism, (e.g., a "greater Serbia") or of communal solidarity (e.g., "ethnic cleansing" or "defending the faith"
For example, I wouldn't question their judgement that Somalia is a lot more failed than Norway! But if Somalia and Zimbabe change places at the top of the list, that's unlikely to be a meaningful event given the tiny difference in scores. It would be very helpful to have a more solid methodology so it would be possible to put an error bar on the index, and then assess whether or not changes were actually likely to be meaningful.
So then, when we look at the distribution of scores, here shown as the cumulative distribution:
I think it raises questions about the meaning of trends in the count of states in the "Alert" status (which on this graph is the y-intercept of where the data curve crosses from the orange zone into the red zone). For example, the 2009 curve is a little to the right of the others throughout the whole curve. Did the stability of Norway and Finland really degrade a little bit in a manner similar to that of Somalia and Zimbabwe at the opposite end of the curve? Or is it more likely that the scoring standards changed a little bit in some way?
I think I'd want to see significantly larger movement in the curve before drawing the conclusion that the world was really trending towards less stable at this time.