By Keffyalew Gebremedhin
In its June –July 2012 issue, Foreign Policy magazine has, in collaboration with the Fund for Peace, published the 2012 Failed States Index, the eighth in the series.
This year’s report gives 10 reasons why countries fall apart. It clearly shows that the collapse of a failed state is a process. Countries fail, the report states, “not in an explosion of war and violence but by being utterly unable to take advantage of their society’s huge potential for growth, condemning their citizens to a lifetime of poverty.”
The researchers’ next most important recognition is that Failed States become what they are “because they are ruled by…”extractive” economic institutions, which destroy incentives, discourage innovation, and sap the talent of their citizens by creating a tilted playing field and robbing them of opportunities.”
Jammed between Kenya and Burundi, in the 2012 index Ethiopia is ranked the 17th Failed State. What is striking about this Ethiopia’s latest standing is deterioration of the country’s overall situation from its 2011 ranking, which was 20th.
Deterioration has been noted across several of the 12 metrics. Its identification coded by strong red is interpreted as signifying the country being in a critical situation.
Once again, the number one failed state position is occupied by Somalia.
Hereunder are the 12 metrics by which the condition of a state is assessed. Annotation of what is meant by each of them is also included to enable readers to make their judgements about the data on Ethiopia:
The Fund for Peace defines this as deriving from high population density relative to food supply and other life sustaining resources. Also this situation is characterized group settlement pressures that affect the freedom to participate in common forms of human and physical activity, including economic productivity, travel, social interactions. The resultant situation reflects skewed population distributions, such as a ‘youth or age bulge’, due to divergent rates of population growth among competing communal groups, according to research by the Fund for Peace.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 9.6 out of ten under this metric, compared to its 9.1 standing in 2011. Out of the remaining 58 other countries, the countries under most severe demographic pressure in 2012 are Congo DR with a score of 9.9, followed by Somalia with 9.8 points.
This situation reflects the forced uprooting of large communities as a result of random or targeted violence and/or repression, causing food shortages, disease, lack of clean water, land competition, and turmoil that can spiral into larger humanitarian and security problems, both within and between countries, according to the Fund for Peace studies.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.7, compared to its 8.2 standing in 2011.
Group grievance (↑)
This relates to a history of aggrieved communal groups based on recent or past injustices, which could date back centuries. Such a past reflects patterns of atrocities committed with impunity against communal groups. It also arises, according to the Fund for Peace, form specific groups being singled out by state authorities, or by dominant groups, for persecution or repression. A state with such intentions institutionalizes political exclusion. According to the Fund for Peace, a typical situation that engenders group grievances also allows practice of public scapegoating of groups believed to have acquired wealth, status or power as evidenced in the emergence of “hate” radio, pamphleteering and stereotypical or nationalistic political rhetoric.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.1 under this metric, compared to its 8.4 standing in 2011. Ironically, at a time when group grievances gave increased in the country, the score indicates improvement. My suspicion is that the data for 2012 may have much earlier cut off point, which has not taken into account the deterioration of the situation in Ethiopia. Incidentally, with the exception of the Sudan, overall the data score has also shown relative minor improvements.
Human flight (↑)
The Fund for Peace interprets this as caused by persecution and resulting in “brain drain” of professionals, intellectuals and political dissidents fearing persecution or repression; Voluntary emigration of “the middle class,” particularly economically productive segments of the population, such as entrepreneurs, business people, artisans and traders, due to economic deterioration and the growth of exile communities.
In 2012, the human flight situation also reflects improvement in data terms. Ethiopia scored 7.0, compared to its 7.2 standing in 2011.
In the previous version of this article, the arrow for Ethiopia was showing down, when it is supposed to be up position.
Uneven development (↑)
This relates to: (a) Group-based inequality, or perceived inequality, in education, jobs, and economic status; (b) Group-based impoverishment as measured by poverty levels, infant mortality rates, education levels; and, (c) The rise of communal nationalism based on real or perceived group inequalities.
Ethiopia’s score under this metric shows slight improvement, from 8.2 in 2011 to 7.9 in 2012. The score for the 59 countries reported as failed states also reflects slight change to the better, possibly because of improved economic activities.
Economic decline (↑)
By definition of the Fund for Peace, such a situation is characterized by: (a) A pattern of progressive economic decline of the society as a whole as measured by per capita income, GNP, debt, child mortality rates, poverty levels, business failures, and other economic measures; (b) Sudden drop in commodity prices, trade revenue, foreign investment or debt payments; (c) Collapse or devaluation of the national currency; (d) Extreme social hardship imposed by economic austerity programs; (e) Growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling, and capital flight; (f) Increase in levels of corruption and illicit transactions among the general populace; (g) Failure of the state to pay salaries of government employees and armed forces or to meet other financial obligations to its citizens, such as pension payments.
Ethiopia has scored 7.4 points in 2012, compared to 7.7 percent in 2011. I suggest the Fund for Peace to revisit its grading. For instance, in the case of Ethiopia since autumn 2011 double-digit inflation has been worse, especially food inflation, which continues to this day. On the contrary, it shows improvement.
