Only recognized sovereign states based on UN membership are included in the Fragile States Index. Thus, several territories whose status is not final – such as Taiwan and Kosovo – will be excluded until their political status and UN membership is ratified. In the case of the Palestinian Territories, they are included as part of the assessment of Israel, since international law places governance responsibilities on the occupying power.

The Fund for Peace may focus on specific states or territories irrespective of recognized state boundaries in other projects, but The Fragile States Index uses a consistent standard of UN membership as the basis for inclusion, and international law is used for identifying governing powers.