FeaturedInternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 05

Global peace: an elusive chase

The Global Peace Index (GPI), which is published annually by the renowned research body, Institute for Economics and Peace, gives a measure of the state of peace in the world. The thirteenth edition of the Global Peace Index, just out, ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.

The report is important for presenting the latest and most comprehensive statistical analysis on global peace, its economic value, trends, and how to develop peaceful societies. The GPI covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources, and measures the state of peace using three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of militarization in a country.

This year’s is especially important for including a detailed analysis of trends focusing on attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. The term used by the authors of the report is Positive Peace. A deficit of Positive Peace is an indicator of future increases in conflict and destruction of peace.

This year’s main finding is that the level of global peacefulness showed minimal improvement. But thank God for this, as it has happened after more than five years. According to the report, 86 countries improved their ranks, while76 showed regression. The 2019 GPI reveals that the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, but at the same time new tensions emerged around the globe.

Iceland once again ranked as the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is followed by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Bhutan has recorded the largest improvement of any country in the top 20, rising 43 places in the last 12 years. Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful. South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq are among the five least peaceful countries.

It is gratifying to note that four of the nine conflict-torn regions in the world became more peaceful over the past year. The greatest increase in peacefulness occurred in the Russia and Eurasia region, followed by the Middle East and North Africa. In both of these regions, the number of deaths from conflict declined, owing to the de-escalation of violence in Ukraine and Syria.

By contrast, all three regions in the Americas became less peaceful in 2019, with Central America and the Caribbean showing the largest decline, followed by South America and North America. There has been a spike in political instability in the region, exemplified by the violent unrest in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and growing political polarisation in Brazil and the US.

The report has noted that since 2008 global peacefulness has deteriorated by 3.78 per cent, with 81 GPI countries recording a deterioration, and 81 improving. The index has deteriorated for eight of the last twelve years, with the last improvement in peacefulness occurring in 2014.

Two of the three GPI indicators deteriorated over the past decade. Ongoing Conflict deteriorated by 8.69 per cent and Safety and Security by 4.02 per cent. Terrorism and internal conflict have made the greatest contributors to the decline in peacefulness. Additionally, over 100 countries recorded increased terrorist activity, while only 38 improved, and the total number of conflict deaths increased by 140 per cent between 2006 and 2017.

Thankfully, militarization has shown a declining trend. The domain has registered a 2.6 per cent improvement since 2008. The number of armed services personnel per 100,000 people has fallen in 117 countries, and military expenditure as a percentage of GDP fell in 98 countries, with only 63 countries increasing their spending.

An encouraging finding of the peace report is that more people across the world now feel that they have more freedom in life, are more satisfied with life. Many more people also feel that their countries are better places to live for ethnic and religious minorities.

At the same time, perceptions of trust in the world’s most powerful countries have fallen since 2008. Confidence in the US leadership has fallen more than confidence in Russian, Chinese and German leaderships in the past five years, with people on average now having more confidence in the Chinese leadership than the US.

Climate change has also had a negative impact on peace around the world. An estimated 971 million people live in areas with high or very high climate change exposure. Of this, 400 million (41 per cent) reside in countries which already have low levels of peacefulness. Climate change has increased the likelihood of violent conflict through its impacts on resource availability, livelihood, security and migration. In the opinion of experts, countries with high levels of peacefulness are better able to manage climate-related calamities and tend to have higher environmental performance than those with lower levels of peacefulness.

The peace index has revealed that the economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2018 was as high as $14.1 trillion. This figure is equivalent to 11.2 per cent of the world’s GDP. Violence continues to have a significant impact on economic performance around the globe. In the ten countries most affected by violence, the average economic cost of violence was equivalent to 35 per cent of GDP, compared to just 3.3 per cent in the countries least affected by violence. The economic impact of violence model includes data on suicide for the first time in the 2019 GPI. The report finds that the economic impact of suicide is higher than that of Armed Conflict, amounting to $737 billion in 2018.

The peace index provides guidelines for conflict-ridden countries how to get out of their predicament and achieve a better level of peacefulness.