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Complexity and fragility

Juba, South Sudan from the top of Juba Mountain
Juba, South Sudan from the top of Juba Mountain. South Sudan is ranked first on the Fragile States Index 2015 by the Fund for Peace. Photo: John Wollwerth

In recent years, the understanding of fragility and its impact on development outcomes has considerably evolved. Fragility has frequently been defined at the state level because of the primacy of national actors and the availability of national level statistics. However, the international community has increasingly recognized that fragility is not confined to national boundaries and can be found at community level in resilient states or in regional, transborder and international systems.

While there is no generally agreed definition of what a ‘fragile state’ or ‘fragility’ is, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently proposed a working model for analysing countries’ risks across five clusters of fragility indicators: violence, justice, institution, economic foundation, and resilience. The five proposed dimensions of fragility reveal distinct patterns of vulnerability. Given the growing recognition of the limitations of current international approaches, this research aims to identify and address the fragility dynamics and to improve the methods of defining and measuring fragility at the system level. 

Research staff

Dr Gary Milante is the Director of the Peace and Development Programme.