Describing and classifying state fragility

Constellations of State Fragility provides an empirical typology of states from a fragility perspective. It uses global data from 2005-2015 to identify typical constellations of state fragility. State fragility is defined as deficiencies in one or more of three core functions of the state. These functions include state authority, state capacity and state legitimacy. Authority refers to the state’s ability to control violence. Capacity refers to the state’s ability to provide basic public services. Legitimacy refers to the state’s ability to obtain the population’s consent to the state’s claim to rule.

How can you use our tool?

Examine the global distribution of state fragility, and individual country time trends

Constellations of State Fragility identifies recurring patterns of state fragility and allows you to determine which fragility constellations describe which countries best. You can observe the global distribution of fragility constellations over time and compare the relative performance of individual states on different dimensions of state fragility against other countries or across time. Our data is available free of charge. Please feel free to download, use and cite any graph, key statistics or even the entire data spreadsheet.

The following view options provide you with an excellent overview of our data

  • Compare the global distribution of fragility constellations on our world map
  • Select or deactivate individual constellations to focus your attention on specific fragility constellations of interest
  • Use the time slider to view how the data varies over time
  • To assess the statistical uncertainty of our classification, click on the probability check buttons in the legend
  • By changing to the dimension scores tab, you can view the global distribution of scores on the individual dimensions authority, capacity and legitimacy
  • To compare individual countries, simply click on the countries in the map or use the search function in the compare tool
  • By clicking on “Details” in the compare window, you can view how the scores of a country varied over time. For example, you may check how the dimension scores or individual indicators evolved. As in the global view, the probability tab gives you an overview of the countries probable fragility constellations in different years.
  • To zoom in on a specific country, use our “find a country” search option.

This video tutorial demonstrates the tool's features

What makes Constellations of State Fragility exceptional?

Constellations of State Fragility is a unique tool which uses advanced statistical methodology to identify typical constellations of state fragility in the world. Our methodology allows us to distinguish core problems underlying state fragility where additive indices produce identical values. Furthermore, we are able to describe how certain we are about any classification. Simply use the probability view mode of the world map or individual country pages to assess how likely a state is a member of e.g. the low-capacity constellation.

Researchers Jörn Grävingholt and Constantin Ruhe introduce and explain the advantages of the constellations perspective.

The 6 Constellations of Fragility

DYSFUNCTIONAL STATES

States in this cluster have very low scores on all dimensions of statehood. These states usually have very limited authority over the use of physical violence, have little capacity to provide basic public services and score low on legitimacy.

LOW AUTHORITY STATES

States in this cluster have very limited authority over the use of physical violence, but have the capacity to provide some basic public services and have medium scores on legitimacy.

LOW-CAPACITY STATES

States in this cluster display little capacity to provide basic public services, but they have decent authority over the use of physical violence and usually have mediocre scores on legitimacy.

LOW-LEGITIMACY STATES

States in this cluster have low to mediocre scores of legitimacy, but usually have decent authority over the use of physical violence and the capacity to provide some basic public services.

SEMI-FUNCTIONAL STATES

States in this cluster have medium scores on all dimensions of statehood. These states usually have decent authority over the use of physical violence, possess the capacity to provide some basic public services and score better than average on legitimacy.

WELL-FUNCTIONING STATES

States in this cluster display very good scores on all dimensions of statehood. These states usually have the authority over the use of physical violence, possess the capacity to comprehensively provide basic public services and score high on legitimacy.

Example: The case of Syria

Constellations of State Fragility reliably picks up changes occurring in specific countries over the years. E.g. our indicators highlight how Syria changed from a low legitimacy-state until 2010 to a low-authority state in 2011 to a dysfunctional state by 2012.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

State fragility: state of the debate

The weakness, fragility or failure of states has evolved into one of the major narratives of politics and international relations in the post-Cold War era. While the most common, original terminology labelled certain states as so-called “failed states”, in recent years, the slightly less offensive term “state fragility” has become more commonly used. The concept of state fragility has received high visibility in recent development policy documents, such as the European Report on Development 2009, a 2011 policy guidance paper by the OECD Development Assistance Committee, and the World Development Report 2011. The prominent use of the concept in the policy community, led to demands for orientation in dealing with fragile states. As a consequence, a rising number of fragility indices have emerged over the past few years that tried to provide some of this orientation. Examples include the Fragile States Index (formerly Failed States Index), the Index of State Weakness, the State Fragility Index, the Political Instability Index and many others.

