These are the world’s most fragile states in 2019

Yemen leads the list of the most fragile nations, with the U.S. and U.K. among the "most worsened."

These are the world’s most fragile states in 2019
MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

There are some rankings no nation wants to lead.


Yemen has just been named most fragile nation in the Fund For Peace's 2019 Fragile States Index. The least fragile state is Finland.


Between these two countries lies the whole spectrum of national stability. The good news is that conditions for most of the world's people are slowly improving, says JJ Messner, Executive Director of the Fund for Peace. "For all the negative press, there is significant progress occuring in the background," he says.

The five most fragile countries, which comprise the index's Very High Alert category, are Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the High Alert category are the Central African Republic, Chad, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Image: Fragile States Index

"Most worsened"

Venezuela and Brazil tied for the title of the Most Worsened Country. Politics have riven both nations. Venezuela's election last year compounded long-standing economic and social woes. Brazil's score has declined in each of the past six years as economic troubles, corruption and declining public services have taken their toll.


Image: Fragile States Index

Other nations whose rankings fell steeply in the 2019 list were Nicaragua, the United Kingdom, Togo, Cameroon, Poland, Mali, Yemen, Tanzania, Honduras and the United States. Libya, Syria, Mali, Yemen, Venezuela, and Mozambique were the fastest declining countries of the past decade.

Any UK citizens alarmed at seeing their nation ranked as the fourth most-worsened will find that three of the 12 indicators used to compile the index were largely behind the low score: the behaviour of ruling elites, social divisions and state legitimacy.

The authors point to the influence of Brexit as a factor. But they say that long-term worsening of the UK's score predates the country's referendum on membership of the European Union. Even before 2016, the authors say the UK had the seventh worst trend for the same three indicators, and suggest the country's problems are deep-rooted and unlikely to be solved by leaving the EU.

The US made it into the Most Worsened category thanks to poor scores in the same categories as the UK plus a sliding score on human rights and respect for the law, in part reflecting political divisions, legal controversies and the issue of immigration.

The report's authors also detect the stirrings of a second Arab Spring in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. They say economic, social and political factors that harmed these countries' index rankings before popular uprisings in North Africa are rising in significance.

Hope for the future

But the global picture isn't entirely bleak. Cuba and Georgia tied as the most-improved countries in the index over the past decade. Mauritius became the first African nation to achieve status as Very Stable, while Singapore was the first Asian nation to enter the Sustainable category, joining the likes of New Zealand, Sweden and Luxembourg.

Progress in Africa was reflected by Botswana and the Seychelles joining the Stable category.

Messner says: "Certainly, there is still much conflict, poverty, and inequality in the world. But the data suggests that the majority of countries are incrementally making improvements, providing a more hopeful future for their people."

The index's 12 categories, against which nations are measured are: security situation and responses; behaviour of ruling elites; social divisions; economic performance; economic inequality; emigration; state legitimacy; public services, human rights and the rule of law; demographic pressures; refugees; external intervention.

Reprinted with permission of World Economic Forum. Read the original article.

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This article was originally published by our sister site, Freethink.

For the first time, researchers appear to have effectively treated a genetic disorder by directly injecting a CRISPR therapy into patients' bloodstreams — overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to curing diseases with the gene editing technology.

The therapy appears to be astonishingly effective, editing nearly every cell in the liver to stop a disease-causing mutation.

The challenge: CRISPR gives us the ability to correct genetic mutations, and given that such mutations are responsible for more than 6,000 human diseases, the tech has the potential to dramatically improve human health.

One way to use CRISPR to treat diseases is to remove affected cells from a patient, edit out the mutation in the lab, and place the cells back in the body to replicate — that's how one team functionally cured people with the blood disorder sickle cell anemia, editing and then infusing bone marrow cells.

Bone marrow is a special case, though, and many mutations cause disease in organs that are harder to fix.

Another option is to insert the CRISPR system itself into the body so that it can make edits directly in the affected organs (that's only been attempted once, in an ongoing study in which people had a CRISPR therapy injected into their eyes to treat a rare vision disorder).

Injecting a CRISPR therapy right into the bloodstream has been a problem, though, because the therapy has to find the right cells to edit. An inherited mutation will be in the DNA of every cell of your body, but if it only causes disease in the liver, you don't want your therapy being used up in the pancreas or kidneys.

A new CRISPR therapy: Now, researchers from Intellia Therapeutics and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have demonstrated for the first time that a CRISPR therapy delivered into the bloodstream can travel to desired tissues to make edits.

We can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically.

—JENNIFER DOUDNA

"This is a major milestone for patients," Jennifer Doudna, co-developer of CRISPR, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR.

"While these are early data, they show us that we can overcome one of the biggest challenges with applying CRISPR clinically so far, which is being able to deliver it systemically and get it to the right place," she continued.

What they did: During a phase 1 clinical trial, Intellia researchers injected a CRISPR therapy dubbed NTLA-2001 into the bloodstreams of six people with a rare, potentially fatal genetic disorder called transthyretin amyloidosis.

The livers of people with transthyretin amyloidosis produce a destructive protein, and the CRISPR therapy was designed to target the gene that makes the protein and halt its production. After just one injection of NTLA-2001, the three patients given a higher dose saw their levels of the protein drop by 80% to 96%.

A better option: The CRISPR therapy produced only mild adverse effects and did lower the protein levels, but we don't know yet if the effect will be permanent. It'll also be a few months before we know if the therapy can alleviate the symptoms of transthyretin amyloidosis.

This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine.

—FYODOR URNOV

If everything goes as hoped, though, NTLA-2001 could one day offer a better treatment option for transthyretin amyloidosis than a currently approved medication, patisiran, which only reduces toxic protein levels by 81% and must be injected regularly.

Looking ahead: Even more exciting than NTLA-2001's potential impact on transthyretin amyloidosis, though, is the knowledge that we may be able to use CRISPR injections to treat other genetic disorders that are difficult to target directly, such as heart or brain diseases.

"This is a wonderful day for the future of gene-editing as a medicine," Fyodor Urnov, a UC Berkeley professor of genetics, who wasn't involved in the trial, told NPR. "We as a species are watching this remarkable new show called: our gene-edited future."

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