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How Peaceful is the World?


How Peaceful is the World?

In recent years there has been a decline in peacefulness in most regions of the world and the largest deterioration was observed in South America. The most peaceful regions were Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific but even these saw declines in overall peacefulness while South Asia saw an overall increase.

The Institute of Economics and Peace, based in Australia, released its 12th edition of the World Peace Index this week. The report measures the peacefulness of 163 countries which covers 99 per cent of the earth’s population. It does so, based on three broad criteria the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.

Among these three broad criteria, Terrorism and internal conflict have been the largest contributor to peacefulness over the past decade. In total, 100 countries have experienced terrorist activity and 38 have improved.

The report shows a continued decline in global peace for the fourth year in a row. Specifically, it showed a decline of peacefulness in 6 out of 9 regions in the world. Since 2008. Iceland has remained the most peaceful country in the world; followed by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. Syria remains the least peaceful place on the planet for the fifth consecutive year. Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia round off the bottom five.

Elaborating on the link between economics and peace, the report estimates that the economic impact of violence on the economy in 2017 was around $14 trillion (PPP terms) which is equivalent to 12.4 per cent of the global economic activity. It also stated that since 1950, per capita GDP growth has been three times higher in highly peaceful countries.

This year’s report also makes special mention of positive peace which is the presence of norms, structures, and institutions which create and preserve peace. Globally, Positive Peace improved by 1.85 per cent from 2005 to 2016. It grew steadily from 2005-2013 but has stagnated over the past three years. These indicators are increasingly important as they are treated as the essential first steps to creating negative peace (defined as the absence of war). The pillars of positive peace are low levels of corruption, acceptance of other’s rights and well-functioning of the government. Even a slip of one of the pillars of positive peace could plunge the country into war.

In addition to these disturbing findings, this report deserves attention because of its consideration of a wide variety of factors to determine what peace is. While the policy world still uses Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the primary basis of policy, new indices such as the Global Peace Index and the World Happiness Report are slowly gaining traction and deserve greater attention. They are more representative as they take a broader understanding of the context of a country and include factors such as human rights and freedoms which traditional measurements do not. While GDP signals the economic income of a country, it neglects economic concerns such as inequalities within that country. This is addressed by indices such as the Gini coefficient and the Palma Ratio.

Image Credit: CC by World Peace/ Flickr

M. Sudhir Selvaraj

M. Sudhir Selvaraj writes the Weekly Security Brief for GCN. He is a fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life. His interests lie in security of religious minorities, secularism, U.S. foreign policy and politics of South Asia. He is currently pursuing his doctoral studies at King’s College London. He has a master’s (with distinction) in International Relations from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London and graduated cum laude (with honors) from Concordia College, Minnesota with majors in Political Science and Global Studies and a minor in Business.

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