What are the top ten failed states of the past year?

Every year, Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace do a survey of "failed states," nations whose citizens they judge to be in the most dire circumstances in the world — largely because of government mismanagement and outright abuse.

The method they use to pick the failed states is fascinating, though the biggest state fails may not surprise you.

Here are the states who ranked the highest in the Failed States Index, with their scores:

1 Somalia 113.4
2 Chad 110.3
3 Sudan 108.7
4 Dem. Rep. of Congo 108.2
5 Haiti 108.0
6 Zimbabwe 107.9
7 Afghanistan 107.5
8 Central African Republic 105.0
9 Iraq 104.8
10 Ivory Coast 102.8

What are the top ten failed states of the past year?

According to Foreign Policy, the Index "ranks 177 states according to 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators based on data from more than 90,000 publicly available sources." These sources range from news accounts to reports from human rights nonprofit groups. You can see the rankings for the top 10 at left, and can view the top 60 here.

Though Somalia tops the list for the fourth year in a row, many other states changed positions in the Index. J.J. Messner writes:

This year, Mother Nature was to blame for some of the most significant worsening. Haiti, which saw a devastating earthquake in January 2010, suffered the most, climbing to the fifth spot on the index. Another massive temblor shook Chile in February, killing as many as 500 people and destroying buildings and infrastructure. Deadly floods in Benin, the worst since 1963, displaced nearly 700,000 people and led to significant outbreaks of cholera. Drought and poor harvests led to a food crisis in Niger. Although natural disasters affecting major population centers will almost always have a significant impact on countries, the state's capacity to adequately respond makes the difference between a manageable crisis and a humanitarian catastrophe.

Elsewhere in Africa, ethnic violence in northern Liberia and renewed separatist troubles in Senegal's Casamance region led to setbacks in both countries' progress. In Rwanda, the increasing authoritarianism of President Paul Kagame, including further restrictions on the media and opposition groups, did no favors for the country's score card. But the picture in Africa is not all bad, with three of the top 10 most improved countries for 2011. Sudan and Chad improved their scores slightly largely due to minor abatements of existing conflicts in both countries; Algeria also improved substantially, in no small part due to the government's more effective combating of regional terrorist groups.

The whole package is a fascinating lesson in how social scientists attempt to evaluate what makes a state "bad" (and, implicitly, what makes a state good, too).

Read more via Foreign Policy

Top photo of troops in Kyrgyzstan by VYACHESLAV OSELEDKO/AFP/Getty Images