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Definitions of Fragility and Conflict

“Fragile states” is the term used for countries facing particularly severe development challenges: weak institutional capacity, poor governance, and political instability. Often these countries experience ongoing violence as the residue of past severe conflict. Ongoing armed conflicts affect three out of four fragile states.

Fragile States 

The World Bank’s definition of fragile states covers low-income countries scoring 3.2 and below on the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA), which is used to assess the quality of country policies and the main input to IDA’s Performance-Based Allocation (PBA) system. This involves around thirty countries. Countries scoring >3.2 on the CPIA may manifest symptoms of fragility in specific sectors or even in subnational areas.

The World Bank defines a country as a Fragile State if it is a low income country or territory, IDA eligible (including those countries which may currently be in arrears), with a CPIA score of 3.2 or below. Those countries for which CPIA data is not available are automatically included. The CPIA is used to assess the quality of country policies and CPIA ratings are a key determinant of the IDA Performance Based Allocations system, CPIA data have been publicly disclosed for IDA countries since 2004. Countries are considered “core” fragile states if their CPIA is below 3.0 or there is no data available. Countries are considered “marginal” fragile states if their CPIA score is between 3.0 and 3.2. These designations are meant to provide guidance to policymakers in working with those countries with weak governance and limited institutional capacity for development. The CPIA scores provide guidance on the “spectrum” of fragility and should not be interpreted as definitive, particularly as there is some variation and margin of uncertainty in the CPIA scores themselves.

IDA defines “post-conflict countries” as:

(i) a country that has suffered from a severe and long-lasting conflict, which has led to inactivity of the borrower for an extended period of, or at least a substantial decline in the level of external assistance, including from IDA;

(ii) a country that has experienced a short, but highly intensive, conflict leading to a disruption of IDA involvement; and

(iii) a newly sovereign state that has emerged through the violent break-up of a former sovereign entity.

Conflict-affected countries

The World Bank itself does not presently define an official list of “conflict-affected” or “post-conflict” states. You may wish to refer to external resources such as the Armed Conflict Database maintained by the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) and Uppsala University. Under this methodology, events resulting in more than 25 battle-deaths per year are defined as minor conflicts. Events resulting in more than 1,000 battle-deaths are defined as major conflicts. Research like the Armed Conflict Database also differentiates between international conflicts, intrastate conflicts (civil wars) and one-sided violence by state and non-state actors.

The general term “conflict-affected countries” is not identical to the specific designation of “post-conflict” countries. . IDA provides exceptional allocations for two-groups of countries within the Fragile States group: (i) re-engaging and (ii) post-conflict.


    Last updated: 2009-09-13