Blogs > Cliopatria > The Failed States Index and Africa

Jul 25, 2005 9:25 pm

The Failed States Index and Africa

Foreign Policy and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have issued their disquieting first "Failed States Index." We need to pay serious attention to the index and its findings. More than a third of the countries are African nations, including seven of the ten most failed states. perhaps the most alarming fact is how deep the list goes. It is 60 deep, and I wouldimagine that most of you would have little interest in moving to a lot of those countries. Iran? Cuba? There are more than fifty-five countries considered to be failing worse than these authoritarian nightmares. Even more sobering? Niger, which is in danger of succumbing to a famine in which it is feared that death tolls might surpass a quarter million, is not even on the list.

It also seems germane to point out that Smith College Professor Eric Reeves gave the best overview I have seen of the Sudan crisis over the course of five days last week in The New Republic's"&c." notes section. You'll need to scroll down (I am not hyperlinking separately because it comes in five parts), and the five lessons are long -- I printed them up after some reformatting and it comes to some fifteen single-spaced pages, but it is essential reading. And The Sudan only ranks third in the Failed States Index, which tells us much that we need to know about life in C'ote d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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Derek Charles Catsam - 7/26/2005

Same old same old, nothing new, invoking ideology, not actually addressing either my post or the study at hand, grinding your axes.



chris l pettit - 7/26/2005

All i am pointing out is the paucity of trying to define a failed state...

I do not question Carnegie's commitment...I am freindly with and respectful of many of the lawyers and activists there. What I am pointing out is that ideologues can then use these rankings to push their pet projects. For instance, state governments can state that the DRC is a failed state and then try and justify intervention when what is really happening is a grab for resources and the opening of opportunities for multi-national corporations to exploit the situation.

In addition, for the most part the study addresses the problems on the periphery...perhaps you would like to address the point that the international system would have to be changed radically in a way that you would howl about in order to truly make a difference in these failed states? How about the idea that there are failed states in the guise of power states in the international hierarchy, such as the US, that are doing more harm to the overall international system than the failed states listed? We must view things on a macro level as well as micro level. To simply view these findings in terms of the individual states is simply ignorant. They must be considered in relation to the regions and international community. The failings of the regions and international community must be taken into consideration.

So the findings of this study have a much larger chance of being utilized in an ideological manner or misinterpreted (out of either ignorance or intentionally) than being prperly interpreted and utilized to improve the situations in the states as interrelated with the region and the international community.


Derek Charles Catsam - 7/26/2005

Chris --
So at whom, precisely, is your outrage directed? Are you saying that the Carnegie Endowment of Peace is somehow less committed to human rights than Chris Pettit? (And at no point is anyone denying that the Sudan and Congo are in awful straits; get over yourself) So the only nonsense on stilts is your using these reports to proffer the same old wine in new skins. If you think pointing out the prospect of failed states is nonsense, more power to you. But you are butt naked wrong.

chris l pettit - 7/25/2005

Having been to both Sudan and DRC in the past year, I can attest that the two are in awful states in terms of basic human needs...

That being said...I want to know what can really be gleaned from these statistical exercises apart from either the conclusion that human rights are universal and must be protected in all states and particularly in those most at risk or that ideologues will use the findings for their own pet projects? Where is the condemnation of the role of the international community and the powerful states in creating these disasters and allowing them to foster? Where is the outrage at the fact the the "debt relief" offered to the continent is in reality basically more "free market" nonsense aimed at exploiting Africa's markets (why do they think millions have died in DRC?)? Where is the idea that, if these statistics were viewed in anything other than a cynical self interested manner it would entail a complete overhaul of the international system, a rejection of damn near every international US economic, diplomatic and military policy. and major restrictions on mu8lti national corporations (Exxon, Coke, BP, Shell, etc are some of the most egregious supporters of atrocities in current times).

What constitutes a failed state? I would put many developing states in Africa in a far advanced position compared to a truly failed state such as the US, if one was speaking of anything other than economic factors. These states at least have the beginnings of infrastructures and some respect for international law and the rule of law. Their institutions have not reached the point where they are so convoluted, twisted, and useless that the only real way to make progress will be to tear them down and start again (such as the US judiciary which has nothing to do with law whatsoever and has everything to do with the imposition of rules and ideologies...a big difference).

What do these silly things mean? Are they just further evidence that we need to wake up as a human community? That isnt working, as most individuals insist on their narrow ideologies and self interested idiocies...or thsoe of their artificial hierarchies. What then is the point? TO hope that the billions of miseducated, ideologically blinded, and ignorant humans acually begin to utilize their ability to reason?

So there are failed states...until the international community is one of cooperation and until states such as the US actually stop acting ideologically and start acting in accordance with the rule of law...non of them have any right to act on or even cite the conclusions of these groups. To do so is at best rank hypocrisy, as these states are actually responsible internationally for creating many of the conditions that spawn these failed states...