Chapter 2. The changing face of fragility and its implications post-2015

This chapter addresses the first three questions:

Question 1: How have fragile states fared in meeting the Millennium Development Goals?

Question 2: How should fragility be assessed post-2015?

Question 3: What obstacles does fragility pose to delivering the post-2015 agenda?

  

Question 1: How have fragile states fared in meeting the Millennium Development Goals?

Fifty countries and economies are currently on the fragile states list compiled by the OECD, and half of them have featured on all lists since 2007. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were ambitious targets for all developing countries, but have been most challenging for fragile situations. These countries started the MDG era with higher levels of deprivation and a longer road toward building resilient and effective institutions. While many fragile states have made important strides in improving human development, as a group they have lagged behind other developing countries in terms of MDG performance. In some fragile situations, progress has been offset – or eroded – by shocks, including instability and the onset of violent conflict.

A historical perspective reveals 23 chronically fragile countries

In 2005, the Senior Level Forum on Development Effectiveness in Fragile States proposed that a system be developed for monitoring resource flows to countries trapped in cycles of poverty, insecurity and weak governance (OECD, 2006).

The aim was to help international actors work more effectively to assist these states in making a sustainable exit from poverty and insecurity, while minimising any unintentional damage caused by international engagement (OECD, 2007). The first report reflected heightened concern that insufficient aid and other resources were being directed towards fragile states. It monitored 35 countries and found: “From the long list of fragile states, there is a small group of countries that receive low aid flows in relation to governance indicators and/or that experience high volatility of aid flows and international engagement” (OECD, 2006).

In each subsequent year, a new list has been generated of states and economies in situations of fragility and conflict. In 2015, 50 countries and territories – home to 1 in 5 of the world’s people – are on a list that is generated by combining the Harmonized List of Fragile Situations produced by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank (World Bank, 2014a), with countries scoring 90 or above on the Fragile States Index of The Fund for Peace (FFP, 2014) (see Annex A).

Any list that results from collapsing several measures into one dimension has limitations and cannot capture the diversity of fragile situations, or the spectrum of responses from societies that are actively attempting to reduce risk and increase resilience (Table 2.1 [Q.1]). Under Question 2, alternative approaches to assessing fragility are explored. These are directly relevant to the post-2015 development agenda that will replace the MDGs. However, the traditional list approach to fragility continues to allow policy makers to monitor financial flows to the most vulnerable states. It offers insights into the strength, effectiveness and predictability of these flows, and allows gaps to be identified in the response to the most vulnerable countries.

Box 1.1. (Q.1) Key characteristics of the 2015 list of fragile states and economies
  • Fifty countries and economies that are home to 1.4 billion people or 20% of the world’s population. (2015)

  • Their population is projected to grow to 1.9 billion in 2030 and 2.6 billion in 2050.

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina1 has the highest life expectancy (76 years) and Sierra Leone the lowest (45 years). (2012)

  • The median population age of people living in fragile situations is 21, compared to the global median of 30 years. (2013)

  • Gross domestic product (GDP) ranges from USD 522 billion (Nigeria) to USD 1 billion (Solomon Islands). (2013)

  • Per capita gross national income (GNI) ranges from USD 6 710 (Iraq) to USD 270 (Malawi). (2013)

  • Poverty is concentrated in fragile situations: not only are these states home to 43% of the world’s people living on less than USD 1.25/day but also to 35.8% of those living on less than USD 2/day. (2013)

  • The majority (27) of fragile states on the list in 2015 are low income; sub-Saharan Africa, with 28 of the states on the list, is by far the most represented region.

1. The Syrian Arab Republic had the highest life expectancy in 2012 at 76.1 years, but taking into account the current conflict and its effects on life expectancy following 2012, Bosnia and Herzegovina (life expectancy of 75.8 years) is shown here.

Sources: Projected population calculated using: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Population Division, Population Estimates and Projections Section (2012), “Total population – Both sexes” dataset using Medium Fertility projections, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, available at: http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Excel-Data/population.htm; Median age data drawn from UN (2014a), “Median age (years)”, UN Data, available at: https://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=PopDiv&f=variableID%3A41; Additional population figures from World Bank (2014f), “Population total”, World Development Indicators (database), available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL; Life expectancy, GDP, GNI and poverty data from World Bank (2014g), “Life expectancy at birth, total (years)”, World Development Indicators (database), available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN; World Bank (2014h), GDP figures (in current USD), World Development Indicators (database), available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD; World Bank (2014i), GNI figures (in current USD), World Development Indicators (database), available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.MKTP.CD; World Bank (2014j-k) Poverty headcount ratio figures at $1.25 and $2 a day (% of population), World Development Indicators (database), available at: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.DDAY ($1.25/day), http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.2DAY ($2/day); International Futures model; OECD income classification.

Table 2.1. (Q.1) Strengths and weaknesses of a fragile states list

Strengths

Weaknesses

✓ Focuses attention on some of the most vulnerable states

× Threshold for inclusion on the list is arbitrary

✓ Integrates a range of inputs and indicators

× Some states hover close to the boundary for inclusion

✓ Enables monitoring of data

× Does not capture important dimensions of stability

✓ Facilitates comparisons of trends in development assistance

× Some states do not find their inclusion helpful

A retrospective look at the fragile states list used by OECD reports also offers insights into the duration and evolution of fragility (Table 2.1 [Q.1]).1 Between 2007 and 2015, 67 countries and economies have been included on at least one fragile states list. Some countries have joined the list recently, as political instability and conflict eroded their institutional capacity. Others have experienced significant governance improvements and are no longer listed. A third group has moved on and off, oscillating around the list’s cut-off point.

In some years, the list has changed significantly due to major global events that have had an impact on multiple countries. In 2014, for example, eight countries (Burkina Faso, Egypt, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, the Syrian Arab Republic and Tuvalu) joined the list – in part because of the dramatic influence of the Arab Spring – while four countries (Georgia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda) moved off the list.

