SEATTLE - No matter how grim the state budget forecast, it will never
be as bad as what some countries around the world are going through.
The 2009 "Failed States Index" lists the world's most unstable nations;
it has Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe at the top, with Afghanistan and
Iraq not far behind. Mercy Corps
, a humanitarian aid group in Seattle, works in all five of those countries, and more than 30 others.
John Stephens, senior program officer at Mercy Corps
, says that sometimes there are so many problems in a failed state, it's hard to know where to start.
"When you go to these countries, typically what you notice right off
the bat is that the government is failing to deliver services to its
people. Roads, clean water to cities, security; it's the whole range of
items. The government is barely functioning, or entirely absent."
Other indicators that put countries on the "Failed States Index" are
high numbers of refugees, human rights violations, and intervention by
In failed states, people often just quit paying taxes because they're
not getting government services. Stephens, who runs some Asian programs
for Mercy Corps
, says part of their job is to encourage both people and government to break that cycle.
"If we have a large program that's working with farmers, we dedicate 10
to 20 percent of that program towards working with the government, to
help kick-start that relationship again, so that the people see the
government coming out and doing the work they should be doing."
Mercy Corps is well known for emergency relief, but also makes
micro-loans, helps people start small businesses, and works with
communities to build and repair infrastructure. You can find out what
they're doing in each country online, at mercycorps.org
The "Failed States Index" is compiled by the Fund for Peace; it's in the September 2009 issue of National Geographic