Is the world becoming more peaceful?
Last week, Australian-based think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace released its annual Global Peace Index. Over the last 12 years, this index has ranked 163 countries based on 22 factors including demilitarization, internal conflict, and social safety among others. Most significantly, it focuses on the economic benefits of peace, and the economic costs of violence.
Based on their metrics, the report finds that overall global peace around the world is on the decline for the fourth year in a row. It continues a trend of a decline in peace for eight of the past eleven years; 2014 saw the greatest decline.
92 of the countries evaluated showed a decline from last year while 71 moved up the rankings. Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country, joined by New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark in the top five. Syria remains the least peaceful country where it has been for the past five years. Interestingly, out of the nine geographical areas outlined, six saw a decline in overall peace including Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and South America (the biggest dropper). Europe remains the most peaceful geographical area.
A vital function of the report is to show a link between peace and economic activity and prosperity. The report has noted that since its conception, the economy has grown seven times in countries which improved in peacefulness compared to those which have deteriorated. The report places the global impact of violence at 14.76 trillion dollars in purchasing power parity which amounts to 12.4% of the world’s economic activity. China, Russia and South America rank as the three highest spenders on violence. In India alone, ranked at 136th place in 2018, violence cost the country $806 billion around 9 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This occurred while the country’s economy grew at around 7 percent, the third highest GDP in the world.
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/ Wikimedia Commons