In 2015, changes are modest. Rwanda has returned to the list, reflecting the experience of a country that has seen important development progress but remains borderline for inclusion or exclusion. Angola and Burkina Faso are no longer included on the list, although they too remain close to the criteria for inclusion.

Of most concern perhaps is the group of 23 countries that have appeared on every list. Although all 67 countries that have been fragile require some attention, this smaller group of chronically fragile countries demands particular effort, as its members face more persistent institutional and development challenges and recurrent patterns of violence.

Table 2.2. (Q.1) Fragile states and economies over time, 2007-151

Have been on the list at least once (years)

On the 2015 list

On every list

Afghanistan (2007-15)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

Angola (2007-14)

Bangladesh (2011-15)

Bangladesh

Bosnia and Herzegovina (2013-15)

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Burkina Faso (2011, 2014)

Burundi (2007-15)

Burundi

Burundi

Cambodia (2007-09)

Cameroon (2007-15)

Cameroon

Cameroon

Central African Republic (2007-15)

Central African Republic

Central African Republic

Chad (2007-15)

Chad

Chad

Comoros (2007-15)

Comoros

Comoros

Congo (2007-12, 2014-15)

Congo

Côte d’Ivoire (2007-12, 2014-15)

Côte d’Ivoire

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (2008-15)

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Democratic Republic of the Congo (2007-15)

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Djibouti (2007-10)

Egypt (2014-15)

Egypt

Equatorial Guinea (2008-10)

Eritrea (2007-15)

Eritrea

Eritrea

Ethiopia (2008-15)

Ethiopia

Gambia (2007-11)

Georgia (2011, 2013)

Guinea (2007-10, 2013-15)

Guinea

Guinea-Bissau (2007-15)

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau

Haiti (2007-15)

Haiti

Haiti

Iran (2013)

Iraq (2008-15)

Iraq

Kenya (2008-15)

Kenya

Kiribati (2007-15)

Kiribati

Kiribati

Kosovo (2013-15)

Kosovo

Kyrgyzstan (2013)

Lao People’s Democratic Republic (2007-09)

Lebanon (2011)

Liberia (2007-15)

Liberia

Liberia

Libya (2014-15)

Libya

Madagascar (2014-15)

Madagascar

Malawi (2011-15)

Malawi

Mali (2014-15)

Mali

Marshall Islands (2013-15)

Marshall Islands

Mauritania (2007-09, 2014-15)

Mauritania

Micronesia (2013-15)

Micronesia

Myanmar (2007-15)

Myanmar

Myanmar

Nepal (2007-15)

Nepal

Niger (2007-15)

Niger

Niger

Nigeria (2007-15)

Nigeria

Nigeria

Pakistan (2008-15)

Pakistan

Papua New Guinea (2007-11)

Rwanda (2008-10, 2013, 2015)

Rwanda

Sao Tome and Principe (2007-11)

Sierra Leone (2007-15)

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

Solomon Islands (2007-15)

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

Somalia (2007-15)

Somalia

Somalia

South Sudan (2013-15)

South Sudan

Sri Lanka (2011-15)

Sri Lanka

Sudan (2007-15)

Sudan

Sudan

Syrian Arab Republic (2014-15)

Syrian Arab Republic

Tajikistan (2007-11)

Timor-Leste (2007-15)

Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste

Togo (2007-15)

Togo

Togo

Tonga (2007-10)

Tuvalu (2014-15)

Tuvalu

Uganda (2008-15)

Uganda

Uzbekistan (2007-09, 2011)

Vanuatu (2007-09)

West Bank and Gaza Strip (2010-15)

West Bank and Gaza Strip

Yemen (2007-15)

Yemen

Yemen

Zimbabwe (2007-15)

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Total: 67

Total: 50

Total: 23

1. The OECD did not publish a fragile states report for 2012.

Fragile states are diverse, but have weak institutions in common

The 2015 fragile states list includes countries and economies with diverse experiences of fragility and equally varied development challenges (see Box 2.4 [Q.2]).

Some countries are in crisis, struggle with conflict, or face urgent and critical threats to human well-being. In countries such as the Central African Republic, Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, conflict has destroyed or significantly degraded governance structures, institutions and infrastructure, and warring parties contest political control. In all, 16% of those on the current list are in the midst of a serious conflict (more than 1 000 battle deaths per year) and a further 20% are experiencing a minor conflict (Uppsala University, 2014).

Natural disasters and extreme weather events also have long-lasting impacts on countries with weak institutions, as is shown by Haiti’s slow recovery from the earthquake of 2010 (IFRC, 2014). Over the past decade, ten fragile states have experienced an average of more than three natural disasters each year, with Afghanistan (105 disasters), Bangladesh (89 disasters) and Pakistan (83 disasters) especially vulnerable (World Bank, 2014c).

Most recently, the Ebola outbreak has hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – all on the fragile states list (Box 2.2 [Q.1]). The Ebola crisis demonstrates fragile states’ acute vulnerability to shocks, and underlines the importance of steady investment in basic health, disaster response and public administration systems.

Box 2.2. (Q.1) The effect of Ebola

The Ebola outbreak unfolding across West Africa led to over 9 900 deaths as of March 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 The vast majority of cases were reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, all countries that have appeared on fragile states lists. Mali and Nigeria, both also fragile, saw Ebola cases; Nigeria was declared free of the disease in October 2014.

Infectious disease is a global challenge, and dangerous pathogens have emerged in wealthy and stable countries as well as fragile situations (Woolhouse and Gaunt, 2007). But fragile health systems make it harder to combat an epidemic (Newbrander et al., 2011; Gayer et al., 2007). Shortages of trained medical personnel have caused critical lags in diagnosing and treating patients. Poor clinical infrastructure and a lack of basic medical supplies and protective equipment have spread infection, including among health workers and volunteers. Weak disease surveillance systems have caused some outbreaks to go undetected, making hotspots more difficult to eventually bring under control.

