Newest Fragile States Index Finds U.S. Becoming More Vulnerable to Social, Political Pressures

The Fund for Peace’s Analysis of the Data Showed Conditions in the U.K. Following Brexit Presented Early Warning Signs of Current Blowback in the U.S.

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Fund for Peace (FFP), an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit research and educational organization that works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security, today released its thirteenth annual Fragile States Index. The Index assesses 178 countries across 12 social, economic and political indicators to identify potential risk of social and political turmoil and conflict. The United States ranks as the thirteenth-most worsened state of the year, while Ethiopia, Mexico and Turkey are the most worsened since the 2016 assessment. The 2017 Index also shows pressure continuing to mount in Brazil and South Africa, while Belgium, Italy, Japan and South Korea experienced upticks in fragility.

The Fragile States Index—and the social science framework and software application upon which it is built—serves as a critical tool for governments, international organizations, private corporations, humanitarian organizations, the military, academic scholars and the media. It not only highlights current trends in social, economic and political pressures, but provides risk analysis and serves as a useful metric for measuring the effectiveness of policies and development programs.

The Index also helps governments, NGOs and aid agencies identify where they need to focus their attention. For example, FFP data illustrates that the use of wedge issues—in particular those that target ethnic or cultural groups for short-term political gain—has grave consequences for a nation’s stability.

“Even the most stable countries must pay attention to early warning signs of social and political conflict, as this fragility has a direct causal effect on prosperity and security,” says J.J. Messner, executive director of the Fund for Peace. “Our analysis of 2017 data shows that America’s ranking would have worsened significantly more this year had it not been counter-balanced by its having scored in the top 20 economic performance. Given not only America’s trends—but the trends of other comparable countries as well—it behooves political leaders across the political spectrum to recognize that divisiveness for short-term political gain has demonstrable longer-term destabilizing effects.”

Following the U.K.’s Brexit vote last year, the FFP team conducted an analysis of five years’ worth of the country’s data and found that its group grievance score—measured by the level to which schisms within societal groups can be manipulated for political end—was the seventh-most worsened worldwide over five years. The U.S. performance on this key indicator tracked closely with the U.K., suggesting that America was poised for manifestations of deep division as experienced throughout the U.S. election season. The only countries whose group grievance scores worsened more than the U.K. and the U.S. during that period were Libya, Syria and similarly conflict-riddled countries. The FFP is now tracking similar patterns of decline in Belgium, Germany and Poland.

Some additional case studies from the 2017 Fragile States Index:

  • Ethiopia: Along with Mexico, Ethiopia was the most worsened country of the past year, continuing a decade-long trend of increasing pressures. The most significant issues within Ethiopia are severe drought compounded by land competition and resulting tension between ethnic groups, both of which have been exacerbated by climate conditions. The FFP research team is tracking this trend more broadly and is currently assessing similar patterns elsewhere on the globe.
  • Mexico: Though conditions in Mexico have become more unstable over the past year, it is as yet unclear whether this is part of a broader trend. The FFP is evaluating the extent to which the faltering economy and sharp uptick in homicides detected by the data was compounded by massive negative sentiment toward Mexico as a byproduct of the raucous U.S. election.
  • Turkey: In the aftermath of an attempted coup, followed by a crackdown on political opposition and free media, Turkey’s drift toward authoritarian and illiberal rule saw the country record the third-most worsened score for 2017. Beyond Turkey’s governance challenges, the conflict in Syria continues to have destabilizing spillover effects across the border.
  • South Africa: The economic engine of Africa, South Africa is the sixth-most worsened country of the past decade. Data this year indicates that conditions continue to decline, with a worsening economy and a crisis of confidence in the country’s leadership. Not only is this a serious concern for South Africa, but it could have a bearing on the region more broadly.

“The Fragile States Index is designed to spur conversations, encourage debate and help guide strategies for sustainable security,” says Messner. “We hope the Index this year will empower more citizens and government officials to take decisive action to craft policies that foster greater stability and sustainable human security.”

The 2017 Fragile States Index comprises data collected between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2016. For additional background and access to the complete report, visit

About the Fund for Peace
Founded in 1957, the Fund for Peace is an independent, nonpartisan, 501 (c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization that works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security. We promote sustainable security through research, training and education, engagement of civil society, building bridges across diverse sectors, and developing innovative technologies and tools for policy makers. A leader in the conflict assessment and early warning field, the Fund for Peace focuses on the problems of weak and failing states. Our objective is to create practical tools and approaches for conflict mitigation that are useful to decision-makers.

About the Fragile States Index
The Fragile States Index is an annual ranking of 178 nations based on their levels of stability and the pressures they face. Scores are apportioned for every country based on 12 key political, social and economic indicators and over 100 sub-indicators. The Index is based on the Fund for Peace’s proprietary Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) analytical platform that has been used widely for the last quarter-century by policy makers, field practitioners and local community organizations. Supported by comprehensive social science methodology, data from three primary sources—including quantitative data sets, content analysis of over 50 million data points and expert validation—is triangulated to obtain final scores for the Fragile States Index.

CONTACT: Kate Urbach, 917-575-9513, [email protected]

SOURCE Fund for Peace