In contrast to these existing tools, Constellations of State Fragility was conceived to correct a central weakness which all existing fragility indices share: they simplify the complicated reality behind the stability or decay of statehood to such an extent that they are of very limited use for the operational task of crafting policies to counter state fragility. The main issue with these indices is not so much the ever-difficult challenge of measurement but rather their common conceptual assumption that such a multidimensional concept as statehood can be aggregated and projected onto a one-dimensional scale, thereby allowing different dimensions to compensate for each other, without a substantial distortion of information. The Constellations of State Fragility is able to classify state fragility while maintaining the multidimensionality of the state fragility concept. It identifies substantively different constellations of fragility, in states which would receive very similar scores on aggregate state fragility indices.

Fragility Dimensions

States can be fragile due to many different deficiencies. Accordingly, most scientific analyses of state fragility since the early 2000s have disaggregated this phenomenon into several dimensions. Based on this literature, we suggest conceptualising fragility as constituted of deficiencies in three distinct, though interdependent, dimensions: state authority, state capacity and state legitimacy. Each dimension represents a particular constellation of state-society relation and can be traced back to complementary strands of political theory.

Authority

The authority dimension measures the ability of the state to control the use of physical violence within its territory. Authority is measured using battle-related deaths, homicide rates as well as a composite indicator of a state’s monopoly of violence.

Capacity

The capacity dimension measures the ability of the state to provide basic public services to its population. Capacity is measured using child mortality rates, access to clean water, primary school enrolment rates as well as a composite indicator of basic administration capacity.

Legitimacy

The legitimacy dimension denotes the ability of the state to obtain the consent of the population to the state’s dominance. Legitimacy is measured using indicators of freedom of the press, human rights scores as well as the number of asylums granted to citizens of a state.

METHODOLOGY

Our methodology explained

We use three to four indicators to measure each dimension for 171 countries over the period 2005–2013. Each indicator is standardised to values between 0 and 1. A value close to 1 indicates a good performance. A value close to 0 indicates that a state performs badly in this domain. We combine the transformed scores of our indicators with a ‘weakest link approach’: The score of each dimension is determined by the lowest value among all of its indicators. This approach is equivalent to considering each variable a necessary component of a functioning state in the respective dimension. Based on these dimension scores, we employ the statistical approach of finite mixture modelling to identify clusters in the data. We find that a solution with 6 clusters describes the data best.

10 indicators

Battle-related deaths per 100000 inhabitants.

This includes all casualties directly related to combat occurring within the territory of a country. The measure reflects the intensity of internal and external attacks on the integrity of a state and thus the degree to which the state faces organized (but only acute) challenges to its monopoly of violence.

Source: Gleditsch et al. (2002), Themnér and Wallensteen (2011)

Homicides per 100000 inhabitants

Homicide is defined as ‘unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person’ (UNODC 2013: 9). While individual instances of homicide do – in the vast majority of cases – not stem from explicit challenges to the dominance of the state, widespread lethal crime can be considered an indicator of organized crime in conflict with governing authorities.

Source: UNODC (2013)

Monopoly of violence indicator of Bertelsmann Transformation Index

The indicator is taken from the Bertelsmann Transformation Index. It provides a direct expert assessment which detects latent conflict.

Source: BTI (2016)

Access to clean water

The indicator is measured as the share of the population with access to improved drinking water sources. It is a proxy for general hygiene standards and disease control.

Source: WHO and UNICEF (2012)

Child mortality

The indicator is measured as under-five mortality per 1,000 births. It is a proxy for general medical infrastructure and disease control.

Source: IGME (2014)

Education

The indicator is measured by the rate of primary school enrolment. It gives an indication of ability of state to provide basic education.

Source: UIS and UNESCO (2015)

Basic administration Bertelsmann Transformation Index

The indicator is taken from the Bertelsmann Transformation Index. It provides a direct expert assessment on the existence of fundamental structures of a civilian administration, such as a basic system of courts and tax authorities.