There is also evidence that lack of trust in state institutions has stymied efforts to stop Ebola transmission, leading some people to disregard government warnings about how to protect against infection.2 Health workers, government officials and journalists have been attacked while responding to Ebola, while conspiracy theories have flourished among populations disinclined to believe official statements on the nature and causes of a complex emergency (Ammann, 2014). International actors have begun to mobilise to provide care and build clinical infrastructure. Faster and more concerted investment early in the crisis could have flattened the epidemic curve and better contained the outbreak.

The Ebola epidemic will have lasting consequences for states across West Africa. Trade and livelihoods have been disrupted; the World Bank estimated economic impacts ranging from USD 1.6-USD 5.2 billion in 2015. Fragile states are likely to be hardest hit (Jonas, 2014), and will face the greatest challenges in repairing strained health and governance systems.

The outbreak provides opportunities to draw lessons for addressing fragility, using the example of what the World Health Organization called Nigeria’s “spectacular success” in containing the disease. Building capacity to respond to future outbreaks will require significant investment to fill gaps in basic health systems (Kruk et al., 2010). Such investments would have a direct impact on well-being by expanding public access to basic health services and contributing to national and community-level resilience, especially if they are combined with broader reforms that build public trust in governments.

1. Data are from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and current as of 12 March 2015. Mortality figures are likely to be under estimates. Data available at: www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/case-counts.html.

2. These have been widely reported in media. See, for example, www.irinnews.org/report/100568/mistrust-of-government-spurs-ebola-spread and www.vox.com/2014/9/24/6838507/red-cross-attacked-in-guinea-while-working-to-fight-ebola-virus.

Not all fragile states are currently in crisis. Some have emerged from periods of sustained violence and instability, and are at different stages of the long process of building more effective institutions and managing the legacy of conflict. Others do not have recent experience of conflict or other shocks. Of the 50 fragile states, 22 have seen few, if any, battle deaths over the past decade, while 31 have experienced fewer natural disasters than the OECD average (Uppsala University, 2014).

However, all of these countries have either weak institutions or, in some cases, strong but abusive institutions. They may be unable to meet the aspirations of their citizens for equitable and inclusive development, and also face heightened risk of experiencing crisis. Historical, political and social factors, often including a weak social contract and a lack of capacity to respond to shocks and stresses, can mean that the chances of a future political, social or humanitarian failure are high (OECD, 2008).

Fragile states still lag behind on the Millennium Development Goals

Fragility has a significant impact on human welfare. Fragile states make slower development progress than countries with more robust institutions; within states, communities that experience the highest levels of violence and instability are least likely to experience improvements in their livelihoods.

Fragile states and economies continue to lag behind other developing countries in achieving the MDGs, as demonstrated by an analysis of targets for poverty, child survival, education and water (Figure 2.1 [Q.1]):

  • Poverty. The 50 states and economies on the 2015 list account for only 20% of the global population but 43% of the world’s poor. According to World Bank projections, nearly two-thirds of currently fragile countries will fail to halve poverty by 2015. By comparison, only a third of other developing countries will fall short of this target.

  • Child survival. Both fragile and non-fragile states have made impressive progress in reducing child mortality. Nonetheless, while 15% of non-fragile states are projected to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015, only one fragile state will reach this goal.

  • Education. Just one-fifth of fragile states and economies are on track to achieve universal primary schooling, compared to nearly half of non-fragile developing countries.

  • Water. Only 28% of fragile states are on track to halve the number of their citizens without access to safe water, while 61% of non-fragile countries have reached this target. Fragile states have also made slower progress on sanitation.

The construction of the MDGs can hide important successes in the poorest and least stable states, given that some have made significant improvements from a low starting point of human development (Easterly, 2009). For example, on child survival (Figure 2.1 [Q.1]), absolute progress in reducing under-five mortality has been comparable in fragile and non-fragile states. This provides some cause for optimism for the future, although – as is discussed later in this chapter – business-as-usual trajectories suggest that states and economies on the list will continue to face significant barriers to development as implementation of the new development agenda begins in 2016.

Figure 2.1. (Q.1) Progress toward the Millennium Development Goals among fragile and non-fragile states
picture

Source: Authors’ calculations using estimates from the World Bank Group (2014d), “Progress towards MDGs”, in: Global Monitoring Report 2014/2015: Ending Poverty and Sharing Prosperity as of 20 October 2014, available at: http://worldbank.org/prospects/gmr14.

Figure 2.2. (Q.1) Infant mortality rates by country group, 2000-13
picture

Source: Authors’ calculations using estimates from the World Bank Group (2014d), “Progress towards MDGs”, in: Global Monitoring Report 2014/15: Ending Poverty and Sharing Prosperity as of 20 October 2014, World Bank, Washington, DC, available at: http://worldbank.org/prospects/gmr14.

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933185058

More Millennium Development Goal data is available, but still with gaps

Any assessment of progress towards the MDGs must be made with some caution, as data are incomplete or missing for many developing countries. Data gaps are greatest for fragile states and economies, and most pervasive among the poorest and least stable of these situations.

That said, significant progress has been made in tracking some targets. Child survival and maternal mortality data are available for nearly every fragile state and economy, as are indicators on safe water and improved sanitation.2 Poverty statistics are currently a weak point, with 13 fragile situations not reporting any household survey data since 1990 and a further 8 with only a single survey data point for the MDG era (see Table 2.3 [Q.1]). However, coverage of fragile states will improve as updated data from the World Bank’s International Comparison Program (2011b) come into use.

