By Pramod Jaiswal*
The Fund for Peace’s (FFP) twelfth annual Fragile States Index (FSI) ranked 178 countries based on measures of their stability and the pressures they face. Initially called ‘Failed States Index’, it was renamed as ‘Fragile States Index’ in 2014 following severe criticism from several quarters. However, the report still continues to use the term ‘failed state’ interchangeably. The 2016 FSI report looks at four Social Indicators (Demographic Pressures, Refugees and IDPS, Group Grievance and Human Flight and Brain Drain), two Economic Indicators (Uneven Economic Development and Poverty and Economic Decline) and six Political and Military Indicators (Legitimacy of the State, Public Services, Human Rights and Rule of Law, Security Apparatus, Factionalized Elites and External Intervention) to rank countries around the world, intending to analyse their susceptibility towards being or becoming the fragile state.
The report is highly useful as it distills millions of pieces of information into a form that is suitable to analyse and easy to comprehend. It aims to take the understanding of weak and failing states beyond identifying and analysing broader social trends, by adopting the Conflict Assessment System Tool (CAST) analytical platform. Though there is lack of clarity in the report regarding what is meant by ‘fragile’; how a state is rendered fragile; or whether fragility is relative or absolute, it has successfully generated lively debate in South Asia. This article analyses the indicators provided by the report for Nepal, where the country’s ethnic groups carried out massive protests after the promulgation of the new constitution, leading to the disruption of India-Nepal border for months right after the massive earthquake that took around ten thousand lives.
The 2016 FSI report can be contested as it gives equal weightage to all the twelve indicators – four social indicators, two economic, and six political and military indicators – even though not all the indicators have equal potential to demonstrate a state as fragile state. Similarly, the FSI has given more importance to political and military indicators as it has six categories compared to Social (with four indicators) and Economic indicators (two categories). In fact, there are different factors for different countries that could demonstrate it as a fragile state.
Nepal, a country that is going through multiple transitions, is ranked 33rd in the present report, as opposed to the 36th and 31st position in 2015 and 2014 respectively. As in the 2015 report, Nepal is listed under the ‘Alert’ category. The report has rightly indicated the worsening situation in Nepal since the promulgation of the new constitution in September 2015.
The report rightly indicates the decline in the categories like demographic pressure, refugees, and IDPs and Group Grievances, which became the reality due to the massive earthquake that shook Nepal in 2015. However, it is unconvincing to note that there was some improvement in Human Flight and brain drain because the report states that due to the continuous aftershocks following the earthquake, there was a rise in outbound migration.
There were strong protests by Madhesis, Janajatis and other marginalised groups after the promulgation of the new constitution, which led to an ‘unofficial blockage’ for several months, which severely affected the economy of the country due to the resultant severe crisis of fuel and other essential supplies. This has been rightly reflected in the report, which shows an increase in uneven economic development, rise in poverty, and economic decline. There was also a worsening of delivery of public services during the KP Sharma Oli government in 2015 – and the index seems to be correct on this.
Surprisingly however, the report indicates improvement in the Human Rights and Rule of Law and Security Apparatus categories despite the fact that Nepal witnessed severe protest by Madhesis, Janajatis and marginalised groups, which had claimed over 50 lives. Nepal failed to crack down the protestors and ease the India-Nepal border though the Armed Police Force; and the Army was mobilised to control the situation. There were massive human rights violations in the southern plains of Nepal, an issue that has been raised by numerous human right organisations. Hence, the report is not so convincing vis-a-vis the improvement in the situation of Human Rights and Rule of Law.
The report states that there was no change in the Factionalised Elites category. However, the fact remains that like never before, there was massive polarisation among the elites of Nepal on the issues of constitution. Similarly, Nepalese women protested against the citizenship provision that discriminates against them. The report should have considered this issue. Interestingly, unlike the reports of the Nepali media, which reported massively about Indian interference in Nepal’s internal affairs, the report states that there was decrease in the external intervention.
While the situation in Nepal was further complicated by the KP Sharma Oli government, causing a worsening in Kathmandu-New Delhi relations, with the change in government, the situation is gradually normalising. The new government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has promised to address the demands of Madhesi, Janajatis and other marginalised groups by amending the constitution. It is a challenging task. However, if he succeeds, Nepal will secure itself a better position in the FSI Index.
* Pramod Jaiswal
Senior Fellow, CRP, IPCS
E-mail: [email protected]