Bill Scheurer / Peace Majority Report & Global Peace Index – 2007-06-04 22:58:29
Peace Index: US 96th Of 121 Countries
Bill Scheurer / Peace Majority Report
The US ranked 96th out of 121 countries in a Global Peace Index (GPI) released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit and an international team of peace experts.
This places us one small notch above our would-be next-war target, Iran (ranked 97th), in the standings. Our client state Iraq ranked dead last (121st), while our other client state Afghanistan is in such bad shape that it could not be scored due to lack of available data.
With them at the bottom of the heap were: Sudan (120th, with its ongoing genocide in Darfur); our ally Israel (119th, with its continuing occupation of Palestine); and our sometimes friend-and-foe Russia (118th, with its bloody civil war in Chechnya).
Also near the bottom of the rankings were: our partner in the “War on Drugs” metaphor-gone-mad, Colombia (116th); our partner dictatorship in the “War on Terror” delusion, Pakistan (115th); and our pending nuclear technology transfer partner, India (109th, and arch-rival neighbor to bordering Pakistan).
The GPI uses twenty-four key “indicators” or “measures” — of ongoing domestic and international conflict, domestic security, and militarization — to arrive at its rankings.
Factors bringing down the US score include our: extremely high prison rates; massive troop deployments; excessive military spending; and potential for terrorist acts.
As Frida Berrigan points out, when it comes to military consumption and sales, we’re still #1. “The United States alone spends what the rest of the world combined devotes to military expenditures.”
On the other side of the ledger, the US scored very well in our: political stability and domestic tranquility; lack of refugees; and relations with neighboring countries.
The top eight countries with the best GPI are: Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Finland, Sweden, and our neighbor Canada.
One of the interesting things this study does is to look beyond the “indicators” to the possible “drivers” of peace — a set of 33 additional factors measuring: government competence and efficacy; the strength of institutions and the political process; international openness; demographics; regional integration; religion and culture; and education and material well-being.
Hopefully, a thorough study of all these indicators and drivers — with careful attention to our friends at the top of the list — will yield a great deal of insight and debate on how to become a more peaceful country.
The challenge is great, as Alec Dubro writes: “To seriously oppose war-making — as opposed to curtailing one particular war — would take a change of national character that is not on the horizon.”
We have to put this “change of national character” on the horizon. The GPI is a tool that can help.
Global Peace Index and Sustainability
Global Peace Index
Peace and sustainability are the cornerstones of humanity’s survival in the 21st century. The major challenges facing humanity today are global – climate change, accessible fresh water, ever decreasing bio-diversity and over population. Problems that call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite, for, without peace, how can the major nations of the world co-operate to solve these issues?
The Global Peace Index is a groundbreaking milestone in the study of peace. It is the first time that an Index has been created that ranks the nations of the world by their peacefulness and identified some of the drivers of that peace. 121 countries have been ranked by their ‘absence of violence’, using metrics that combine both internal and external factors. Most people understand the absence of violence as an indicator of peace. This definition also allows for the measuring of peacefulness within, as well as between, nations.
Peace is a powerful concept. However, the notion of peace, and its value in the world economy, is poorly understood. Historically, peace has been seen as something won in war, or else as an altruistic ideal. There are competing definitions of peace, and most research into peace is, in fact, the study of violent conflict.
Vision of Humanity contains the results from the Global Peace Index and other material of interest on peace. It also contains a section on institutions that need help to fund peace-related initiatives. Over time this source will be updated to combine more relevant material that will demonstrate the linkages between peace and sustainability.
The Economist Intelligence Unit, in conjunction with an international team of academics and peace experts, has compiled an innovative new Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 121 nations according to their relative peacefulness. The Global Peace Index is composed of 24 indicators, ranging from a nation’s level of military expenditure to its relations with neighboring countries and the level of respect for human rights.
The index has been tested against a range of potential “drivers” or determinants of peace—including levels of democracy and transparency, education and material wellbeing. The team has used the latest available figures (mainly 2004-06) from a wide range of respected sources, including the International Institute of Strategic Studies, The World Bank, various UN offices and Peace Institutes and the Economist Intelligence Unit. The Global Peace Index is intended to contribute significantly to the public debate on peace.
Asked to evaluate the state of world peace in 2007, many might despair at humanity’s seeming insatiable appetite for conflict, pointing to the ongoing bloodbath in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, civil wars in previously stable Nepal and Cote d’Ivoire and the rise in international terrorism since September 11th 2001. However, a deeper analysis reveals that the number of armed conflicts throughout the world — both international and civil wars — has decreased dramatically since the end of the Cold War in 1990, although interstate warfare has picked up again since 2002. The fact that this statistic is little known is indicative of how the study of peace has failed to make a significant impact across the world’s media.
