Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Iraq Moves Down List Of Failed States

In July 2010 the Fund For Peace and Foreign Policy magazine released their annual list of failed states. For the third year in a row Iraq moved down the list, but was still in the top 10.

The Failed States List is based upon 12 indicators. Those are demographic pressures, refugees/displaced, legacy of vengeance, chronic human flight, uneven economic development, economic decline, crime and delegitimization of the state, deterioration of public services, lack of rule of law/human rights abuses, standing of the security forces, factionalized elites, and outside intervention. Each one of those is given a score of 1 to 10 with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Those numbers are then added up and the total determines a country’s ranking in the list.

In 2010 Iraq was in the top 10 of failed states, but moved down the list from previous years. The top five failed states this year were Somalia, Chad, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Congo. Iraq came in number 7. In 2009 Iraq was number 6, and number 5 in 2008.

Of the 12 factors used to rate countries, two worsened for Iraq, while the other ten either improved or stayed the same. Human flight went from 9.1 in 2009 to 9.3 in 2010 because most of the middle class fled during the sectarian war and has not returned. Iraq’s uneven economic development score also went up from 8.6 in 2009 to 8.8 in 2010. Development in Sunni areas is lagging behind Shiites ones largely because most of the country’s oil is concentrated in the south. Kurdistan is also richer than the rest of the country. What the study didn’t seem to take into account is that southern Iraq is the poorest region. It also cited the lack of a new oil law that would cover revenue sharing, but that ignores the fact that 90% of the government’s income comes from oil and that the provinces’ budgets are determined by their population so there is already a distribution of petroleum profits. At worse then, the human flight and uneven development scores should’ve stayed the same.

Another indicator that had a questionable rating was for economic decline. That stayed the same at 7.6. The description of economic activity noted that better security was allowing for growth, especially in retail. Foreign investors were also showing more interest in Iraq, although there were problems with owning land and getting through the country’s difficult rules and regulations. There also needed to be economic reform. That seemed a relatively positive review, and yet there was no change in the score from 2009.

All the other indicators stayed the same or improved. Demographic pressures went from 8.7 in 2009 to 8.5 in 2010. Iraq still has a high population growth rate, and a growing youth population with 38% of the country under the age of 15. Decreased violence is allowing greater movement within the country, which accounted for the better score. Refugees/displaced improved from 8.9 to 8.7 because more were returning home, although there were still around 2.8 million who had not. Legacy of Vengeance went from 9.7 to 9.3 as there was an improvement in ethnosectarian tensions. Legitimacy of the state stayed the same at 9.0. Corruption remains a huge problem that undermines confidence in the authorities, Shiites dominate politics, which causes resentment, and there are still terrorist attacks. Public services remained at 8.4 because of the inability of the government to provide them. There is a lack of sanitation, clean water, electricity, and health care. Although Iraqi prisons are notorious for overcrowding, abuse, torture, and the legal system lacks due process the human rights score went down from 9.3 to 9.1. The security forces mark went from 9.7 to 9.5 because it exerted more control over the country. Factionalized elites stayed at 9.6. That problem is seen in the current inability of political parties to form a government four months after parliamentary elections. Finally external intervention improved from 10.0 to 9.5 as U.S. troops are drawing down. Neighboring countries are still interfering in Iraqi affairs however.

The Iraqi state has gone through a series of changes since 2003. Immediately after the U.S. invasion, it imploded and ceased to exist. During the sectarian war Iraq became a failed state with different factions all taking up arms against each other. After 2007 however the security situation completely changed as the strength of the insurgency and militias was largely broken up, and the government was able to reassert control over most of the country. That has helped improve other parts of the society. There are still huge economic and political problems, a massive displaced and refugee population, and rampant corruption. That being said, the Fund For Peace has consistently been pessimistic about Iraq, and given it a lower score than it deserves. It seems that old images die hard, and the Fund is not convinced that these changes will last.


Foreign Policy, “The Failed States Index 2010,” July 2010

Fund For Peace/Foreign Policy, “Failed States Index Scores 2010,” July 2010

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