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Global Peace Index 2019 Executive Summary

Anne Testuz for GPI/ Institute for Economics and Peace
Tigrai Online, June 12, 2019

This is the thirteenth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. Produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. This report presents the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on peace, its economic value, trends, and how to develop peaceful societies. 

The GPI covers 99.7 per cent of the world’s population, using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources, and measures the state of peace using three thematic domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.

In addition to presenting the findings from the 2019 GPI, this year’s report includes analysis of trends in Positive Peace: the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. It looks at the relationship between the actual peace of a country, as measured by the GPI, and Positive Peace, and how a deficit of Positive Peace is often a predictor of future increases in violent conflict. It also looks at the dynamic relationship between changes in Positive Peace and changes in the economy.

The results this year

show that the average level of global peacefulness improved very slightly in the 2019 GPI. This is the first time the index has improved in five years. The average country score improved by 0.09 per cent, with 86 countries improving, and 76 recording deteriorations. The 2019 GPI reveals a world in which the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, but new tensions between and within nations have emerged.

Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark. Bhutan has recorded the largest improvement of any country in the top 20, rising 43 places in the last 12 years.

Afghanistan is now the least peaceful country in the world, replacing Syria, which is now the second least peaceful. South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq comprise the remaining five least peaceful countries. This is the first year since the inception of the index that Yemen has been ranked amongst the five least peaceful countries.

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Four of the nine regions in the world became more peaceful over the past year. The greatest increase in peacefulness occurred in the Russia and Eurasia region, followed by the Middle East and North Africa. In both of these regions, the number of deaths from conflict declined, owing to a winding down of the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria respectively. The fall in conflict deaths has been mirrored by a fall in deaths from terrorism.

All three regions in the Americas recorded a deterioration in peacefulness in the 2019 GPI, with Central America and the Caribbean showing the largest deteriorations, followed by South America, and then North America. Increasing political instability has been an issue across all three regions, exemplified by the violent unrest seen in Nicaragua and Venezuela, and growing political polarisation in Brazil and the US.

The trend in peacefulness

since 2008 shows that global peacefulness has deteriorated by 3.78 per cent, with 81 GPI countries recording a deterioration, and 81 improving, highlighting that deteriorations in peacefulness are generally larger than improvements. The index has deteriorated for eight of the last twelve years, with the last improvement in peacefulness before 2019 occurring in 2014. Seventeen of the 23 GPI indicators are less peaceful on average in 2019 when compared to 2008.

Two of the three GPI domains deteriorated over the past decade, with Ongoing Conflict deteriorating by 8.69 per cent and Safety and Security deteriorating by 4.02 per cent. Terrorism and internal conflict have been the biggest contributors to the global deterioration in peacefulness. One hundred and four countries recorded increased terrorist activity, while only 38 improved, and the total number of conflict deaths increased by 140 per cent between 2006 and 2017.

However, contrary to public perception, the Militarisation domain has recorded a 2.6 per cent improvement since 2008. The number of armed services personnel per 100,000 people has fallen in 117 countries, and military expenditure as a percentage of GDP fell in 98 countries, with only 63 countries increasing their spending.

Perceptions of peacefulness have increased in some areas but decreased in others. More people across the world now feel that have more freedom in life, are more satisfied with life, and are treated with more respect than in 2008. Many more people also feel that their countries are better places to live for ethnic and religious minorities. However, daily feelings of sadness, worry, and stress have also increased over the same time period.

There is a strong correlation between perceptions of peacefulness and actual peacefulness as measured by the GPI. Both men and women in more peaceful countries are more likely to report that they feel safe walking alone at night than people in less peaceful countries. There is also a greater level of trust in police in more peaceful societies.

Perceptions of trust in the world’s most powerful countries has fallen since 2008. Confidence in US leadership has fallen more than confidence in Russian, Chinese and German leadership in the past five years, with people on average now having more confidence in Chinese leadership than the US.

Dealing with these negative trends in peacefulness becomes even more crucial when looking at the potential impact of climate change on peace. An estimated 971 million people live in areas with high or very high climate change exposure. Of this number, 400 million (41 per cent) reside in countries which already have low levels of peacefulness.