The post-2015 development agenda seems certain to greatly increase demand for data to assess development progress (Box 2.3 [Q.1]). As the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (UNSG, 2014) has pointed out, “A huge increase in the capacity of many governments, institutions and individuals will be needed to deliver and use this data”. The statistical systems of fragile states must develop the fastest in order to effectively track the new development agenda (“no one should be left behind”). This will require sustained investment in statistical systems.

Question 2: How should fragility be assessed in the post-2015 era?

This section offers a perspective on the nature of the challenge involved in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies. Fragility may be addressed directly as part of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda – and will certainly be addressed indirectly through a number of goals and targets. Inclusion of fragility issues offers the potential to address an acknowledged weakness of the MDGs with targets to reduce violence, strengthen institutions and promote rule of law. Proposals for the new agenda also include a focus on the resilience of societies and the economic foundations for sustainable development. This provides the basis for rethinking how fragility is assessed through an analysis that considers vulnerabilities that, if unaddressed, will make it impossible to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Box 2.3. (Q.1) Bringing the data revolution to fragile states

The data revolution called for by the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda is needed most urgently in fragile states. In 2012, only 0.16% of official development assistance (ODA) went to building statistical capacity (PARIS21, 2013). Donors will need to make much larger investments to support basic statistical systems, including vital registration and population censuses, which provide the foundation for data gathering on core development targets.

Tackling fragility will require better data on the quality of governance, institutions and security (IDPS, 2013). These indicators are currently available only at the national level (for some years) and for many countries statistics on violence are generated with statistical models rather than data from the ground. More regular and granular data, including broad-based population surveys, are needed to ensure that “blind spots” do not obscure the needs of already vulnerable populations.

ICT-driven approaches such as crowd-sourced data (mobile polls and text message-based data collection) can provide valuable real-time information on corruption, household welfare, disaster response, and violence and instability, as demonstrated in the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative on crisis mapping and early warning. Sampling challenges make it difficult to leverage such data to fill gaps in basic statistics, however (Letouzé, 2012). “Dormant” data can also provide policy makers and planners with valuable insights. For example, Indonesia’s National Violence Monitoring System scanned and analysed more than a decade of newspaper archives from across the country to identify and code violent incidents. The result is a structured data set that allows for analysis of trends in conflict and violence across time and space, and in near real time (SNPK, 2014). Many fragile states have similar repositories of information that could be leveraged to analyse trends in security over time.

A new approach to addressing fragility is emerging

At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), governments committed to negotiate a new set of SDGs to replace the MDGs. The new development agenda will be finalised in September 2015, with goals and targets to run from 2016 to 2030.

Many fragile states will continue to struggle to finish the business of the MDGs and face daunting obstacles if they are to deliver these new goals. However, the success of the post-2015 agenda as a whole rests on the progress made by the weakest performers, given the proposed emphasis on:

  • Leaving no one behind. Many of the goals and targets suggested by the Open Working Group are “zero-based” and can only be achieved by delivering results for all people in all countries.

  • Quality and outcomes. UN member states are determined that the new agenda should deliver more than just access to services of dubious value.

  • Reducing inequality. There is consistent emphasis on the inclusion of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups, and on reducing persistent gaps within and between countries.

Table 2.3. (Q.1) Availability of household survey data used to generate PovcalNet estimates

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

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1996

1997

1998

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2005

2006

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Niger

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Sri Lanka

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Ethiopia

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Kenya

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Mali

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Nigeria

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Burundi

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Cameroon

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Central African Republic

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Malawi

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Sierra Leone

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Congo

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Iraq

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West Bank and Gaza Strip

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Yemen

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Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Haiti

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Liberia

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Micronesia

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Sudan

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Syrian Arab Republic

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Timor-Leste

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Afghanistan

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Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

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Eritrea

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Kiribati

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Kosovo

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Libya

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Marshall Islands

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Myanmar

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Solomon Islands

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Somalia

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South Sudan

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Tuvalu

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Zimbabwe

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Note: .. No data.

• Data available.

Horizontal lines group countries by the total number of years survey data is available.

Source: World Bank (2014e), PovcalNet, http://iresearch.worldbank.org/PovcalNet/index.htm?4 (accessed in October 2014).

The UN Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals has produced an initial proposal for 17 goals and 169 targets (UN, 2014b). While negotiations will continue to finalise these goals by the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015, this proposal makes it possible to discern the main features of the new agenda and to assess its implications for fragile situations. Notably, there is appetite to address fragility directly, with an emerging consensus that making progress in reducing poverty and supporting human development will require targets for substantial decreases in violence, improvements in access to justice and fundamentally stronger institutions.

This new approach to fragility addresses a gap in the current development agenda. The Millennium Declaration recognised the importance of peace and effective governance to human well-being and development, but the MDGs did not explicitly address the need to reduce violence, conflict and fragility. Many believe that this has posed significant obstacles to delivery of the MDGs. The African Union (2014), for example, has called for the “inextricable links between development and peace, security and stability” to be recognised as new development goals are agreed, and for a focus on preventing conflict and addressing its root causes.

The OWG responded by proposing a goal – currently SDG 16 – to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”, as well as a range of goals and targets that aim to increase the resilience of individuals, communities and countries and to build the economic foundations for greater prosperity.

These are ambitious objectives that widen the development agenda. The primary focus of the MDGs was on fighting poverty in developing countries. The new agenda will change this. It sets goals that are universally applicable to all countries and hold every government – including those of OECD countries – accountable for delivering targets at home (UN, 2012b). At the same time, the international community is committed to making greater efforts to “leave no one behind”. Many of the goals and targets suggested by the OWG are “zero-based” and can only be achieved by delivering benefits to those people who face the greatest economic and social exclusion.

The tensions between universal and zero-based goals will require careful management by governments and international development actors. On one hand, the new development agenda is likely to encourage broader efforts to address fragility and build more resilient societies, including in countries not generally considered fragile. On the other, achieving the post-2015 agenda will require greater targeting of resources on the most vulnerable situations, and on the most vulnerable people within countries.

