Wednesday, 20 June 2007

A Closer Look at the Failed States Index - Sudan is really worse than Iraq

Assess before debunking

Having reviewed a few comments on the Failed States Report for 2007, I have decided that it is important to pay a bit more attention to the detail of the figures because certain sceptical views are beginning to pick away that the generalisations.

There is one thought that contends that the methodology is primitive and does not measure up to the standard of metrics used to rate universities, but can that really be the case?

One however can understand that it is difficult to accept that Sudan is more a failed state than either Iraq or Somalia, maybe, but we need to look more at what is being rated.

The Fund For Peace organisation has exposed 12 indicators on which they have based the scoring that has resulted in the rankings we see.

Beneath these broad 12 indicators are some sub-levels of analysis which would have weighted averages; these are all computed using their copyrighted (Conflict Assessment System Tool) CAST methodology and patented CAST software.

The CAST methodology derives most of its information sources from the Thomsen Dialog which is a collection of over 900 databases packing over 15 terabytes of content aggregated from reputable publishers, including news feeds, broadcast transcripts, articles from newspapers and magazines, financial analysis information, references, and research and technical data - this reference in Wikipedia has a postscript seeking balance for this assertion.

This huge database of databases has been piling on data since 1966 and it well predates the Internet as the first online information retrieval system.

The Methodology

The Methodology consists of 5 steps which are followed in chronological order, the detail of which you can follow through from the links below.

Pre-Assessment Steps
Rating the Twelve Indicators

This step is as detailed as represented below for Rwanda, a monthly breakdown of each indicator.

Rating Values

Assessing the Core Five
Identifying STINGS
Building a Conflict Map

The STINGS make interesting reading covering unexpected scenarios that could impact on conflict assessment, I reproduce that below.

STINGS is an acronym used here to describe:

Surprises (e.g., currency collapse)

Triggers (e.g., assassinations, coup d'etats)

Idiosyncrasies (e.g., non-contiguous territory, a deference to authority)

National Temperaments (e.g., cultural or religious perspectives)

Spoilers (e.g., disgruntled followers, excluded parties)

The data set that goes in the whole calculation is computed monthly and laid in a chart is illustrated below.

There are probably a few black arts in deriving a final conflict perspective of and country, but I would be the first to suggest that this all thing does look a bit thorough.

Believing Data or Perception
Now, anyone could probably argue and win the premise that Sudan cannot be more of a failed state than either Iraq or Somalia, I would contend that the data reads a lot different from perception.

Looking at the 12 indicators against the data for the three countries, certain facts become clearer.

The Dirty Dozen

Social Indicators

I-1. Mounting Demographic Pressures

I-2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

I-3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia

I-4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight

Economic Indicators

I-5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines

I-6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline

Political Indicators

I-7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State

I-8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services

I-9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights

I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a "State Within a State"

I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites

I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors

The comparison

The scores for the top 3 failed states show a variation of just 2.2%, though no margin of error is specified, typical consumer awareness studies would accommodate a margin of error of ± 3.0% meaning there is hardly a cigarette paper between these three states.

I-1

I-2

I-3

I-4

I-5

I-6

I-7

I-8

I-9

I-10

I-11

I-12

Total

1

Sudan

9.2

9.8

10

9

9.1

7.7

10

9.5

10

9.9

9.7

9.8

113.7

2

Iraq

9

9

10

9.5

8.5

8

9.4

8.5

9.7

10

9.8

10

111.4

3

Somalia

9.2

9

8.5

8

7.5

9.2

10

10

9.7

10

10

10

111.1

However, one just has to review in detail the country profiles of the said countries to see clearly why the numbers have turned up this way.

For instance, I-2 - Sudan already has over 2 million internally displaced people, Iraq has only just topped 730,000, I-3 - There is clear group grievance between the Shias and Sunnis as Al Qaeda operatives fuel the conflict, the situation in Sudan is between Blacks and the Arabs along with the atrocities of the Janjaweed, however, this is not as pronounced in Somalia. I-9 - Politically, Iraq has more of a government apparatus than either Sudan or Somalia and the human rights record of Sudan is definitely worse than that of both Iraq and Somalia.

At 1-12 - Iraq and Somalia have been invaded by the Coalition Forces and Ethiopia respectively, Sudan has skirmishes with Chad in the border areas and the peace keeping forces are in Sudan by grudging permission of the government in Khartoum.

Conclusion

It is incumbent on the all who develop an opinion on the Failed States Index to study the detail of how these figures came about before they are dismissed outright because of the uncomfortable reading they represent.

It may not be beyond reasonable doubt, but I do not have alternative empirical evidence to dispute these findings apart from acquired perception, neither do I want to be caught by the same bug that bit many regarding the Nigerian Census where people plucked figures out of the air to support there pre-conceptions whilst ignoring the data.

I would hope having an alternative source of global information quite separate from government organs like the CIA and the UN should give us more confidence to see beyond some force globalisation or imperialism painting the Dark Continent even a darker shade of black.

No comments: