Global Index Finds World has Become Less Peaceful

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Global Index Finds World has Become Less Peaceful

The Global Peace Index records less armed conflict, but increasing rates of homicide and violent crime across the world

by
Liz Ford

Peacekeepers in Darfur. Sudan is one of the least peaceful countries in the world. (Photograph: AFP)

The world has become less peaceful over the last year, despite a
drop in the number of armed conflicts, according to this year's Global Peace Index (GPI).

Figures
published today show homicide rates and violent crime had increased
around the world, particularly in Latin America, where levels of
peacefulness showed the biggest slip over the past 12 months.

The
GPI has been published annually for the last four years by the
Institute for Economics and Peace, a global thinktank that researches
the relationship between economics, business and peace. The rankings,
compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, are calculated using 23
indicators, such as violent crime, political stability and military
expenditure, correlated against a number of social development
indicators such as corruption, freedom of the press, respect for human
rights and school enrolment rates.

Figures show that Africa has
become the most improved region of the world for peacefulness over the
last four years. The continent has experienced fewer conflicts, less
military spending and improved cross-border relations. However,
sub-Saharan Africa still remains one of the planet's least peaceful
areas, with nine states featuring in the bottom 20 countries listed.

The
Middle East has also shown improvements in its levels of peacefulness
since 2006, largely through decreasing military spending and improved
relations between states.

However, South Asia has become the most
volatile area over the last four years, mainly due to increased
involvement in conflicts and human rights abuses. This year, Pakistan
was ranked 145 out of the 149 states listed and India ranked 129,
evidence, says Steve Killelea, founder of the GPI, of the impact of the
war on terror.

Levels of peace

For the second year
running, New Zealand is rated the most peaceful country in the world,
with Iceland climbing back up to second place, after dropping from the
top slot in 2008 to fourth place last year. Japan ranked third. Fifteen
of the top 20 countries are western or central European states and all
Scandinavian countries are listed in the top 10, suggesting that small,
stable, democratic countries are the most peaceful. The UK was ranked
31, one of the few countries to improve positions, while the US dropped
two places to 85, largely due to its military expenditure, high prison
population and increasing rates of violent crime and homicide.

For
the fourth year running, Iraq was found to be the least peaceful
country, followed by Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan. Russia ranked 143.

This
year, five extra countries were added to the index - Armenia, Gambia,
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Swaziland, which ranked 113, 63, 99, 53 and
73 respectively.

In a sense, the GPI make a case for peace -
putting a monetary value on peace in terms of business growth and
economic development. The index authors estimate that the total
economic impact of an end to violence could have been US$28.2tr between
2006 and 2009. A 25% reduction in global violence would add an annual
$1.85tr to the global economy. Killelea said these amounts could pay
off Greece's debts, meet the yearly requirements needed to hit the
Millennium Development Goals and pay for the EU's carbon reduction
programme, and still leave change.

Aid thoughts

The
rankings could provide useful backing to donor governments rethinking
their aid strategies. The UK government is currently reviewing the
countries to which it gives aid and has set up a National Security
Council to pull together plans for development and defence. In a speech
last week, the international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell,
spoke of the importance of building "peaceful and stable societies
abroad", with particular reference to Afghanistan.

"It's highly
appropriate to look at the index and review how we go about giving aid.
In the past, a lot of it was giving on a political whim, to prop up
some government," said Killelea. "You need the right resources and
approaches to build a well functioning government and make sure
resources are spread around the people." A government would also save
"hundreds of billions of dollars" in military expenditure.

Africa,
he added, had experienced significant economic growth over the last
decade, which had resulted in improved GDP across the continent, a drop
in armed conflict and improvements in child mortality and education
rates. But Killelea the continent still had a long way to go. "We don't
want to lose sight that Africa is the most violent region in the
world", he said.

The highest ranked country in Africa is Botswana, at 33. Uganda
ranked 100 this year, an improvement on last year. However, Killelea
noted that while the country had clearly improved in a number of areas,
particularly in terms of economic growth, political instability, a
worsening respect for human rights and an increasing number of deaths
from organised crime remained major problems.

The top 10 GPI rankings:

1 New Zealand 1.188

2 Iceland 1.212

3 Japan 1.247

4 Austria 1.290

5 Norway 1.322

6 Ireland 1.337

7 Denmark 1.341

7 Luxembourg 1.341

9 Finland 1.352

10 Sweden 1.354

The bottom 10:

139 North Korea 2.855

140 Democratic Republic of the Congo 2.925

141 Chad 2.964

142 Georgia 2.970

143 Russia 3.013

144 Israel 3.019

145 Pakistan 3.050

146 Sudan 3.125

147 Afghanistan 3.252

148 Somalia 3.390

149 Iraq 3.406

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