By Analise McNicholl
At the Fund for Peace, on-the-ground researchers approach conflict like doctors approach illness; analyze the symptoms of conflict, isolate the problem and judge its severity. Through the Fragile States Index (FSI), researchers collect data at national, provincial, and local levels and rank their findings based on a scale of 12 indicators of stability. However, some states consider the ranking system controversial because it allows western nations to judge the development of more impoverished and conflict-ridden areas.
Speaking to local educators at the World Affairs Council Summer Institute, Patricia Taft explains how the Fund for Peace ranks states on the annually published FSI and how these rankings contribute to strong state building. According to Taft, the FSI aims to provide unstable states with a baseline of measurement for future progress as well as an outlet to encourage dialog between fragile states and the greater international community. In determining the standing of a state, the FSI measures the more obvious signals of stability such as sustainable economic growth, food security, healthcare systems, environmental sustainability, and political stability. However, the system also measures the strength of the private sector. With the rise in regard for social corporate responsibility, private sector growth in developing nations such as Kenya and Nigeria has not only led to economic growth, but to improvements in health care and safety systems. Western companies investing in developing nations have an economic incentive to promote stability in order to protect their own workers and assets, which in turn benefits the state. Ultimately, the Fund for Peace feels the FSI will encourage multi-stakeholder collaboration between state actors, corporations and the international community to establish lasting state stability. Following Taft’s presentation and a lengthy Q & A session, the room buzzed with ideas for possible lesson plans and ways to incorporate the findings of the FSI into classroom discussion.
Patricia Taft is a senior associate and program director at the Fund for Peace and directs research and policy work on countering transnational security threats posed by international crime and terrorist networks.