Climate change can indirectly increase the likelihood of violent conflict through its impacts on resource availability, livelihood, security and migration. In order to address these challenges, there will need to be much greater cooperation both within and between countries. Countries with high levels of Positive Peace are better able to manage climate-induced shocks and tend to have higher environmental performance than those with lower levels of Positive Peace

The economic impact of violence

on the global economy in 2018 was $14.1 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This figure is equivalent to 11.2 per cent of the world’s economic activity (gross world product) or $1,853 for every person. The economic impact of violence improved by 3.3 per cent during 2018. The biggest improvement was in armed conflict, which decreased by 29 per cent to $672 billion, owing to a fall in the intensity of conflict in Syria, Colombia and Ukraine. There was also a substantial reduction in the economic impact of terrorism, which fell by 48 per cent from 2017 to 2018.

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Violence continues to have a significant impact on economic performance around the globe. In the ten countries most affected by violence, the average economic impact of violence was equivalent to 35 per cent of GDP, compared to just 3.3 per cent in the countries least affected by violence.  Syria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic incurred the largest economic cost of violence in 2018 as a percentage of their GDP, equivalent to 67, 47 and 42 per cent of GDP, respectively.

The economic impact of violence model includes data on suicide for the first time in the 2019 GPI. The report finds that the economic impact of suicide is higher than that of armed conflict, amounting to $737 billion in 2019.

The report’s Positive Peace research

analyses the relationship between the GPI and Positive Peace. Positive Peace is defined as, the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and maintain peaceful societies.

There is a strong correlation between the GPI and Positive Peace. Countries with high levels of both Positive and Negative Peace have achieved a Sustainable Peace and are unlikely to fall into conflict. Conversely, many of the countries with low levels of both Positive and Negative Peace have fallen into a Violence Trap, and find it difficult to escape from vicious cycles of conflict.

Some countries score much higher on the GPI than their Positive Peace score would indicate. This is known as a Positive Peace “deficit”, and research has shown that these countries are more likely to have increased levels of violence in the future, because they lack the necessary attitudes, institutions and structures to prevent violence from breaking out once the country receives a shock.

Some pillars of Positive Peace exhibit “tipping points”. Small improvements or deteriorations in Positive Peace can trigger large increases or decreases in their GPI scores. This tipping point can be seen when looking at the relationship between corruption, economic growth, inequality, and the GPI’s Safety and Security domain.

The report also finds that Positive Peace is dynamically associated with economic development. There is a strong correlation between changes in the Positive Peace Index and GDP growth between 2005 and 2018. Greater household consumption is a key reason for the link between improvements in Positive Peace and economic performance. Households are particularly helped by improvements in public administration.

On the production side, business activity responds particularly well to improvements in public administration and attempts to curb corruption. Services and construction are particularly responsive to improvements in Positive Peace. Manufacturing and agriculture are less responsive, especially in countries excluded from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) groups.

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Results

  • The average level of global peacefulness improved very slightly for the first time in five years on the 2019 GPI.
  • The average country score improved by 0.09 per cent from last year, with 86 countries improving, and 76 recording deteriorations.
  • The Middle East and North Africa region remained the world’s least peaceful regions It is home to four of the ten least peaceful countries in the world, with no country from the region ranked higher than 30th on the GPI.
  • Europe remains the most peaceful region in the world, and it recorded a very slight improvement in peacefulness after several years of deterioration. Twenty-two of the 36 European countries recorded improvements on the 2019 GPI.
  • Peacefulness improved on average on both the Safety and Security and Militarisation domains, with a small deterioration on the Ongoing Conflict domain.
  • Of the 23 GPI indicators, eight recorded an improvement, 12 had a deterioration, with the remaining three indicators not registering any change over the past year.
  • The Militarisation domain had the largest improvement of the three GPI domains, with UN peacekeeping funding, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP, and weapons exports having notable improvements.
  • Seventy-two countries reduced their level of military expenditure as a percentage of GDP in the 2019 GPI, with the majority of the largest improvements occurring in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Despite the overall improvement on the Safety and Security domain, there were a number of indicators that deteriorated, including the perceptions of criminality and incarceration rate indicators.