Source: BTI (2016)

Fariss’ index of human rights protection

The indicator measures the latent level of human rights protection based on empirically observed data.

Source: Fariss (2014)

Press freedom

The indicator is measured using Freedom House’s ‘Freedom of the Press Data’ to describe press freedom.

Source: Freedom House (2014)

Asylums granted

The indicator is measured by the number of asylums granted in other countries per 100,000 inhabitants in the sending country. It provides a good indicator for politically (rather than economically) motivated exit.

Source: UNHCR (2015)



Data coding, transformation and imputation

Assembling reliable and comparable cross-national data is a challenge. In order to combine the information across the variables into dimension scores, we transform all raw indicators to scores ranging from 0 to 1, where higher values imply better outcomes. This is done by first truncating the raw variable scores at pre-defined lower and upper bounds. This step is necessary to avoid that extremely large values dwarf the differences between other countries in this dimension. We calibrated these extremes so that variables that best represent each dimension determine the lion’s share of each dimension’s scores. For some years and some countries, data is unavailable. We use interpolation and extrapolation to fill in missing values. Values which have been filled in or, statistically speaking, imputed, are always labelled as imputed in all numerical representations of our data. Please interpret imputed values with caution.

PUBLICATIONS

More detailed information on the Constellations of State Fragility, its aims and the underlying methodology are described in:

Grävingholt, Jörn / Sebastian Ziaja / Merle Kreibaum (2015) Disaggregating state fragility: a method to establish a multidimensional empirical typology, in: Third World Quarterly 36 (7), 1281-1298

Grävingholt, Jörn / Sebastian Ziaja / Merle Kreibaum (2012) State fragility: towards a multi-dimensional empirical typology DIE Discussion Paper 3/2012

HOW TO CITE

When using information, data or graphs from this website, please cite:

Grävingholt, Jörn; Ziaja, Sebastian; Ruhe, Constantin; Fink, Patrick; Kreibaum, Merle; Wingens, Christopher (2018): Constellations of State Fragility v1.0. German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE). DOI: 10.23661/CSF1.0.0

Further reading: Grävingholt, Jörn; Ziaja, Sebastian; Kreibaum, Merle: paper following soon.

Jörn Grävingholt initiated and led the project, conceptualised the typology and contributed to the online visualisation. Sebastian Ziaja conceptualised the typology, developed and conducted the statistical estimations. Constantin Ruhe conceptualised the online visualisation, managed the website programming and supported data management. Patrick Fink supported the development of the online visualisation and managed the website programming. Merle Kreibaum provided data management and supported the conceptualisation of the typology. Christopher Wingens provided data management.

The Constellations of State Fragility model and web tool has been developed within the research programme “Transformations of political (dis-)order: Institutions, values & peace” at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE).

FINANCING

Constellations of State Fragility has been developed with financial support of the


Disclaimer: Statements generated through and presented in the online tool Constellations of State Fragility do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development or the German government.

REFERENCES

Bertelsmann Stiftung (2016). Transformation Index BTI 2016

Fariss, Christopher J. (2014). “Respect for human rights has improved over time: modeling the changing standard of accountability”. In: American Political Science Review 108.2, pp. 297–318.

Freedom House (2014). Freedom of the press data.

Gleditsch, Nils Petter, Peter Wallensteen, Mikael Eriksson, Margareta Sollenberg, and Håvard Strand (2002). “Armed conflict 1946–2001: a new dataset”. In: Journal of Peace Research 39.5, pp. 615–637.

The World Bank (2015). World Development Indicators.

Themnér, Lotta and Peter Wallensteen (2011). “Armed conflict, 1946–2010”. In: Journal of Peace Research 48.4, pp. 525–536.

IGME – UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (2014). Levels & trends in child mortality: report 2014. UNICEF.

UIS and UNESCO – UNESCO Institute for Statistics and UNICEF (2015). Fixing the broken promise of education for all: findings from the global initiative on out-of-school children. UNESCO.

UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2015). UNHCR asylum trends 2014: levels and trends in industrialized countries. UNHCR.

UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2013). Global study on homicide 2013: trends, contexts, data. UNODC.

WHO and UNICEF – World Health Organization and UNICEF (2012). Progress on drinking water and sanitation – 2014 update. World Health Organization and UNICEF.