Friday, May 3, 2024

Warnings and alerts (2024)

From the May 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Fund for Peace, as it is called, is supported financially by a number of donors, including various US government agencies and companies such as Exxon and Chevron. Each year it publishes a Fragile States Index ( A total of 179 countries are assessed on the basis of a range of criteria, with four kinds of ‘indicator’ being employed, in order to measure their supposed vulnerability to collapse. Cohesion indicators deal with areas such as the extent of organised crime and how much trust people have in domestic security. Economic indicators include inflation and productivity, while political ones cover whether elections are considered as free and fair, how corrupt officials are, and so on. What are termed social and cross-cutting indicators include infant mortality, food supply, environmental policies etc.

The 2023 report divides countries into eleven categories, from ‘Very sustainable’ via ‘Warning’ to ‘Very high alert’. This last category had just one member, Somalia. The highest-ranking included Norway and Iceland, with Germany and France in ‘Sustainable’ and the UK and US in the fourth category of ‘More stable’. The UK has been slipping down the ratings since 2010, while France has been improving a bit recently, despite the regular protests and the unpopularity of President Macron. Under ‘Stable’ came Kuwait and Cuba. China and Saudi Arabia were classified into ‘Warning’, with South Africa and India in ‘Elevated Warning’. Russia, North Korea and Rwanda were in ‘High warning’, Venezuela and Iraq in ‘Alert’ and Haiti and Syria in ‘High alert’.

One of the more interesting aspects of the work is the list of countries that have worsened or improved since 2022. A few have improved slightly, such as Yemen and Bolivia, while others have become worse, headed by Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Russia. Russia has become more authoritarian and thousands have fled conscription: ‘While Russia’s expansionism was an attempt to consolidate power and influence, the effect has been a weakening both domestically and abroad’.

Ukraine of course is given plenty of attention. It moved in a year from being the 92nd most fragile to the 18th, and its situation is having a major impact on global food supply chains. Energy prices generally have risen, and there has been a massive outflow of Ukrainian refugees. Funding and supplies may be redirected to Ukraine from countries such as Yemen and Ethiopia.

Sudan has consistently been ranked in the ten most fragile countries, and the 2021 coup led to a military-run government, though protests continued in the capital, Khartoum. Since it became ‘independent’ from Britain and Egypt, Sudan has been subjected to various conflicts between the government and regional groups, the result often being ‘peace agreements that are in fact power-sharing agreements that benefit the top ranks of the armed groups’.

What does it matter? What does it reveal? Governments and various members of ruling classes often need to know how volatile a country is, for both military and economic reasons. How reliable is this place as a trading or manufacturing partner? What are the chances of it descending into civil war, or some kind of coup taking place? Is there any possibility of no longer being able to access resources or products? More generally, what impact might it have on profits? Questions like this are no doubt very worrying to those who seek to ensure their continued exercise of wealth and power.

For the rest of us, though, it shows, not so much how fragile particular countries are, but what a state the world is in, that things are not simply getting better, as some claim, and how so many people live dangerous and insecure lives. And how urgent a major change is.
Paul Bennett

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