The new approach to fragility requires new tools for identifying priorities

After 2015, new approaches will be needed for monitoring fragility that are aligned with the new development agenda. These approaches will need to capture changing patterns of vulnerability and help ensure that resources are directed towards delivering commitments made by the international community.

Regardless of whether the peaceful and inclusive societies goal is included in the post-2015 agenda, there will be an urgent need to track multiple dimensions of fragility – not only institutional capacity, but constellations of risk and external stress factors that interact with capacity. This will shape the success of poverty eradication and social development.

It will not be easy. At present, there is a daunting gap between the goals being discussed for implementation from 2016 onwards and the available data to hold governments and the international community accountable for their delivery. Data are weakest in the most vulnerable countries. There is also a lack of quality data for assessing the targets set out under the peaceful and inclusive societies goal, and especially for targets that aim to reduce violence in all its forms.

Work to design indicators for the new agenda is in its early stages and the current volume does not intend to pre-empt this process. Neither does it wish to supplant community-or country-driven self-assessments, or add to the many fragility indices that already exist including well-designed indices that capture various aspects of institutional capacity, such as the Carleton University Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (see Box 2.4 [Q.2]).

Box 2.4. (Q.2) Existing measures of fragility

Indices and lists vary widely in their approach to conceptualising and measuring fragility. The most common approach looks at the degree to which states meet a set of basic functions: legitimacy, typically defined in terms of electoral democracy and civic and human rights protections; welfare, defined in terms of economic and social development; and security, measured in conflict and personal insecurity (Milliken and Krause, 2002).

Function-oriented indices include the Carleton University Country Indicators for Foreign Policy Index, the Brookings Index of State Weakness in the Developing World (Rice and Patrick, 2008), and the State Fragility Index (Marshall and Cole, 2014). The World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) also focuses on basic state functions and policies, but emphasises bureaucratic capacity and economic and regulatory policy, and does not address political, human and civic rights (World Bank, 2011a).

A second and related approach to measuring fragility focuses on identifying pressures and stress factors that can lead to war or institutional breakdown. Factors include uneven economic opportunity across social groups, elite factionalisation and weaknesses in the security sector. The primary example of this approach is the Fragile States Index produced by The Fund for Peace. Some indices blend these approaches, measuring both functions and stressors. The Global Peace Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP, 2014) is a notable example: it measures security force capacity, as well as stress indicators such as the proportion of the population that is incarcerated, violent demonstrations and displaced persons.

A third approach focuses on events and was developed by the Political Instability Task Force (2013) (see also Goldstone et al., 2010). This index identified and ranked states according to specific types of conflicts and institutional breakdowns ranging from civil war to regime instability and ethnic conflict. The primary limitation of event-based indices is that they are backward looking, and do not necessarily allow policy makers to identify states at risk.

Finally, there are self-assessment approaches that are intended to guide policy and implementation. The g7+ Fragility Spectrum is a diagnostic tool that is aims to “facilitate a self-assessment process that helps a country to understand its current position in the overall transition process, and to adjust its planning to the needs of [this] specific stage”.

Instead, in order to promote debate and offer a fresh perspective, this report presents a new tool for analysing fragility based on internationally agreed global priorities for reducing fragility and building resilience. It uses existing data to present five dimensions of fragility that relate directly to post-2015 objectives at the national level (see Annex A for the methodology behind the construction of the indices):

  1. Violence: reduction of violence

  2. Justice: access to justice for all

  3. Institutions: effective, accountable and inclusive institutions

  4. Economic foundations: economic foundations, inclusion and stability

  5. Resilience: capacity to prevent and adapt to shocks and disasters.

Figure 2.3. (Q.2) The five dimensions of fragility
picture

Three dimensions relate directly to fragility and are drawn from the OWG’s proposed SDG 16, which encompasses the goal of peaceful societies, justice for all and effective institutions. Two additional dimensions cover the threats faced by fragile states and the resources available to them – that is, their resilience when confronted with external and internal shocks and disasters, and their economic foundations for sustainable development.

These dimensions of fragility are not exhaustive. There are significant gaps in data on a range of important forms of social vulnerability including exposure to gender-based violence, crime and abuses by authorities. There are also data gaps that make it difficult to track the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups including displaced people. As the new framework is agreed upon and new and reliable data become available, the proposed model can encapsulate a growing number of internationally agreed measures of fragility. Moreover, in many countries data are currently insufficient to systematically track sub-national variations in fragility. Given the central influence of sub-national factors – including varying governance capacity and pockets of endemic social exclusion – on the challenges of reducing violence and eradicating poverty, such data will be crucial to the success of the post-2015 agenda (Parks et al., 2013).

Fragility is widely recognised as a multi-dimensional challenge. Rigorous approaches to analysing fragility allow for its dimensions to be separately monitored (Carment et al., 2009; Rice and Patrick, 2008). Considering several dimensions of fragility separately differs from the traditional approach to tracking fragility (used, for instance, in previous OECD Fragile States reports) in several important respects. Rather than highlighting a single set of particularly vulnerable countries, it groups together those contexts that face quite distinct risks and development challenges. These include endemic violence, economic instability and weak institutions. Identifying subsets of countries facing specific forms of fragility and vulnerability will allow for a more focused prioritisation of development assistance. Comparing actual aid flows with the characteristics of fragile environments could also improve the monitoring of aid, by offering a more nuanced and meaningful assessment of the extent to which aid is targeting the greatest needs in each country. Tracking fragility on a universal basis will also shed light on remaining development challenges facing middle-income and wealthy countries as well as low-income states.

Analysing multiple dimensions of fragility will deepen the debate on the data and analysis that will be needed to underpin delivery of the post-2015 agenda in fragile environments. It could also provide a foundation for future OECD reports to set out a revised analysis aligned with the finalised development agenda for 2016-30, with further methodological refinements as new data are collected to support this agenda.

