Egypt deteriorates to 31st on Fragile State Index; worsening political climate at forefront

Adam Koppeser
10 Min Read
The chart above demonstrates the long-term trend, year-to-year, for Egypt. Upward movements represent worsening trends, while downward movements represent improving trends. (Photo from Global Fund for Peace)

The Fund For Peace recently released its 2014 Fragile States Index, in which Egypt’s position has worsened year on year from 34th to 31st out of a total of 178 listed countries. Top problem areas cited included “human rights, legitimacy of state, factionalised elites and group grievances”.

The chart above demonstrates the long-term trend, year-to-year, for Egypt. Upward movements represent worsening trends, while downward movements represent improving trends. (Photo from Global Fund for Peace)
The chart above demonstrates the long-term trend, year-to-year, for Egypt. Upward movements represent worsening trends, while downward movements represent improving trends.
(Photo from Global Fund for Peace)










Formerly known as the Failed States Index, the study is aimed at assessing the vulnerability of states to collapse. The organisation says this entails looking at not only the normal pressures that all states experience, but also identifying when those pressures are pushing a state towards the brink of failure”.

To this end, the index gathered “millions of pieces of information” from three primary sources, relying on quantitative and qualitative public source data until the cutoff at 31 December 2013.

The index used this data to rate countries across 12 social, economic, and political indicators (and over 100 sub-indicators). Each indicator is scored from 0 to 10, wherein the higher the score, the greater the pressure and lower the stability.

Egypt placed into the “Alert” category, the 3rd worst of 11 possible tiers ranging from “Very High Alert” for the most fragile states, to “Warning” for those in the middle, to “Very Sustainable” at strongest.

The country’s total score came in at 91 out of a possible 120, while its individual indicators averaged at a score of 7.6 out of 10.The country’s greatest challenges, the report indicates, are political, as three of Egypt’s four most-pressured indicator scores fall under this category.

State legitimacy suffered in the 2014 survey, with pressures rising 0.1 points year on year and 0.4 since 2009, reaching a score of 9.0. The sample period witnessed not only Morsi’s ouster in July 2013 following a year in power since his election to office; it also saw the suspension of the former president’s 2012 constitution and the subsequent dissolution of the legislative Shura Council.

The worst year on year difference – in an already pressured indicator – came in Egypt’s Factionalised Elites rating, which jumped 0.7 to a reading of 9.4. “When local and national leaders engage in deadlock and brinkmanship for political gain, this undermines the social contract,” the report said of the indicator. This includes “power struggles, defectors, flawed elections, political competition”.

The second highest jump was in the Security Apparatus indicator – measuring the state’s monopoly on force and deaths in riots and protests – which was up 0.6 points from the previous year to a reading of 7.9. According to WikiThawra, an independent monitoring organisation focused on Egypt’s transitional period, 2,426 were killed in political clashes and protests in 2013.

Of all the country’s pressures, however, the Human Rights and Rule of Law indicator hosted the direst final score, worsening 0.1 points year on year to a score of 9.7 out of 10. “When human rights are violated or unevenly protected, the state is failing in its ultimate responsibility,” the index said. Among the main sub-indicators for this were measures of “press freedom, civil liberties, political freedoms, human trafficking, political prisoners, incarceration, religious persecution, torture and executions”.

The first of these sub-indicators has received wide attention, with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranking Egypt as the third deadliest country for journalists in 2013. At least six journalists were killed in 2013, with three on 14 August alone, when security forces cleared the pro-Morsi Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins.

Another sub-indicator was political prisoners. As of January 2014, just after the sampling period, over 21,000 Egyptians had been arrested and incarcerated due to political turmoil, according to WikiThawra. That number has since grown to over 40,000 at the end of May.

In the broader sense, the sample data year of 2013 was a “black year” for human rights, according to Lawyer Gamal Eid, the director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). Amnesty International (AI), the global human rights watchdog, announced on 3 July that widespread arrests, deaths in detention, “harrowing” accounts of torture and forced disappearances signal a “catastrophic decline” in human rights during the year after Morsi’s ouster.

On 8 July, newly-inaugurated President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi told the president of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) that his goal in office would be to balance security and fight terrorism while providing “the rights and freedoms that have long been sought by the Egyptian citizen before the revolutions of 25 January and 30 June,” presidential spokesperson Ehab Badawy told state-run Al-Ahram.

Meanwhile, the index noted some improvement in economic indicators, as Poverty and Economic Decline softened 0.3 points. However it still lay 0.9 points worse than 2009, given post-revolution macroeconomic instability, at 7.9 out of 10.

Social issues in Egypt, including Demographic and Refugee pressures, also improved incrementally, but these two still received high warnings of 7.1 and 6.4, respectively. Egypt’s quickly rising population and consequent strain on limited agricultural space consistently put it in a position of high food insecurity, with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation recently citing “enormous challenges” to the government’s ability to feed its citizens, and it remains the largest wheat importer in the world. At the same time, it is home to hundreds of thousands of refugees from conflicts in neighbouring Sudan and Syria, occasionally leading to friction with authorities.

Human Flight, which includes migration per capita and “brain drain” of educated population, saw a notable improvement, down 0.3 year on year to 5.1.

Despite these small gains, however, Egypt was not without a rise in certain social pressures. The sample period saw a rise in the Group Grievances indicator, which was up 0.1 points since the start of 2013 and 0.6 points since 2009, with a score of 8.6.  “When tension and violence exists between groups, the state’s ability to provide security is undermined and fear and further violence may ensue,” the report said.

Top sub-indicators of this measure include “discrimination, powerlessness, ethnic violence, communal violence, sectarian violence, religious violence”. Sectarian conflicts in Egypt were especially pronounced following the ouster of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi in summer of 2013, when a high number of attacks on churches were recorded. Following a series of such attacks in October 2013, the interim government was criticised by local NGOs for its “slackness in protecting Christians”.

2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the index, and it has thus been able to display a number of long term trends, including the effects of the Arab Spring. Of the 179 countries, Egypt’s near neighbours suffered some of the sharpest declines. Its eastern neighbour, Libya, was the most worsened country in the index.

Even Tunisia, the FFP notes, “widely regarded as having weathered the Arab Spring better than most of its regional neighbours, has nevertheless experienced a significant amount of turbulence, leaving it the eighth-most worsened country in the past decade”.

According to the index’s metrics, Egypt’s overall condition saw a “marginal worsening” between 2008 and 2013. This net slide is the sum of five straight years of improvement, reaching 49th place in 2010, only to drop precipitously to 31st by 2012 in the wake of the 25 January Revolution and its ensuing instability. It had marginally recovered for the 2013 reading to 34th place.

Founded in 1957, the Fund for Peace is Washington, DC-based NGO and research and educational institution that “works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security”.

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Adam Koppeser is the Op-Ed editor at Daily News Egypt. Available via email at [email protected], and on twitter @akoppeser.