Sixty countries, with a combined population of about two billion people, are "in
danger of collapse" according to a recently released survey.
But the good news, at least for the moment, is that Cambodia is not one of them.
In what is being described as "the first annual Failed States Index," the
American public affairs journal Foreign Policy and the Washington, DC-based NGO Fund
for Peace have ranked countries around the world that they say are "about to
go over the brink".
The rankings include three categories: "critical," "in danger"
The Ivory Coast tops the list as the world's most unstable country and "most
vulnerable to disintegration." Gambia rounds out the bottom at #60.
In between are countries allegedly in trouble all over the globe, including some
of Cambodia's closest neighbors.
Vietnam (#52), along with the Philippines (#56) and Indonesia (#46), are considered
"borderline", while Laos (#28) and Burma (#23) are ranked as "in danger".
Bangladesh (#17) is the nearest country in the region considered "critical".
The two other countries in Asia considered "critical" are Afghanistan (#11)
and North Korea (#13).
Ironically, Nepal (#35), which is wrestling with a Maoist-inspired insurgency that
has claimed around 10,000 lives since 1996, is only considered "in danger".
The survey used 12 indicators of instability, many of which will ring familiar to
those who have followed Cambodia's evolution from a "war ravaged" country
wracked by 30 years of civil war, Khmer Rouge madness and more civil war to one described
post-UNTAC as something else, such as "emerging democracy" or "transitional
state" to cite two of the more genteel descriptions of the Kingdom found in
print in recent years.
For each of the indicators - including Demographic Pressures, Uneven Development,
Human Rights, and Factionalized Elites to name a few - the Fund for Peace "computed
scores using software that analyzed data from tens of thousands of international
and local media sources from the last half of 2004."
Using a 1-to-10 scale, indicator rankings are computed and then totaled. The Ivory
Coast tops out at 106.0, for an average of 8.83 per indicator. The Democratic Republic
of Congo, Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Yemen, Liberia, and Haiti follow
in that order.
So what about Cambodia?
Krista Hendry, Project Manager of the Failed States Index at the Fund for Peace (FfP)
told the Post by e-mail that the reason Cambodia is not listed is simple: it wasn't
"The [Index] was based on only a sample of countries. We updated a list of vulnerable
countries using the 'World Conflict and Human Rights Map' produced by Leiden University
in The Netherlands. The map identifies states with a history of high levels of internal
violence and political oppression," Hendry wrote. "Over the course of the
next several months, the FfP will conduct rankings of all 191 UN member countries
to complete the Index. ... When we do run Cambodia, we will add it to the list and
put it on our website."
Until then Cambodia watchers will have to content themselves with idle speculation
on whether the Kingdom's stability glass is half-full, half-empty or something else.
But the FfP's own analysis of the Index gives reason to pause: "Among the 12
indicators we use, two consistently rank near the top. Uneven development is high
in almost all the states in the index, suggesting that inequality within states -
and not merely poverty - increases instability. Criminal-ization or delegitimization
of the state, which occurs when state institutions are regarded as corrupt, illegal,
or ineffective, also figured prominently."
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