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Tipping Points 2020: The Ups and Downs of Fragility

For the second year, The New Humanitarian has partnered with the Fragile States Index to consider how state fragility can both cause and exacerbate humanitarian crises, complicate aid response, and hold back longer-term development agendas.

The FSI, produced by the Fund for Peace, a Washington-based think tank, scores 178 countries based on 12 political, social, and economic indicators, looking at inequality, displacement, security, public services, and external intervention.

As defined by the OECD, fragility is “the combination of exposure to risk and insufficient coping capacity of the state, system, and/or communities to manage, absorb, or mitigate… risks.” That can all “lead to negative outcomes including violence, the breakdown of institutions, displacement, humanitarian crises or other emergencies.” 



What that means for people on the ground, the citizens of those fragile states, is lives and livelihoods upended, often for prolonged periods of time. So take a look at the 2020 FSI rankings and then, for a look at the lives behind the data, explore our coverage below. And keep in mind that the elephant in every room these days – COVID-19 – hadn’t yet appeared when the data for this year’s FSI was collected. “The Arab Spring was the last time we saw something of its kind – a multi-country event that occurred after the index had stopped measuring for the year,” Fund for Peace Executive Director J.J. Messner explained. “But COVID-19 will be of considerably greater magnitude.”

The 2020 Fragile 15: Behind the FSI Rankings, Lives Upended

Data determines index rankings, but behind those numbers are lives. Here’s a look at life on the ground in 15 of the world’s most fragile states.

Q&A: The paths into and out of ‘fragility’

The Fragile States Index has measured the impact of war, economic collapse, revolutions, and natural disasters. But COVID-19 is truly unprecedented.

Five ways to build resilience in fragile health systems

It’s time to shift our thinking away from just filling the gaps left by fragility.

What West Africa’s resilience can teach the world about COVID-19

Money and expertise solve most crises. But a pandemic is different.

Table: Complete FSI rankings
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