Afghanistan, Botswana, and Zimbabwe respond to the 2007 Failed States Index.
Afghanistan is unique among many of the countries highlighted by Foreign Policy's Failed States Index (July/August 2007). While Afghanistan remains a fragile state, failure is not an option. Afghanistan's stability is tied to global security.
Afghanistan is unique among many of the countries highlighted by Foreign Policy’s Failed States Index (July/August 2007). While Afghanistan remains a fragile state, failure is not an option. Afghanistan’s stability is tied to global security.
There is no denying this has been a tough year. Attacks against Afghan and coalition forces increased dramatically. The tactic of suicide bombing, previously unknown to Afghanistan, has been imported to the country from foreign battlefields. Afghanistan continues to score low marks in many social indicators. With the help of international expertise, Afghanistan is slowly building the capacity necessary to uphold the rule of law. But we cannot expect any society to transform itself overnight.
Afghanistan has seen real achievements since the fall of the Taliban in 2002. Our gross domestic product continues to grow by double digits, and major international conglomerates, such as Coca-Cola, Marriott, and Dole, are investing in Afghanistan’s future. Presidential and parliamentary elections have contributed to a vibrant political process. Access to basic healthcare has expanded from 8 percent to more than 80 percent of the population. And though far more Afghan women die giving birth each year than in terrorist attacks, 40,000 fewer infants died in 2006 than in 2005 as a result of improvements to Afghanistan’s public health sector. Most important, 6 million children are in school, compared to fewer than 900,000 students in 2001.
Even in the face of such progress, we recognize that Afghanistan cannot stand alone, at least not yet. The international community must revitalize its efforts to disrupt or destroy terrorist sanctuaries in the region, be they logistical, financial, or ideological. Rebuilding Afghanistan will be a generational process. Our children and grandchildren will finish the work that we have started.
— Said T. Jawad
Afghan Ambassador to the United States
The Failed States Index and its accompanying color-coded map are misleading — at least in the case of Botswana. The illustration tars Botswana with the same broad yellow brush as its neighbors, indicating its "borderline" status.
The World Bank Institute’s latest Worldwide Governance Indicators, released in July, places Botswana 16th out of 212 countries and territories in terms of political stability and the absence of violence. Dozens of independent sources, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, rank Botswana’s stability as the highest in Africa, leading Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to give it the highest credit rating in Africa. Even if one accepts your index rankings — ranking Botswana 119th out of 177 countries — it cannot be categorized as "borderline." I would go even further and question some of the index’s components, such as demographic pressure. Botswana scored a dire 9.2 out of 10 for "mounting demographic pressures," yet Botswana has about 1.75 million inhabitants in a country slightly larger than France, whose population is 60 million.
A skeptical reading of the index appears to be in order.
— Charles L. Frankel
Consulate of Botswana
San Francisco, Calif.
The 2007 Failed States Index, in which Zimbabwe ranks fourth, lacks credibility. A look at the health of Zimbabwe’s pillars of state and governance reveals the existence of a healthy and vibrant country.
First, Zimbabwe’s legislature has a Senate and House of Assembly. Parliamentary elections have been held regularly and without fail since independence. The elections, most recently held in 2005, have been observed and validated by the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, and other African regional organizations. The country has one of the largest parliamentary oppositions in Africa.
The executive branch of the country has a popularly elected president and two vice presidents who work harmoniously together. Effective executive power is also wielded by provincial governors and administrators, and by district administrators assisted by elected councilors. Every inch of Zimbabwean territory is under effective control by the central government, the national army, and the police force, whose members are esteemed professionals serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions. The Air Force is in total control of the national airspace.
There is an independent judiciary appointed by the president and the Judicial Services Commission — not for their party affiliation as in the United States, but for their professional qualifications and experience. On many occasions, they have issued verdicts against government incumbents and in favor of the opposition, and they uphold the rule of law.
Zimbabwe is in an economic crisis triggered by the financial sanctions imposed by Britain, the United States, and their allies in retaliation for its land reform program. Was the United States a failed state during the Great Depression? Those who say Zimbabwe is a failed state are waging psychological warfare on my country’s government.
— Machivenyika Mapuranga
Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United States
The Fund for Peace replies:
The Failed States Index provides an aggregate assessment of the risk of conflict within a state or state failure. The profile of each state can vary greatly, even if some states have similar overall scores. Although some states may score well on most indicators, they can have searing problems that diminish strengths in other areas.
A comparison of Afghanistan, Botswana, and Zimbabwe demonstrates this effect clearly. Ambassador Said Jawad rightly points out the considerable progress Afghanistan has made since the fall of the Taliban. Yet, Afghanistan also faces a resurgent Taliban insurgency, an uprooted population, and a government whose authority has not extended effectively into rural areas. As the ambassador notes, these problems are serious, and sustainable security "will be a generational process."
Botswana shows how catastrophic demographic pressures — whether caused by epidemics, natural disasters, or environmental hazards — can create significant national security threats. Although it is one of the most stable countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana is being dragged down by its 24 percent adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate — one of the highest in the world. Life expectancy has plummeted from 65 years to 40 years since 1990. To its credit, Botswana is responding aggressively by providing free medication to anyone who needs it. However, a shortage of health workers, the social stigma of HIV/AIDS, and poverty compound the problem, justifying Botswana’s "borderline" status.
Zimbabwe is the clearest example of outright man-made failure. It suffers from poor governance, extensive human rights violations, hyperinflation (in excess of 4,000 percent), diminished public services, state-supported militias that operate with impunity, and extensive corruption. With the opposition beaten and harassed, its elections were internationally regarded as neither free nor fair. That is hardly the description of "a healthy and vibrant state." Rather, Zimbabwe is one of Africa’s most brutal authoritarian regimes. The Zimbabwean ambassador states, "Every inch of [his country’s] territory is under effective control by the central government, the national army, and the police force." Indeed — too much so. Blaming Zimbabwe’s crisis on outsiders is yet another example of how the state refuses to respond to the needs of its people.
— Pauline H. Baker
The Fund for Peace
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