The five dimensions of fragility reveal distinct patterns of vulnerability

The Venn diagram (Figure 1.1) in Chapter 1 shows the countries that rank among the 50 most vulnerable under two or more dimensions of fragility. As expected, countries that are at risk across multiple dimensions are the most likely to have been previously identified as being fragile. Figure 2.4 (Q.2) shows a systematic breakdown of the same countries and economies.

Figure 2.4. (Q.2) Fragility clusters across states and economies
Countries ranking among the 50 most vulnerable in two or more dimensions
picture

Twenty-one of them appear in four or more clusters. Of these, only two (Equatorial Guinea and Swaziland) are not on the 2015 fragile states list, and one (Swaziland) has never been considered fragile (Table 2.4 [Q.2]). However, when each cluster is reviewed separately, there is a marked divergence with past assessments of fragility. The greatest divergence shows the violence (peaceful societies) cluster. It is based on targets for countries to reduce all forms of violence. These targets:

  • Have obvious implications for conflict-affected states and for countries with weak institutions and governance capacity.

  • Direct attention towards societies that experience high levels of crime and domestic and gender-based violence.

  • Will increase the focus on illicit flows, organised crime and other transnational stresses that drive violence across borders.

This cluster has been constructed using indicators that capture levels of violence (both from armed conflict and interpersonal violence) and perceptions of the likelihood of future political instability or politically motivated violence. Of the 50 most vulnerable countries in this cluster, 20 have never been included on the list of fragile states and economies.

The access to justice and effective institutions clusters are more closely aligned to current conceptions of fragility, although the targets being considered for the post-2015 agenda should focus attention on disadvantaged communities in all countries where inequality tends to be exacerbated by weak institutions and exclusion from the justice system. Given increasing emphasis on legal identity as a foundational element of access to justice, the justice cluster includes this measure, along with data on corruption and rule of law (Open Society Foundations, 2014). The institutions cluster includes measures of government effectiveness, regulatory quality, and voice and accountability.

Table 2.4. (Q.2) Characteristics of the post-2015 fragility clusters

Cluster

Violence

Justice

Institutions

Economic foundations

Resilience

Number of countries in each cluster that have appeared on the list of fragile states and economies

Have been on the list of fragile states

30

41

40

38

37

Have never been on the list of fragile states

20

9

10

12

13

Number of countries in each cluster that are on the current (2015) list of fragile states and economies

Currently fragile

28

33

33

32

31

Not currently fragile

22

17

17

18

19

Source: Authors’ calculations based on fragility indicators listed in Figure 2.3 (Q.2).

Fifteen countries that have never appeared on the fragile states list figure in one or both of the justice and institutions clusters.3 Both of these clusters are dominated by sub-Saharan African states, but a substantial number of South and East Asian states are present in each cluster. The relatively large number (seven) of Middle East and North African states in the institutions cluster reflects the continuing reverberations of the Arab Spring.

The economic foundations cluster is based on indicators for regulatory quality, past economic performance and future economic potential, with workforce education levels acting as a proxy for the latter. Twelve countries that have never been on a fragile states list are included in the most vulnerable in this cluster.

Finally, the resilience cluster draws together three types of risk:

  • A society’s exposure and susceptibility to natural disasters.

  • The strength of its health system, which is taken as representative of broader mechanisms for responding to risks to well-being.

  • Levels of inequality, which are included as a proxy for the social cohesion needed to respond to stresses.

A quarter of the countries that are most vulnerable in this cluster have never been on a fragile states list. This group of countries, evenly split between Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa, may prove unexpectedly vulnerable to extreme weather events, epidemics, economic and resource shocks, and other forms of crisis.

The five dimensions of fragility provide a basis for future analysis

This new analysis presents a different landscape of risk than the traditional list approach. The five dimensions of fragility offer greater insights into the complex nature and distribution of the vulnerabilities that will need to be addressed as part of the new development agenda. This highlights the need for new approaches to assessing and monitoring fragility using metrics that do not reduce fragility measures to a single index but rather allow for tracking across multiple (and potentially uncorrelated) dimensions. This disaggregated approach is a base for further development once the post-2015 agenda has been finalised and implementation begins in 2016, and as data begin to be collected for new targets and indicators.

In the following section, the new analysis is used to reflect the challenges of institution building and poverty reduction between 2016 and 2030. It offers insight into the distinctive challenges facing all countries as they attempt to provide sustainable development for their citizens.

Question 3: What obstacles does fragility pose to delivering the post-2015 agenda?

The emerging post-2015 agenda represents a substantial leap in ambition over the MDGs, especially for countries that have struggled to deliver some or all of the existing development goals. The vast majority of the targets proposed by the OWG are more demanding than their MDG equivalent.

This section offers a perspective on the nature of the challenge involved in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, and in ensuring that fragility does not imperil delivery of the post-2015 agenda as a whole. It underscores the urgency for addressing fragility, especially by building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions. Scenarios that project the scale and distribution of global poverty presented in this section illustrate the transformative changes that will be needed to strengthen peaceful and inclusive societies by the 2030 deadline.

Left unaddressed, fragility will make it much harder to end poverty by 2030

At Rio+20, the world’s leaders affirmed that “eradicating poverty is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development” (UN, 2012a). As discussed in Question 1, the aspiration to end poverty can only be achieved if fragility is addressed and states that have made slow progress towards the MDGs see rapid improvements in their development trajectory.

The scale of this challenge is significant. Poverty projections often assume that the same states and economies will continue to be fragile, and that no new countries will fall into conflict or face weakening institutions. Yet fragility is dynamic. Some countries will stabilise and reform. Others will become fragile, with potentially devastating impacts on poverty and human development. This report therefore presents a set of scenarios based on a dynamic assessment of future fragility (Box 2.5 [Q.3]). The aim is to:

  • Alert policy makers to the extent to which absolute poverty will become concentrated in countries with weak institutions on current trajectories, putting out of reach the proposed post-2015 goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” (UN, 2012b).

