Lebanon ranked 45th worldwide on the annual 2012 Failed State Index authored by Foreign Policy and Fund for Peace, indicating a slight improvement but still falling within the "most unstable countries" zone. Since the inception of the index in 2005, Lebanon has maintained a relatively poor record that was further dented in the aftermath of the July 2006 war with Israel. It has not fully recovered since.
The Failed State index, produced by the Fund for Peace (FFP), provides an analysis and a ranking system for 177 countries based on 12 economic, social, and political indicators. Each indicator is rated on a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being the most stable and 10 being the most susceptible to collapse.
Among the countries that regressed on the scale are Arab countries that witnessed revolutions - most drastically Libya, Egypt and Syria. Other countries fluctuated due to huge security violations - such as the tragic terrorist attack in Norway and a the nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan. Amidst all these fluctuations, Lebanon has remained relatively unscathed by the recent uprisings; however it still fared worse than war-torn Libya (50), for example.
To understand Lebanon's rankings, one has to establish a historical benchmark, in this case the end of a fifteen year-long civil war in 1990. The war led to countrywide damage and destruction amounting to a devastating loss in capital. The country's infrastructure and institutions were shattered by years of neglect and, more significantly, the country's social fabric collapsed.
The Taef agreement brought violence to an end and came to set the political reform process on track. It introduced amendments to the Constitution in an effort
to initiate reforms that would lead to a strong modern State, institutionalize a parliamentary democracy, promote private ownership and a free market economy, and support balanced local development. Public finance reforms were launched in a bid to sustain the Taef sponsored peace.
Today, nearly twenty-years later, public debt is at 137% of GDP, public infrastructure is failing, state institutions are afflicted with corruption and cronyism, regional disparities are intensifying, and stability is fragile at best. In fact, Lebanon's weakest performances lie in its governance, fractionalized elites, weak security apparatus, lack of public services, and limited state legitimacy.
Lebanon has indeed witnessed recent episodes that inflicted tremendous pressure on its government and its ability to carry day-to-day tasks; protests have erupted repeatedly over the past few months, and the violent spillovers from the Syrian crisis are adding further strains on the country. Given the situation, a series of structural reforms must be enacted, led and implemented by a strong government with capable institutions. The United States and international community can play a positive role in incentivizing the Lebanese state to adopt those reforms. Anything short of that will not address the core of the challenges Lebanon is facing.