The results of the 2012 Global Peace Index (GPI) were released on June 12th. The 2012 Global Peace Index is the sixth edition of the world’s leading study on global levels of peacefulness. This year Australia ranked the 22nd most peaceful country in the world, sitting below New Zealand (ranked 3rd), Canada (ranked 4th), Japan (ranked 5th) and Malaysia (ranked 20th).
The GPI ranks 158 nations using 23 separate indicators, encompassing three themes: the level of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic or international conflict; and the degree of militarisation. The data takes into consideration a range of both internal and external factors, so as to gain an insight into peacefulness not only between, but also within states.
Key findings of the 2012 Global Peace Index:
The world improved in peacefulness for the first time since 2009 after a period of decline. The factors which contributed to these gains include improvements in the level of political violence and terror, and austerity-driven cuts to defence spending by six of the world’s top military spenders – Brazil, France, Germany, India, UK and USA. While external measures of peacefulness have improved, there has been a rise in internal conflict. All regions excluding the Middle East and North Africa saw an improvement in peacefulness. Steve Killelea says, “nations have become more peaceful as they compete through economic rather than military means”.
OUR REGION: The Asia Pacific’s overall score improved the largest extent from the previous year and included three of the top 5 risers. One of those countries was Sri Lanka- the biggest riser- where the end of the civil war helped it to leap 30 places. Bhutan entered the top 20 for the first time.
THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA: The least peaceful region globally driven by the Arab Spring. Syria tumbles by the largest margin dropping over 30 places to 147th position. Sub-Saharan Africa does not occupy the bottom spot for the first time since the GPI was launched in 2007. Regional wars have waned as the African Union strives for economic and political integration. One of the top risers from the region was Zimbabwe, the home of our 2012 Sydney Peace Prize recipient, Senator Sekai Holland, which was ranked 140th. Somalia is the world’s least peaceful nation.
WESTERN EUROPE: For the sixth consecutive year, Western Europe remains the most peaceful region with the majority of countries ranking in the top 20. Iceland is top of the list, followed by Denmark. Norway dropped out of the top 10 for the first time to 18th position mainly due to the massacre of 77 people by Anders Behring Breivik.
NORTH AMERICA: A slight improvement continuing an upward trend. Canada made gains as a result of fewer casualties among its troops in Afghanistan and the US reduced its jail population.
LATIN AMERICA: Experienced positive gains with 16 out of 23 nations seeing improvements.
“Countries in the top and bottom of the Index rarely move out – suggesting peace is ‘sticky’ at both ends. There is also a notable ‘tipping point’ after which relatively small gains in peacefulness seem to be associated with large falls in corruption and large increases in GDP per capital”, Steve Killelea, The Global Peace Index.
Steve Killelea is an Australian IT entrepreneur and the creator of the Global Peace Index (and a great supporter of the Sydney Peace Foundation). The Index is developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a global think tank concerned with the relationship between economics, business, and peace. The Global Peace Index provides a valuable contribution to identify ‘orientations towards peace’ as financially, culturally and psychologically more valuable than preparations for war.
An achievable 25% reduction in violence could reap a peace dividend of at least US$2.25 trillion. This could deal with the European sovereign debt crisis while also covering the yearly cost of the Millennium Development Goals.
These results are a reminder that nourishing of peace studies in a place such as the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and within organizations such as Sydney Peace Foundation, is not only a morally worthy commitment but also a financially-wise investment.
PEACE = CENTS
GPI report, interactive maps and more are available at www.visionofhumanity.org.
By Christine El-Khoury and Juliet Bennett.