  • Demonstrate the pace of improvements in institutions and governance that will be needed so that the development agenda does not leave behind those who live in fragile situations.

  • Explore the feasibility of these changes, given historical track records in forming strong, legitimate and resilient states.

The scenarios model potential scales and distributions of global poverty under different sets of assumptions. They use the International Futures model (2014), which employs 2 600 data series covering 186 countries’ economies, health, infrastructure, governance and education to generate estimates over time. They also draw upon scenario parameters developed by Burt et al. (2014; see Annex A for additional details).

Box 2.5. (Q.3) Scenarios in fragile situations

Outlining the potential for good and bad outcomes in fragile situations

Three scenarios for the potential future scale of global poverty in fragile states illustrate the interconnection between these goals. The scenarios are not intended as predictions, but instead serve to illustrate the wide range in potential landscapes of global poverty under different assumptions about the international community’s success in addressing fragility. This box presents three scenarios derived using the International Futures (IF) model: 1) a business-as-usual scenario in which institution building and reform stagnate; 2) an optimistic scenario in which institutions improve and intra-state conflict quickly declines; 3) a scenario in which institutions improve, with rapid and positive second-order effects on development.

Current trend

The trends that emerge from the World Bank’s Country Performance and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) shows scores are largely stagnant. This business-as-usual scenario assumes a continuation to 2030 of this stagnation in institution building and reform. The IF model includes a base case that assumes most countries’ institutions will improve over the long term.

Improved institutions

This moderately optimistic scenario assumes a decrease in the risk of conflict and improved government performance across a range of core dimensions of governance: increased government revenues, decreased government corruption, improved democracy and increased gender empowerment.

Improved institutions and development

This best-case scenario assumes the governance improvements outlined above, as well as their potential second-order impacts on development outcomes. These impacts are specified using a scenario from Burt et al. (2014) that assumes declines in total fertility rate (population growth), improvements to education and access to social services, and increased flows of foreign direct investment.

It is important to stress that these scenarios are not predictions. Instead, they are estimates that aim to illustrate the wide range of potential trajectories of global poverty under differing sets of assumptions about progress in addressing fragility.

Together, poverty distributions under three scenarios, illustrated by Figure 2.5 (Q.3), suggest that:

  • Fragility will have a significant impact on the scale of global poverty. Under the current trend scenario, 25% of people in situations currently considered fragile (nearly 500 million people) will remain at or below the USD 1.25/day poverty line in 2030. Under the more optimistic improved institutions scenario, the share of people living in absolute poverty (USD 1.25/day) in fragile states falls to 22% (420 million) while the best-case scenario sees a fall to 19% (350 million).

  • Reducing poverty will require addressing fragility. While 43% of the world’s poor now live in countries and economies on the 2015 fragile states list, by 2030, poverty could become increasingly concentrated in fragile states. Even under the best-case scenario, 62% of the global poor will be located in fragile states.

  • Unprecedented rates of progress will be needed to end poverty. Even in the best-case scenario of improved institutions and development, which assumes major improvements to institutional capacity and reductions in violent conflict, fragile states will have large pockets of endemic poverty.

Figure 2.5. (Q.3) Fragility and poverty projections
Poverty rate at USD 1.25/day
picture

Source: Authors’ calculations using the International Futures Model.

 http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933185025

In addition to the scenarios explored here, worst-case scenarios should also be considered. If more countries experience conflict, or serious political turbulence, it could be found that the poverty reduction of the MDG era (and especially the 2000s) was an anomaly. The sharp and extreme decline in human development in the Syrian Arab Republic demonstrates the potentially devastating impacts of large-scale violence in a country that made substantial progress in health, education and economic development.

It will take time to build the institutions needed to underpin new development goals

As discussed above, the post-2015 development agenda is likely to take up the challenge of building peaceful and inclusive societies, strengthening institutions and ensuring access to justice for all.

This task is urgent, given the time it takes for effective institutions to develop. Poverty estimates for the current trend and improved institutions scenarios only begin to significantly diverge after a decade. Progress in building better functioning states will therefore need to accelerate rapidly in the early days of the post-2015 era for any realistic hope of meeting proposed targets on income and other forms of poverty. Delay will be fatal to the core aspiration of the agenda.

How feasible, then, is the decline in fragility envisaged by the OWG’s peaceful societies goal? Few data are available to assess current prospects for reducing “all forms of violence” as proposed in its target 16.1 (UN, 2014b). As discussed, levels of conflict declined during the MDG era, but there are more recent signs of a worrying increase. It is not possible to determine whether the recent trends towards greater conflict and instability will continue.

Time series data for other forms of collective and interpersonal violence are limited in scope, and data on some important forms of violence, including domestic violence and violence against children, are sparse. However, homicide data provide some insights. They demonstrate the potential for countries to achieve substantial reductions in murder rates. UNODC statistics (2013) show 7 countries experiencing more than a 50% fall in homicides between 2000 and 2012, and another 18 seeing up to a 30% decrease.

The data also suggest that endemic interpersonal violence can be difficult to extinguish. A quarter of the world’s countries, home to 19% of its people, account for more than 50% of its murders. Within countries, the burden of violence is often highly inequitably distributed. For example, in the United States, the murder rate is six times higher for African-Americans than for white Americans (Smith and Cooper, 2013). Halving the murder rate in any one of the countries most affected by violence is within historical precedent. To do so in most of them is not, however, especially given the lack of access to justice and security institutions experienced by the most marginalised groups.

In terms of building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions, time series data allow for a rough estimation of the acceleration in progress that will be needed if the new agenda is to be delivered. Three projections are used to demonstrate the urgency of the task. These projections build on work by Pritchett et al. (2013) and use World Bank data on governance to estimate how long countries would take to reach a threshold for “acceptable” institutional quality at different potential rates of progress (see Annex A for the methodology). They illustrate that even under fairly optimistic assumptions, delivering progress on effective and accountable institutions will be a major challenge.

