12 June 2013
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Launch of 2013 Global Peace Index

 


The world had become less peaceful in the past year, with Afghanistan at the bottom of the ranking and Syria being the “biggest ever faller”, experts said at a Headquarters press conference today upon the release of this year’s Global Peace Index (GPI).


“We take a key definition of peace as the absence of violence or the absence of fear of violence,” Michelle Breslauer, Director, United States Operations, Institute for Economics and Peace, said of the Index, which comprised 22 indicators measuring internal and external levels of peacefulness in society, including levels of militarization, safety, security and organized conflict.


Iceland maintained its position as the most peaceful nation, followed by Denmark, New Zealand and Austria, she reported.  Austria had risen slightly from the previous survey.  Afghanistan had always been in the bottom 10 since the Index started in 2007.  In fact, the country was deemed less peaceful now than it was in 2008.  It was followed by Somalia, Syria and Iraq.  Syria had dropped in the Index by 70 per cent.


The world had grown more violent, primarily due to a rise in internal levels of violence, she said.  The homicide rates had gone up 8 per cent globally, with notable increases in Central America and sub-Saharan Africa.  Deaths from internal organized conflict had also gone up, indicating that over the past six years there had been a shift from wars between States to internal conflict between citizens.


Also joining her to answer questions were Daniel Hyslop, Research Director, Institute for Economics and Peace, and Lucy Hurst, Associate Director, Americas, Custom Research, The Economist Intelligence Unit.


Asked about Mali and Haiti in the ranking, as well as a correlation between peacefulness and the presence of United Nations peacekeeping missions, Mr. Hyslop said that Mali was ranked fairly low, at 125,havingfallen significantly in the past year.  But not all of the violence seen in Mali had been factored into the latest Index, owing to a time lag.  He would expect that if the violence continued, Mali would fall in subsequent years.  According to another index, the Positive Peace Index, which looks at attitudes, institutions and structures of peaceful society, Mali was among the countries lacking institutional capacity, he said.


Haiti also lacked institutional capacity and had been a big “faller” before, he said.  But it had been bouncing back from the natural disaster and internal conflict in the past six years, presenting a relatively positive story in the GPI.


Ms.  Hurst added that Haiti had made headway in several areas over the past year.  Internal security had stabilized with increased police deployment, and the numbers in prison had fallen.  Terrorist activity had been declining, and the country’s score had improved based on the number of deaths from internal organized conflict.  Other improvements concerned numbers of refugees and displaced persons.  Constraints to Haiti’s improvement tended to be the level of violent crimes, for which the country was in the bottom quarter.


On a question about data gathering, Ms. Breslauer said the Index looked at both qualitative and quantitative indicators.  Ms.  Hurst noted that the level of perceived criminality in society was a key qualitative indicator for the GPI.  On a five-point scale, the worst score in that gauge represented a high level of distrust among citizens; people were extremely cautious in their dealings with others and there was a large number of gated communities and security guards.


To an inquiry about the cost of data collection and the source of the data, Mr. Hyslop said that on-the-ground qualitative data could not be collected because of the high cost. Another challenge was the need to harmonize data costs in 162 countries and to compare “apples” with “apples”.  That was just not possible with the current stock of data, he said.  There were some sources, like the Gallup World Poll, but “we don’t have good data sources at the moment”.


Asked about how education, particularly peace education, would impact a country’s economy and peacefulness, Mr. Hyslop said that the GPI did not measure educational outcome.  But certainly education was a very important facilitator of peace.  The Positive Peace Index took into account human capital, which was “very much about education and youth development”.  Countries with high GPI scores tended to have better education outcomes.  Regarding peace education, he said there was not much data available to measure its impact on the ground.


As for what number the GPI had used to measure the level of violence in Syria and which side was causing violence, Mr. Hyslop said that the Index used the number of armed-conflict deaths published by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), which indicated 72,900 deaths in 2012.  He was aware that there were reported numbers as high as 120,000, but the Index sought to use the best available data.  On the latter part of the question, he said that the Index was not trying to make a judgement as to who to blame for violence.


To a question about how violent protests in Turkey were factored in the Index, Mr. Hyslop said the element would be reflected in the violence demonstration indicator of the GPI next year.


In closing, Ms. Breslauer said the Index was not just trying to capture the level of violence, but assess its economic impact.  Her Institute put together a number each year accounting for the cost of direct violence to the world economy and the loss in terms of productivity.  For 2012, the cost of violence to the global economy was $9.4 trillion, about 11 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), she said.


The press conference was moderated by Neil Pierre, Chief, Policy Coordination Branch, Office for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.


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For information media • not an official record