A state that is fragile has several attributes, and such fragility may manifest itself in various ways. Nevertheless, some of the most common attributes of state fragility may include:
- The loss of physical control of its territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force;
- The erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions;
- An inability to provide reasonable public services;
- The inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.
The twelve CAST indicators, upon which the Fragile States Index is based, cover a wide range of state failure risk elements such as extensive corruption and criminal behavior, inability to collect taxes or otherwise draw on citizen support, large-scale involuntary dislocation of the population, sharp economic decline, group-based inequality, institutionalized persecution or discrimination, severe demographic pressures, brain drain, and environmental decay. States can fail at varying rates through explosion, implosion, erosion, or invasion over different time periods.