World 'More Peaceful' In 2008

Iceland is the world's most peaceful country, according to an index measuring internal and external turmoil in 140 countries. Only one of the G8 countries, the world's most economically powerful nations, makes it into the top ten of the survey, which is published today.

While Iraq, Somalia and Sudan unsurprisingly take the bottom three places in the index, the survey suggests that the world is a marginally more secure place than it was a year ago. Angola, Indonesia and India are seen as the nations that have made the greatest strides away from conflict in the twelve months since the previous index was published. All three countries have moved up the table.

Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottiir, Iceland's minister of foreign affairs, welcomed her country's top ranking. "We are very pleased that the index confirms the core values of a small democratic society in the north which has never had a military and has effectively practised peace for hundreds of years," she said. "We can feel that other states also find this of importance and it is in fact a driving force in our first-time candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN security council." Iceland has the lowest proportion of its citizens in jail of all 140 countries surveyed.

While Iceland leads the field, Scandinavian countries once again feature at the top of the index, which is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit from 24 indicators of external and internal measures of peace, including UN deployments overseas and levels of violent crime at home. Denmark and Norway come second and third, followed by New Zealand and Japan, the G8's sole representative at the top end of the poll.

Small, stable, democratic countries are the most peaceful, according to the index, but economic is not seen as a guarantee of a high ranking. Of the G8 countries, France (36), the United Kingdom (49), the United States (97), and Russia (131) did not even make it into the top thirty. The UK is placed just below Panama (48) and one place above Mozambique (50). Just above the bottom three nations are Afghanistan, Israel and Chad.

The index, which was launched under the auspices of the global thinktank the Institute for Economics and Peace is endorsed by the Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Joseph Stiglitz and Professor Muhammad Yunus. It also enjoys the support of business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson and Sir Mark Moody Stuart.

"On average, scores for level of organised conflict (internal) and violent crime, political instability and potential for terrorist acts have all got marginally better," according to the summary of the index. In contrast, the world's armed services have grown on average per country, as has the sophistication of their weaponry.

"The world appears to be a marginally more peaceful place this year," said Steve Killelea, the Australian technology entrepreneur and founder of the Global Peace Index. "This is encouraging, but it takes small steps by individual countries for the world to make greater strides on the road to peace."

The survey concludes that business can play a major part in bringing peace to troubled areas. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "You ultimately can't have business where you have conflict. So, it is in the nature of self-interest to promote the kind of circumstances and the kind of environment where you can carry out your business when there is peace."

His call was echoed by business backers of the index. "There is no doubt that investment and business benefit from more peaceful and less violent environments," said Sir Mark Moody Stuart, chair of Anglo American and the UN Global Compact Foundation. "This research considers the many factors that contribute to this and I have no doubt that sound and transparent business practices, coupled with careful consideration of the social consequences of our businesses, can contribute to growing peace."

(c) 2008 The Guardian

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