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Users’ Guide on Measuring Fragility

German Development Institute & UNDP
Publication year: 
Source of the information: 


State fragility has become a buzzword in international development policy, leading to a dramatic explosion in the production of indices to rank countries according to levels of fragility. Despite this proliferation, no systematic analysis of such indices has yet been produced. The Users’ Guide on Measuring Fragility aims to meet this need by providing a rigorous, comprehensible and user-friendly examination of eleven country-level indices measuring facets of fragility. 

This Users’ Guide provides readers with a rigorous, comprehensible and user-friendly examination of country-level indices measuring facets of fragility. Although there is no common, undisputed definition of fragility, a country could be said to be fragile when it suffers from a weakness or a failure in one or several central attributes of the state such as its effectiveness in providing services to citizens, its authority (including a legitimate monopoly on the use of violence) and legitimacy. Fragility often also relates to one or more specific sectors, i.e. security, economic, political or social/cultural, environmental. The ’fragility indices‘ in the Guide directly address many of these aspects. It is aimed at empowering the user with greater knowledge and critical understanding of the subject matter, addressing key questions such as:
•    What fragility indices are there?
•    What concepts do they intend to measure?
•    How well do they measure these concepts?
•    How should fragility indices be applied?

The intended audience of the Users’ Guide is current or potential users of fragility indices, especially researchers and policy-makers working in the area of fragility, governance and conflict. Whereas the former may find the guide helpful when considering fragility indices to inform their studies, the latter may discover a tool of relevance for cross-national assessments and impact analysis. In addition, other audiences such as development practitioners or humanitarian NGO workers may find some of the debates and findings from the Users’ Guide (e.g. on measurement types and data sources) useful in their professional practice.
The Guide includes a selection of 11 fragility and conflict indices based on the following criteria:

(1) Relevancy: The index has an evident focus on measuring fragility at the country level.
(2) Quantification: The index provides numerical scores on states and is thus potentially suited for cross-country
(3) Accessibility: The index is available free of charge on the internet in English.
(4) Transparency: The index provides information about its methodology.
(5) Multi-country coverage: The index provides data for at least 75 countries, or for most countries in a specific region.
(6) Updated information: The source is updated periodically, with the latest scores published within the last two years.