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  • The average level of global peacefulness has deteriorated by 3.78 per cent since 2008. Over that period, 81 countries deteriorated in peacefulness, while 81 improved.
  • The gap between the least and most peaceful countries continues to grow. Since 2008, the 25 least peaceful countries declined on average by 11 per cent, while the 25 most peaceful countries improved by 1.8 per cent on average.
  • Conflict in the Middle East has been the key driver of the global deterioration in peacefulness.
  • Of the three GPI domains, two recorded a deterioration while one improved. Ongoing Conflict deteriorated by 8.7 per cent and Safety and Security deteriorated by just over four per cent. However, Militarisation improved by 2.6 per cent.
  • The indicator with the most widespread deterioration globally was the terrorism impact indicator. Just over 63 per cent of countries recorded increased levels of terrorist activity However, the number of deaths from terrorism has been falling globally since 2014.
  • Deaths from conflict rose by 140 per cent since 2008. However, since the peak in 2014, conflict deaths have fallen by 26.5 per cent.
  • Despite a fall in peacefulness globally, there have been increases in average feelings of life satisfaction and wellbeing, perceptions of safety, and confidence in the local police and military.
  • Trends in negative personal feelings more closely match the trend in peacefulness. Perceptions of stress, worry, and sadness have risen on average, as the world has become less peaceful.
  • Perception of leadership in the world’s most influential countries has been declining. Confidence in US leadership has fallen the most in the past five years, with people now having more confidence in China than the US on average.
  • An estimated 971 million people live in areas with high or very high climate change exposure. Of this number, 400 million (41 per cent) reside in countries with already low levels of peacefulness.

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Economic Impact of Violence

  • The global economic impact of violence improved for the first time since 2012, decreasing by 3.3 per cent or $475 billion from 2017 to 2018.  
  • The global economic impact of violence was $14.1 trillion PPP in 2018, equivalent to 11.2 per cent of global GDP or $1,853 per person.
  • The improvement in the global economic impact of violence is largely due to the decrease in the impact of armed conflict particularly in Iraq, Colombia and Ukraine, where the cost of conflict decreased by 29 per cent to $672 billion in 2017.
  • The economic impact of terrorism recorded the largest percentage improvement in 2018, down by 48 per cent from 2017.
  • Syria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic incurred the largest economic cost of violence in 2018 as a percentage of their GDP, equivalent to 67, 47 and 42 per cent of GDP, respectively.
  • In the ten countries most affected by violence the average economic cost was equivalent to 35 per cent of GDP, compared to 3.3 per cent in the ten least affected.

Positive Peace

  • Positive and Negative Peace are highly correlated, with most countries recording rankings in the Positive Peace Index broadly in line with their position on the GPI.
  • Some countries have higher levels of Negative Peace than Positive Peace. This is known as a ‘Positive Peace deficit’, and these countries are more likely to have increased levels of violence in the future.
  • Positive Peace is most closely correlated with the Safety and Security domain of the GPI. It also has a strong correlation with the Ongoing Conflict domain, but only has a very weak correlation with the Militarisation domain.
  • There are “tipping points” where small increases in Positive Peace can trigger large changes in GPI scores. Tipping points occur for Safety and Security, Sound Business Environment, Low Levels of Corruption, and Equitable Distribution of Resources.
  • Positive Peace is dynamically associated with economic development, with the correlation coefficient between changes in the Positive Peace Index (PPI) overall score and real GDP growth being -0.45. Greater household consumption is a key reason for this link.
  • Services and construction are particularly responsive to improvements in Positive Peace. Manufacturing and agriculture are less responsive, especially in non-OECD, non-BRIC nations. 
  • Low-peace countries tend to rely more heavily on agriculture. When the level of the PPI overall score improves beyond the tipping point, economies tend to transition to services and manufacturing.

A country’s progress in Positive Peace improves socio-economic conditions domestically. Most of the economic growth is driven domestically.

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Please read the report in PDF by clicking here, there are more graphs and statistics 2019 Global Peace Index Rankings

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