The article describes the meaning of a fragile state and provides the indicators that help to measure the fragility of the state.

Nowadays, there are a lot of questions concerning the state ‘fragility’ and ‘failure’ in developing countries that mired in poverty, conflicts, wars. It is important to understand the determinants that push the country into long-term vulnerable conditions.

Definition of Fragile State.

         In the beginning, it would be better to highlight the definition of a fragile state. The most common description is that a fragile state is a fundamental failure of the government to perform basic functions and provide necessary services to citizens. According to World Bank definition: “share a common fragility, in two particular respects: State policies and institutions are weak in these countries: making them vulnerable in their capacity to deliver services to their citizens, to control corruption, or to provide for sufficient voice and accountability. They face risks of conflict and political instability.”

       Fragility makes an impact on millions of people around the worlds. In 2020, around 1.8 billion people were living in fragile conditions. Fragile states are characterized by extremely low living standards of the population, inaccessibility of education and medical care for the majority of the population, lack of security and a sustainable environment. In consequence, these factors lead to poverty, violence, inequality, displacement. Also, the number of fragile states include those countries that have not reached the Millennium Development Goals, which are exactly the eradication of poverty, the protection of women’s rights, the provision of universal primary education, the fight against epidemics, etc.

         The Fragile State Index consider the situations of 178 countries. In 2020 the top position of fragile state took Yemen, a country with civil war and humanitarian catastrophe. In 2nd place is Somalia, 3rd South Sudan, 4th Syria, 5th Congo (Democratic Republic), 6th the Central African Republic, 7th Chad, 8th Sudan, 9th Afghanistan, 10th Zimbabwe.

How to measure a fragile state?

         The fragility can be measured by different indicators. In the case of OECD, there are economic, environmental, political, security, societal dimensions. Five dimensions include 44 indicators, which help to measure risks and cope with fragility. The multidimensional fragility framework provides information about fragility, risks and resilience, later, based on this information, international organizations can help to eliminate the causes of instability in each dimension. According to OECD fragility framework 2020, there are 13 countries that extremely fragile, and 44 countries have another fragile context.

      Another important indicator for determining the level of fragility provided by the Fund for Peace.  In this case, Fragile States measurement is determined on the conflict assessment, also known as CAST. One of the tasks of CAST is to assess the vulnerability of states to collapse, especially on the frame time of pre-conflict, active conflict and post-conflict situations. Twelve conflict risk indicators help to measure the condition of a state at any time.

Cohesion: security apparatus (security threats to a state), factionalized elites (fragmentation of state institutions along ethnic, class, clan, racial or religious lines), group grievance (divisions of a different group in society);

Economic: economic decline (economic decline within a country), uneven economic development (inequality within the economy), human flight and brain drain (economic and political impact of human displacement);

Political: state legitimacy (the representativeness and openness of government and its relationship with its citizens), public services (basic state functions that serve the people), human rights and rule of law (fundamental human rights);

Social: demographic pressures (pressures upon the state from the population or the environment around), refugees and IDPs (measures refugees and Internally Displaced Persons by country), external intervention (impact of external actors in the functioning).

        It is important to understand that the issues of fragile state can make an impact on each country in the world, and even change the world order. The threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, illicit trade, criminals, epidemics, mass migration can touch the lives of anyone. That is why the world community have a high interest in resolving the problem of fragile states.

Written by: Tetiana Gavrilenko


Fund for Peace. Fragile States Index Annual Report 2020. Washington: The Fund for Peace, 2017. Available at

Fund for Peace. Fragile States Index. Methodology.  Washington: The Fund for Peace, 2017. Available at 

OECD. States of Fragility 2020. Paris: OECD, 2020. Available at Management/oecd/development/states-of-fragility-2020_ba7c22e7-en#page1

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