This has been part of the motivation behind the compilation of the Global Peace Index (GPI), but the project’s ambition is to go beyond a crude measure of wars — and systematically explore the texture of peace. The hope is that it will provide a quantitative measure of peacefulness, comparable over time that will provide a greater understanding of the mechanisms that nurture and sustain peace. This, in turn will provide a new platform for further study and discussion, which will hopefully inspire and influence world leaders and governments to further action.
The concept of peace is notoriously difficult to define. The simplest way of approaching it is in terms of harmony achieved by the absence of war or conflict. Applied to nations, this would suggest that those not involved in violent conflicts with neighbouring states or suffering internal wars would have achieved a state of peacefulness.
While this is in a sense true, it is clearly a limited definition, or what Galtung1 described as a “negative peace”. A country that is not at war may be governed by oppressive institutions that restrict the rights of individuals and engender feelings of suspicion and mistrust. Indeed, it has been suggested that policies based on the ideas of negative peace do not deal with the causes of violence, only its manifestations, and may be insufficient to bring lasting conditions of peace.
The majority of peace studies in recent years have turned their attention to the concept of “positive peace”, arguing that a more complete evaluation of peacefulness should also account for the conditions which are favorable to the emergence of peace. One obvious drawback of this approach is the difficulty of defining the determinants of a positive peace — although the trend amongst peace researchers has been to include elements such as freedom, human rights and justice. This echoes views such as those of Albert Einstein: “Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order — in short, of government.”
In 1999 the UN General Assembly launched a programme of action to build a “culture of peace” for the world’s children, which envisaged working towards a positive peace of justice, tolerance and plenty. The UN defined a culture of peace as involving values, attitudes and behaviours that:
• Reject violence
• Endeavour to prevent conflicts by addressing root causes
• Aim at solving problems through dialogue and negotiation
It proposed that such a culture of peace would be furthered by actions promoting education for peace and sustainable development, which it suggested was based on human rights, gender equality, democratic participation, tolerant solidarity, open communication and international security. However, these links between the concept of peacefulness and the causes of them were presumed rather than systematically measured.
For example, while Doyle2 and advocates of his liberal peace theory have held that democratic states rarely attack each other, the ongoing war in Iraq demonstrates how some democratic countries can be militant or belligerent – the justification for war often being that peace is ultimately secured through violence or the threat of violence.
1 Galtung, Johan. Peace by Peaceful Means: peace and conflict, development and civilization. Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996
2 Doyle, Michael. Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs. Philosophy and Public Affairs (1983) 205, 207-208
Measuring States of Peace
The difficulties in defining the concept of peace may partly explain why there have been so few attempts to measure states of peace across nations.
This project has approached the task on two fronts — the first aim is to produce a scoring model and global peace index that ranks 120 nations by their relative states of peace using 24 indicators. The indicators have been selected as being the best available datasets that reflect the incidence or absence of peace, and contain both quantitative data and qualitative scores from a range of trusted sources.
The second aim is to use the underlying data and results from the Global Peace Index to begin an investigation into the relative importance of a range of potential determinants or “drivers” that may influence the creation and nurturance of peaceful societies, both internally and externally.
As with all indexes of this type, there are issues of bias and arbitrariness in the factors that are chosen to assess peacefulness and, even more seriously, in assigning weights to the different indicators (measured on a comparable and meaningful scale) to produce a single synthetic measure.
The Research Team
The choices of indicators and weights have been made following close and extensive consultation with an international panel of experts.
Professor Kevin P Clements
Director, Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (ACPACS)
University of Queensland, Australia
Professor Daniel Druckman
Visiting scholar, Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (ACPACS)
University of Queensland, Australia
Paul van Tongeren
Executive Director, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), The Netherlands
Emeritus Professor Stuart Rees
Sydney Peace Foundation,
University of Sydney, Australia
Dr Manuela Mesa
Director, Peace Research Center (Centro de Investigación para la Paz, CIP-FUHEM) & President, Asociación Española de Investigación para la Paz (AIPAZ), Spain.
Professor Andrew Mack
Director, Human Security Centre,
University of British Columbia, Canada
Alyson JK Bailes
Director, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI),
Author, in a private capacity
Associate Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer
School of International Service,
American University, Washington DC, USA
This section lists the results of the analysis into each nation’s peace. This is the prime table in the Global Peace Index section. The countries are ranked from most peaceful to least peaceful, highlighting their ranking as well as their score.
• On the GPI Website, you can click on a country to see the detail of its peace indicators and drivers.
United Arab Emirates
Bosnia and Hercegovina
Papua New Guinea
Trinidad and Tobago
United States of America
Cote d’ Ivoire