Images From the World's Most Failed States
June 25, 2010 2:18 PM   Subscribe

Postcards From Hell — For the last half-decade, the Fund for Peace, working with Foreign Policy, has been putting together the Failed States Index (the 2010 version is out), using a battery of indicators to determine how stable—or unstable—a country is. But as the photos here demonstrate, sometimes the best test is the simplest one: You'll only know a failed state when you see it.

More photo essays from Foreign Policy.

Previously. Failed States Index 2009.

Postcards from Hell is not in any way affiliated with Raffaele Ciriello, posted previously on MeFi.
posted by netbros (16 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's too bad the Failed States Index only goes back to 2005. It would be interesting to know how the US-led invasions might have affected the ranking of Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which are in the "top" ten on this year's list.

That Zimbabwe photograph is heartbreaking.
posted by twirlip at 2:44 PM on June 25, 2010


Feel obligated to review these. The title is excruciatingly apt.

Why do these people have to experience this before they die, while the people who caused these conditions seem to flourish like the green bay tree?
posted by bearwife at 3:01 PM on June 25, 2010


I was surprised to see Bhutan on this list. Even after looking at the individual scores, I'm having a hard time squaring it with the idea that Bhutan is one of the happiest countries in the world.

Some of these pictures didn't come across to me as "failed state." I love the girl's clothes in this one. This one seems very calm to me. The old woman is well-dressed and the policeman isn't carrying any large or obvious weaponry.
posted by jeoc at 3:21 PM on June 25, 2010


bearwife: "Why do these people have to experience this before they die, while the people who caused these conditions seem to flourish like the green bay tree?"

But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
posted by The White Hat at 3:25 PM on June 25, 2010


I was surprised to see Bhutan on this list. Even after looking at the individual scores, I'm having a hard time squaring it with the idea that Bhutan is one of the happiest countries in the world.

here's a breakdown of the scores. The only place Bhutan scored over an 8 is "uneven development". I'm not really sure what a lot of these criteria mean. "Group Grievance"?
posted by luvcraft at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2010


The Fund for Peace website has a Failed States Index FAQ. The fourth question explains the criteria in a bit more detail.
posted by twirlip at 4:27 PM on June 25, 2010


All states fail. Some are just better at hiding that.
posted by Twang at 5:16 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am mildly surprised that Madagascar didn't even make the cut. My wife, who has travelled extensively to some really weird places for birding, told me, "People think rural central Mexico is the third world, but people there drive VW's and have satellite TV. Kenya makes rural central Mexico look like the First World. But Madagascar makes Kenya look like the first world." She got this impression BEFORE the coup, led by an inflammatory radio personality widely believed to be a puppet of foreign business interests, and now the forests she went to see have been logged, nobody has heard from some of the guides who led her there for months, and it may turn out that she is one of only a handful of westerners who ever got to see the Madagascar Serpent-Eating Eagle before it went extinct.
posted by localroger at 5:27 PM on June 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


While several criteria were likely used in determining index score, single photos of depravity and a short paragraph can't necessarily depict the health and well being of an entire country. Imagine photos of the US taken in the midst of the LA riots or the MLK fires of the late 60s, or Western Europe during WWII, etc., and a very different image of the "developed" or non-failed states might arise. Still, these are very moving images, and provide a valuable, albeit small, snapshot of certain areas of the world where people are suffering.
posted by mandro at 5:44 PM on June 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would be interesting to know how the US-led invasions might have affected the ranking of Afghanistan and Iraq

Afghanistan has pretty much been a poster child of failed states at least since the departure of the Soviets in 1989 (which was followed by years of multi-factional civil wars). It wasn't any great shakes before they waltzed in, either. I don't know of a time in recent history when Afghanistan would not have at least been a candidate for such a list. An argument could be made for stability during the Taliban era, but aside from the human rights abuses, they never completely controlled the country either.

Iraq became a borderline failed state as a result of the Iran-Iraq War followed by the invasion of Kuwait followed by international sanctions.

The only examples in my lifetime of prosperous, peaceful states becoming failed states as a direct result of war predated the term: Lebanon, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
posted by dhartung at 7:09 PM on June 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the post, netbros. A sobering look, indeed.

And your comment directly above is very well put, mandro.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:09 PM on June 25, 2010


Out of curiosity and ignorance: Why does the police uniform in the Bhutan photo say police in English?

I've always wanted to go to Madagascar for some reason I couldn't quite articulate. There was a Madagascar Serpent-Eating Eagle? That would have been a great reason.
posted by freejinn at 7:45 PM on June 25, 2010


I've always wanted to go to Madagascar for some reason I couldn't quite articulate.

I've always wanted to go for the valiha.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:56 PM on June 25, 2010


So it's looking like Africa needs to lift its game.
posted by the noob at 3:45 AM on June 26, 2010


No Belgium?
posted by quarsan at 5:06 AM on June 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


jeoc: I was surprised to see Bhutan on this list. Even after looking at the individual scores, I'm having a hard time squaring it with the idea that Bhutan is one of the happiest countries in the world.

The King of Bhutan coined the term "Gross National Happiness" and the government decides what constitutes the citizens' happiness. In other words, their much lauded happiness is probably a myth. Does that help?
posted by ReWayne at 7:18 AM on June 26, 2010


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