Global Peace Index: Nine trillion reasons to pursue peace

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office of for ECOSOC Support and Coordination

If the world had been completely peaceful in 2011, the benefit to the global economy would have been an estimated 9 trillion USD according to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) 2012 Global Peace Index (GPI), released on 12 June. To mark the sixth year of this report, the office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination at UN DESA hosted a panel event at UN Headquarters in New York on how peace metrics can inform discussions on risk, resilience and sustainability.   

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office of for ECOSOC Support and Coordination moderated and said, “It’s intuitive that peace is useful and peacefulness is a reward in itself, but the IEP is trying to make this conclusion more evidence-based. Now that the index covers 99% of the population, it has come a long way. The report systematically measures peacefulness and identifies the determinants of peace”.

For the first time, the 2012 report includes a ‘Positive Peace Index’, highlighting key institutional factors associated with creating peaceful and resilient societies from data derived from 108 countries. It ranks countries by their institutional capacity to move away from violence and towards peace.

The 2012 GPI indicated the world is more peaceful in 2012, however slight, and this reverses a two-year downward trend. The two key factors at play were improvements in the Political Terror Scale and gains in several indicators of militarization arising from austerity-driven defence cuts, and improved relations between neighbouring states. Overall all regions of the world, apart from the Middle East and North Africa, saw an improvement in their levels of peacefulness. In another change in global circumstances, Sub-Saharan Africa is for the first time not the least peaceful region.

Daniel Hyslop, Research Manager at the Institute for Economics and Peace explained this further by saying, “The budget crunch in many developed economies means that there can’t be as much spending on military. However, the flip side to austerity is that we have seen declines in internal safety and security. We’ve seen increases in levels of perceived criminality, the level of violent demonstrations and the level of homicides in violent crime. This has mainly occurred in Arab spring countries and the European countries that have been badly affected by the financial crisis.”

The Arab spring has had a big impact on this year’s scale. The top 5 fallers are Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Oman and Malawi. Syria’s rating has fallen by the largest margin dropping more than 30 places to 147th position. Conversely, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bhutan, Guyana and the Philippines are the top 5 risers. Iceland is once again ranked the most peaceful country in the world, followed by Denmark and New Zealand.

Jordan Ryan, Assistant Secretary-General of UNDP explained the important link between peacefulness and resilience. “Iceland and Denmark both faced political transition and economic shocks in recent years but didn’t spiral into conflict. In other societies the response would have been violence. As we look out to the horizon we see increasingly a world where there will be climate related turbulence and economic turbulence. Shock and crisis will be the order of the day, if not the norm. From food insecurity to youth unemployment, prolonged and turbulent transitions of various types will require our resilience. From the UN perspective it’s about asking what we can do to help societies be resilient and build peace”.

How do metrics help bring about increased peacefulness? As Michael Shank, Vice President of IEP US operations says “You can’t manage what you haven’t measured. We are about metrics and trying to create measurements so we can divine the route forward”.

9 Trillion USD is a lot, especially in the age of austerity, but the true cost of violence is much greater. The Global Peace Index and the Positive Peace Index helps to make a contribution to understanding how civil society, researchers, policymakers, and government can create a more peaceful society.

First released in May 2007, the GPI is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and guided by an international expert panel of independent experts and supported by the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is made up of 23 indicators ranking 158 countries globally.

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