Yemen among the world’s most vulnerable states [Archives:2008/1188/Front Page]

September 8 2008

Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, Sept. 7 ) Seven Arab countries, including Yemen, head a list of the world's 60 most vulnerable states in the Failed States Index 2008, an annual index published by the Fund for Peace think-tank and Foreign Policy magazine.

While Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon were classified as “failed states”, Yemen, Egypt, and Syria were defined as “states in danger” in the index which ranked 177 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict and societal deterioration, using twelve social, economic, political, and military indicators.

Though the indicators are not designed to forecast when states may experience violence or collapse, they are meant to measure a state's vulnerability to collapse or conflict.

The index defines the failed state as one which can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and has no effective control over its territory and borders.

States which show symptoms of failure -“weak states” in the index- are the most exposed when crisis strikes, a food crisis for example.

“These shocks are the sparks of state failure, events that further corrode the integrity of weak states and push those on the edge closer to combustion. As the food crisis has shown, these political and economic setbacks are not unique to the world's most vulnerable countries. But weak states are weak precisely because they lack the resiliency to cope with unwelcome -and unpleasant- surprises,” the report added.

The report, which ran last month, considered corruption as a huge problem at every level and branch of Yemeni government, saying that insider deals, embezzlement, and procurement are all common.

However, the report declared that there was slight progress compared to previous years as state legitimacy had improved with the parliament's first-ever challenge to the executive branch in a number of corruption cases.

The report described Yemen's military forces as “disorganized”, as they had not been able to put a definitive end to the ongoing violence between the state and al-Houthi's followers.

It also said that the country's police force had been responsible for numerous human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, torture and murders, and added that it had not been able to protect citizens from violence caused by tribal disputes.

The report pointed to the Ministry of Justice attempts to institute a few reforms and conduct conferences around the country especially in 2004 and 2005, showing that the ministry had established two model courts to help women and other underrepresented groups, conducted training for 350 judges on judicial transparency, and implemented a program to reform the infrastructure of eight courts of appeals.

However the report stressed that social ties and bribery rule Yemen's judiciary, and that the executive branch of the government often interferes in its affairs.

“Judges have been harassed, reassigned, and fired for ruling against the government. Police often personally bargain with families and tribesmen concerning the release of prisoners,” said the report.

“Yemen is in need of much improvement. The government needs to work internally to reduce corruption. It has already taken preliminary steps to doing this within the justice system, and if progress becomes more widespread, the country will be in a better position to address other issues. Once the government institutions are strengthened, Yemen may be able to more effectively unify the country through peaceful means and protect its citizens,” the report concluded.

The think -tank organization Fund for Peace and the magazine Foreign Policy, based in the United States, have published an annual index called the Failed States Index since 2005. The list only assesses states who are members of the United Nations.