IPCS Review

Nepal: Failure of the Failed States Index

12 Aug, 2013    ·   4085

Pramod Jaiswal critiques the FSI vis-a-vis Nepal 

Pramod Jaiswal
Pramod Jaiswal
Senior Fellow, China Research Programme (CRP)
The Fund for Peace’s ninth annual Failed States Index (FSI) has been released. The index looks at four Social Indicators (Demographic Pressures, Refugees and IDPS, Group Grievance, Human Flight), two Economic Indicators (Uneven Development and Poverty and Economic Decline) and six Political and Military Indicators (Legitimacy of the State, Public Services, Human Rights, Security Apparatus, Factionalized Elites and External Intervention) to rank 178 countries around the world intending to analyze their proximity towards the failed state. 

Since the index has given equal weightage to all the twelve indicators and it has also taken four social indicators, two economic and six political and military indicators, the room for criticism is ample. Not all the indicators have equal potential to demonstrate a state as failed. Index also shows that Political and Military indicators are more responsible (as it has six indicators) than Social (four categories) and Economic indicators (two categories) in ranking the state as failed.
This argument again is dubious as different countries have different factors, different challenges that could lead it to the stature of a failed state. For instance, one state can use Demography as an asset while it can be a liability to another. Some of the indicators can be combined, such as ‘Group Grievance’ with ‘Factionalized Elite’ and ‘Human Rights’ with ‘Security Apparatus’. The protection of human rights is influenced by how the Security Apparatus works.  Moreover, a grave deliberation is unavoidable on how each country views the state legitimacy of others. The concept of successful Western Liberal Democratic states is taken as the indicator for the calculation of the index. The factors taken into consideration for measuring each indicator is   imprecise as well. 

It is hard to believe that most African countries have better human rights records than countries like India, China and Russia. The FSI is based on the number of challenges a nation faces but it fails to take into account, its capacity to deal with the challenges. 

Nepal, a country in transition, is ranked 30 in the latest report while it was 27 in 2012.  Notably, it was 35 in 2005 and 20 in 2006. 2005 was the year when Nepal was under direct rule after King Gyanendra dismissed the elected government and declared a State of Emergency. Freedom of the Press was attacked and much to the knowledge of everyone, human rights violation was extensive. The country was in serious crisis and instability was prevalent. However, FSI report failed to reflect on it. The report seems to be incorrect and unconvincing. Although people took to streets against the King in 2005, the report states that group grievance was as low as 5.6 in 2005 but sharp increase of 9.2 has been shown in 2006 when people got hope for stability with the signing of Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). The monarchy was abolished and a decade long civil war ended. The report of 2005 embodies the influence of the then dictatorial regime. In 2007, group grievances should have increased as Madesh Movement erupted in the southern plains of Nepal but the report fails to take it into account. 

It is unconvincing to note that human flight was 4 in 2005, while people lived in fear during emergency rule of King Gyanendra and it increased after democratic and republic regime was restored in Nepal. Human rights violation was very high in 2005 under direct rule of King Gyanendra which is rightly predicted. There is slight improvement in this field in 2013 with score of 7.9. It has rightly pointed out that there is no change in security apparatus of 2005 and 2013 while there were ups and downs between both the periods. The FSI does not provide deep and comprehensive analysis on the situation of Nepal. It fails to convince that public service was better in 2005 and 2006 while it deteriorates in later years. It is hard to accredit that FSI follows proper methodology to measure the legitimacy of the state. It gives almost similar score to dictatorial regime of King Gyanendra and elected government of Nepal. The movement of Refugees and IDPs was 8 in 2005, a number which fell drastically  in 2006 but again accelerated in later years, which is implausible. The index seems to be correct on external intervention indicator of Nepal.

Nepal is passing through a crucial phase of transition. It is struggling to get its constitution written from Constituent Assembly and an agreement on federalism issue looks far-fetched.  Despite all these challenges, Nepal is standing on comparatively stable grounds than in the past. The violent civil war has come to an end and there is remarkable decline in the number of protests and strikes. Much of the group grievances and varied opinions of elites are heard after revival of democratic culture in Nepal which guarantees safety and security to the people. If the Constituent Assembly Election II takes place as scheduled and new constitution is promulgated, it will create a space to believe that Nepal will secure itself a better position in FSI index.