It appears that this metric has not been sensitive to the adverse impacts on Ethiopian lives of the conditions under (c) and (d), above.
Delegitimization of the state (↑)
This occurs, according to the Fund for Peace, when: (a) Massive and endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elites is reality; (b) Resistance of ruling elites disallow transparency, accountability and political representation; (c) Widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes common phenomena, e.g., widely boycotted or contested elections, mass public demonstrations, sustained civil disobedience, inability of the state to collect taxes, resistance to military conscription, rise of armed insurgencies; (d) Growth of crime syndicates is linked to ruling elites.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 7.2 under this metric, compared to its 7.5 standing in 2011. In terms of the metrics, there is slight improvement.
Nevertheless, again here the actual situation is reportedly negative, seen from what is being reported on the media and public reactions to the behavior of the state. Opinion polls done in autumn speak of a different reality. There is also the public reactions to the state’s overreach in respect of property ownership, urban lands, massive handing over of rural lands to foreign investors, etc.
Public services =
This situation is measured by: (a) Disappearance of basic state functions that serve the people, including failure to protect citizens from terrorism and violence and to provide essential services, such as health, education, sanitation, public transportation; and, (b) State apparatus narrows to those agencies that serve the ruling elites, such as the security forces, presidential staff, central bank, diplomatic service, customs and collection agencies.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.4 out of ten under this metric, compared to its 8.4 standing in 2011. Again, I am strongly skeptical of the manner how this critical metric is assessed. In Ethiopia, so far 2012 has been hellish time for the government due to the lack of goods and services. Public criticism of state instituions has also been fierce.
I suggest that the Fund for Peace should revisit its sources of data.
Human rights (↓)
This, in the views of the Fund for Peace, is a situation characterized by: (a) Emergence of authoritarian, dictatorial or military rule in which constitutional and democratic institutions and processes are suspended or manipulated; (b) Outbreak of politically inspired (as opposed to criminal) violence against innocent civilians; (c) Rising number of political prisoners or dissidents who are denied due process consistent with international norms and practices; (d) Widespread abuse of legal, political and social rights, including those of individuals, groups or cultural institutions (e.g., harassment of the press, politicization of the judiciary, internal use of military for political ends, public repression of political opponents, religious or cultural persecution).
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.6, compared to its 8.5 standing in 2011. Nonetheless, seen especially from the angle of human rights violations charges and accusations brought against the state from within and without, the degree of deterioration is insignificant.
Security apparatus (↑)
This relates to: (a) Emergence of elite or praetorian guards that operate with impunity; (b) Emergence of state-sponsored or state-supported private militias that terrorize political opponents, suspected “enemies,” or civilians seen to be sympathetic to the opposition; (c) Emergence of an “army within an army” that serves the interests of the dominant military or political clique; and, (d) Emergence of rival militias, guerilla forces or private armies in an armed struggle or protracted violent campaigns against state security forces.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.1 out of ten under this metric, compared to its 8.5 standing in 2011. By mistake, in the earlier version of this article it was reported as deterioration.
Nonetheless, to give better credibility to its exercise in building a list of Failed States, the Fund for Peace needs to reexamine this metric with better analysis and data collection.
There is need for better propinquity between what is intended to be measured and the reality obtaining in a given country.
Factionalized elites (↑)
This is a situation in which: (a) Fragmentation of ruling elites and state institutions along group lines is observable; and, (b) 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”) becomes common practice.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.7, compared to its 9.0 standing in 2011. Here too, the condition indicated under (b) is getting more and more magnified in Ethiopia.
External interventions (↓)
This metric deals with: (a) Military or Para-military engagement in the internal affairs of the state at risk by outside armies, states, identity groups or entities that affect the internal balance of power or resolution of the conflict; and, (b) Intervention by donors, especially if there is a tendency towards over-dependence on foreign aid or peacekeeping missions.
In 2012, Ethiopia scored 8.2, compared to its 8.1 standing in 2011. While the reality under (b) is a constant in a developing country, how the variation from 2011 is arrived at would be fascinating to learn.
When this is summed up, the deterioration in Ethiopia’s standing is justified, given the reality in the country. As shown above, however, has received seven (↑), for improvements; one (=) for unchanged situation, and four (↓) deterioration.
Interestingly, the deteriorations are in the critical areas of human rights, refugee situations, demographic pressures and external intervention. The discrepancy in this assessment of failure of states, if one takes the case of Ethiopia, is that these areas where serious deteriorations have been noticed cannot been seen from legitimacy of the state.
In this report, delegitimization of the state has improved in Ethiopia, while human rights situations have worsened, as verified by credible international reports.
This report is important. However, it is terribly in need of improvement. Therefore, as shown by the above dichotomy this situation calls for serious revision of the methods so far being used by its architect and, its presenter, the Foreign Policy magazine (FP).
Interpretation of symbols:
Read the full report from Foreign Policy
*Reissued for technical reasons, already mentioned in the document.