In short, the pace of institution building will need to accelerate:

  • Under a business-as-usual projection, in which each country’s institutions develop on pace with its historical trajectory, only two countries would reach the threshold for “acceptable” institutional quality by 2030.

  • Under the modestly optimistic projection, in which all states’ institutions improve at the historical 70th percentile rate, only 3 states would pass the threshold by 2030.

  • Even if countries improve at the rate achieved by history’s strongest performers, ten fragile states would still fail to build adequate institutions by 2030.

Fragility needs to be addressed immediately if development goals are to be met by 2030

The post-2015 development agenda will be much broader and more ambitious than the MDGs, with governments committed to goals that cover all dimensions of sustainable development and that must be implemented in all countries.

But, as this chapter has shown, ending poverty in all its forms should remain at the heart of the new agenda. It is an objective that can only be delivered through unprecedented rates of progress in fragile states and economies. The analysis has focused on income poverty, but a similar argument could be made for health and nutritional status, for education outcomes and for other dimensions of well-being.

Moreover, fragility is, itself, a marker of inequality. People who live in fragile situations are at heightened risk of experiencing violence and are less likely to benefit from robust institutions and access to justice. They face the greatest risk of conflict and have less resilience to extreme weather events and other natural disasters. Aside from its impact on poverty, economic development and the provision of social services, the failure to build a peaceful and inclusive society exerts a heavy price on the world’s most vulnerable people.

Table 2.5. (Q.3) Institutions, institutions, institutions
Projections for progress in building institutions

Business as usual

Modest scenario

Best-case scenario

Make by 2030

Will not make by 2030

Make by 2030

Will not make by 2030

Make by 2030

Will not make by 2030

Cabo Verde

Afghanistan

lran

Cabo Verde

Afghanistan

lraq

Afghanistan

Haiti

Democratic People'sRepublic of Korea Liberia

Algeria

lraq

Cambodia

Algeria

Lao People's Democratic Republic

Algeria

lran

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Angola

Lao People's Democratic Republic

Liberia

Angola

Liberia

Angola

lraq

Equatorial Guinea

Azerbaijan

Libya

Azerbaijan

Libya

Azerbaijan

Lao People's Democratic Republic

Eritrea

Bangladesh

Madagascar

Bangladesh

Madagascar

Bangladesh

Liberia

Myanmar

Belarus

Mauritania

Belarus

Mauritania

Belarus

Libya

Somalia

Burundi

Myanmar

Burundi

Myanmar

Burundi

Madagascar

Sudan

Cambodia

Nepal

Central African Republic

Nepal

Cabo Verde

Mauritania

Syrian Arab Republic

Central African Republic

Nigeria

Chad

Nigeria

Cambodia

Nepal

Turkmenistan

Chad

Pakistan

Comoros

Pakistan

Central African Republic

Nigeria

Uzbekistan

Comoros

Sierra Leone

Congo

Sierra Leone

Chad

Pakistan

Zimbabwe

Congo

Somalia

Cote d'lvoire

Somalia

Comoros

Sierra Leone

Cote d'lvoire

South Sudan

Cuba

South Sudan

Congo

South Sudan

Cuba

Sudan

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Sudan

Cote d'lvoire

Swaziland

Democratic People's Republic of Korea

Swaziland

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Swaziland

Cuba

Tajikistan

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Syrian Arab Republic

Djibouti

Syrian Arab Republic

Djibouti

Togo

Djibouti

Tajikistan

Equatorial Guinea

Tajikistan

Ethiopia

Venezuela

Equatorial Guinea

Togo

Eritrea

Togo

Fiji

Viet Nam

Eritrea

Turkmenistan

Ethiopia

Turkmenistan

Gu nea

Yemen, Rep.

Ethiopia

Uzbekistan

Fiji

Uzbekistan

Guinea-Bissau

Fiji

Venezuela

Gu nea

Venezuela

Guinea

Viet Nam

Guinea-Bissau

Viet Nam

Guinea-Bissau

Yemen

Haiti

Yemen

Haiti

Zimbabwe

lran

Zimbabwe

Source: Author’s calculations based on Pritchett, L. et al. (2013), “Looking like a state: Techniques of persistent failure in state capability for implementation”, Journal of Development Studies, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 1-18, Taylor & Francis, London.

Fragility is, itself, a marker of inequality.

The scenarios presented in this chapter demonstrate the urgency of tackling violence and instability sufficiently early in the implementation of the new development agenda, so that a foundation can be built for accelerated reductions of poverty in the 2020s. They also show, however, how hard it will be to improve institutions at the rate needed to reach thresholds envisaged for the new development goals.

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Notes

← 1. The methodology used by the OECD to create the fragile states monitoring list has evolved over time. From 2005-06, the OECD fragile states list was assembled by identifying states in the bottom two quintiles of the World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) ranking as fragile. The 2007 list took a similar approach but included non-ranked states, as well as several states that clustered just above the fourth quintile cut off. From 2008-10, the list was compiled using the bottom two CPIA quintiles, as well as data from the Brookings Index of State Weakness in the Developing World (2008) and the Carleton University’s Country Indicators for Foreign Policy index (2007).

← 2. Robustness of these indicators reflects substantial and sustained international investments in data, notably via the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program. See www.dhsprogram.com and the UNICEF Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys at www.unicef.org/statistics/index_24302.html.

← 3. Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Swaziland and Viet Nam are vulnerable in the institutions cluster, although they have never appeared on a fragile states list. Likewise, China, India, Mozambique, Panama, Tanzania and Zambia are vulnerable in the justice cluster. Fiji, Swaziland, Turkmenistan and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela appear in both clusters.