June 2011


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2011 Global 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 rankings.

“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 index.

“Despite a decade-long ‘war on terror,’ the potential for terrorist acts has increased this year offsetting small gains made in prior years,” he added.

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 neighboring countries.

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>.