Peace Index: World Less Peaceful
Institute for Economics and Peace
Levels of world peace dropped for the third consecutive year according
to the 2011 Global Peace Index (GPI) released on May 25. According to
the index, an increased risk of terrorism and significant unrest in the
Middle East and North Africa drove dramatic changes in national
“The fall in this year’s index is strongly tied to conflict between
citizens and their governments; nations need to look at new ways of
creating stability other than through military force,” said Steve
Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics
and Peace (IEP), the international research institute which produces the
“Despite a decade-long ‘war on terror,’ the potential for terrorist acts
has increased this year offsetting small gains made in prior years,” he
The GPI is the world’s leading statistical analysis of nations according
to their state of peace. It gauges ongoing domestic and international
conflict, safety and security in society and militarization in 153
countries by looking at 23 indicators of external and internal peace,
such as the number of homicides, weapons exports, prison population,
level of organized internal conflict and a nation’s relationship with
As nations previously ranked above the United States became less
peaceful, the United States rose three spots to 82nd this year, despite
only a minimal change in its GPI score. The United States’ 2011 GPI
score is 2.063 (1 being the most peaceful; 5 being the least). An
increase in deaths from external conflicts offset the United States’
decrease in violent crime.
For the third consecutive year, the index has seen direct evidence of
the negative and continuing impact of the 2008–2009 financial crises,
adding that the scores of countries dealing with economic instability
continue to worsen. Unrest caused by economic instability led to falls
in peacefulness in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.
This year Iceland regained its position at the top of the index after
slipping in last year’s ranking due to the violent demonstrations
related to the collapse of the country’s financial system and currency.
Iraq (152nd), which had been listed as the world’s least peaceful nation
since the inaugural GPI in 2007, saw a marked improvement, making
Somalia now the least peaceful country.
“We continue to see that the most peaceful nations share specific
structures of peace, including a well-functioning government, strong
business environments, respect for human rights, low levels of
corruption, high rates of participation in education and a free flow of
information,” said Clyde McConaghy, board director of IEP.
The United States’ score continues to be impacted by a relatively large
prison population—the largest of all 153 nations analyzed in the GPI.
Earlier this year the IEP released the U.S. Peace Index (USPI), the
first ever analysis of peace in the 50 states. The USPI revealed that
growing incarceration rates are a drag on the U.S. economy and in recent
years have not had a significant effect on violent crime.
The United States’ immediate neighbors saw divergent score and rank
changes this year. Canada jumped six spots on the index to 8th while
Mexico dropped 11 spots to 121st. Canada’s increase in peace was a
result of improved relations with neighboring countries that had
previously been strained due to the government’s defense of sovereign
claims in the Arctic. Meanwhile, due to escalating drug-related
violence, Mexico saw the greatest increase in the number of deaths due
to internal conflict of all countries in the Latin American region.
Despite improved relations between countries, the Latin American region
is still largely fraught with internal conflict and a worsening security
situation. Uruguay, ranked 21st on the GPI, is the most peaceful country
in the region.
According to the IEP, if the world had been 25 percent more peaceful
over the past year, the global economy would have reaped an additional
economic benefit of US$2 trillion. Only half of this amount would cover
the cost of achieving one year of the Millennium Development Goals,
eliminating the public debt of Greece, Portugal and Ireland and covering
the rebuilding costs of the most expensive natural disaster in
history—the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
Key Findings from the 2011 Global Peace Index
- The top five nations (from most to least peaceful) are
Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark and the Czech Republic.
- The least peaceful nations (from 153rd to 149th) are
Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and North Korea.
- The impact of the “Arab Spring” has been dramatic.
Libya’s rank (143rd) saw the most significant drop in GPI history,
falling 83 spots. Bahrain’s rank (123rd) fell by the second largest
margin, falling 51 places. Egypt (73rd) dropped 24 places.
- Military expenditure is the most improved indicator.
With cuts to military budgets globally, military expenditure as a
percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is the most improved
indicator, resulting from the impact of the global financial crisis
on many economies. Relations among neighboring countries also saw an
overall improvement, particularly between such countries as
Colombia, Honduras, Uruguay, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.
- There has been a major increase in the threat of terrorism.
Despite the ongoing “war on terror,” 29 nations, particularly in
Africa, the Middle East and Europe, experienced a rise in their
potential for terrorist acts, being the indicator that experienced
the largest negative movement this year. The likelihood of violent
demonstrations also increased, substantially affecting 33 nations.
The GPI results, related maps and charts are available at <www.visionofhumanity.org>.
As a companion to the GPI, IEP has also published the discussion paper
“New Dimensions of Peace—Society, Economy and the Media,” which is also
available at <www.visionofhumanity.org>.
* The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) is an international
research institute dedicated to building a greater understanding of the
interrelationships between business, peace and economics with a
particular emphasis on the economic benefits of peace. IEP is an
independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization with offices in
Sydney and New York. IEP partners with numerous leading organizations
internationally, including the Aspen Institute, the Economist
Intelligence Unit, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the Club
de Madrid, Monash University and the Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS). It also collaborates with multinational
organizations, including the World Bank, the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations. More
information is available at <www.EconomicsandPeace.org>.