Global peace deteriorating as terrorism hits new all-time high

World became less peaceful in the last year, reveals 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI). The Report shows growing global inequality in peace, with the most peaceful countries continuing to improve while the least peaceful are falling into greater violence and conflict.

The study, by international think-tank the Institute for Economics and Peace, finds that, while 81 countries improved, the deterioration in another 79 outweighed these gains, meaning that peace declined at a faster rate than in the previous year. Despite this some of the most peaceful countries are now recording historically high levels of peace.

Iceland, Denmark and Austria are the most peaceful countries in the world. While Syria, Iraq and South Sudan are ranked the lowest in the Global Peace Index due to ongoing conflict.

The score for the Middle East and Africa (MENA), the least peaceful region in the world in last year’s report, dropped further as regional conflicts intensified, dragging down global peacefulness. So intense is the current concentration of violence and conflict in MENA that, when considered separately, the rest of the world’s average peace levels improved. Three of the five biggest declines in peace occurred in the region including Yemen, Libya and Bahrain.

“As internal conflicts in MENA become more entrenched, external parties are increasingly becoming more involved and the potential for indirect or ‘war by proxy’ between nation states is rising. This was already evident in Syria with the conflict between the Assad regime and multiple non-state actors, and is now spilling into countries such as Yemen. There is a broader proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and more recently both US and Russia have increased their level of involvement” observed Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman of the IEP.

Over 100,000 people were killed in conflicts in 2014, up from almost 20,000 in 2008. Syria, with about 67,000 such deaths in 2014, accounted for most of that increase.

The societal safety and security and ongoing conflict domains both deteriorated, while militarisation recorded a slight improvement.

The largest improvement was recorded in the UN peacekeeping funding and security officers and police indicators, while the largest deterioration occurred in terrorism impact and political instability.

Violent crime improved in 13 countries and deteriorated in only five. The largest absolute change occurred in Libya.

Countries ravaged by war and conflict according to Global Peace Index 2016

Terrorism at an all-time high

The terrorism impact indicator had the greatest overall deterioration, with all but two regions recording an increase over the past decade. While still accounting for a small percentage of the total number of violent deaths, terrorism has grown steadily over the past decade. The number of yearly incidents has almost tripled since 2011 and the number of deaths has increased to over 30,000.

Most attacks classed as “terrorist” were concentrated in five countries: Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These countries accounted for 78 per cent of deaths from terrorism in 2014. However, there are signs that terrorism is becoming more common across the globe, with almost every region having an increase in its terrorism impact score from 2008 to 2016.

World lost more than $13 trillion last year because of war

The economic cost of violence in 2015 was $13.6 trillion (12 trillion euros), or 13.3 percent of global GDP, according to the index. That is about 11 times the size of global foreign direct investment.

“However, peacebuilding and peacekeeping spending remains proportionately small compared to the economic impact of violence, representing just 2 percent of global losses from armed conflict,” Killelea said.

Increased number of refugees and displaced persons

The number of refugees and displaced persons has risen dramatically over the last decade, doubling to approximately 60 million people between 2007 and 2016, nearly 1% of the world’s population. There are now nine countries with more than 10% of their population displaced in some form; 20% of Somalia and South Sudan’s population respectively, and over 60% of Syria’s.

Europe remains safest part of the world

Seven European states are among the 10 most peaceful countries in the world despite the threat of terrorist attacks and social unrest.

Iceland, Denmark and Austria are the most peaceful countries in the world, according to the 2016 Global peace Index. Four other European states — Portugal, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovenia — are among the top 10, along with New Zealand, Japan and Canada.

Most peaceful countries in the world according to Global Peace Index 2016

Regional Ranking by 2016 Global Peace Index

Europe was once again ranked the most peaceful region in the world. The largest improvement since last year occurred in Central America and the Caribbean, while South America also made progress in its levels of peacefulness. MENA had the largest decline, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Asia Pacific respectively.

  1. Europe accounts for six of the top seven places in the rankings with Iceland, Denmark and Austria remaining the highest-ranking countries. Portugal built on last year’s gains to rise nine places to fifth globally. However, the average score in Europe deteriorated, reflecting increases in the impact of terrorism as well as the escalation of violence and instability in Turkey and the country’s deteriorating relations with its neighbours.
  2. North America’s score remains in line with GPI 2015. A small deterioration in Canada, due to an increase in weapons imports and exports, was offset by a comparable improvement in the US.
  3. Asia-Pacific’s level of peace has remained largely unchanged since 2015, however a number of countries including Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Thailand improved their scores. Heightened tensions in the South China Sea impacted external relations between the three main nations concerned; China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
  4. Central America and the Caribbean countries continue to face security issues, however, the region’s score improved sufficiently for it to move above South America in the rankings, and into fourth place overall. Improvements were recorded particularly in the levels of political instability and political terror. The best performer was Costa Rica, characterised by its low levels of militarisation.
  5. South America dropped in rank in light of the substantial improvements in Central America and the Caribbean but still recorded an improvement in its overall score since 2015. This was due to lower levels of international conflict and militarisation underpinned by largely peaceful relations between neighbouring countries. However, there was significant social unrest in Venezuela and Brazil. Political instability increased in Brazil just months before the start of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
  6. Sub-Saharan Africa‘s average deterioration masks sharp variations in country performance: Chad, Mauritania and Niger all improved their relations with neighbouring countries, while the threat posed by Islamist terrorist groups continues to weigh on many countries in the Sahel and West African region.
  7. Russia and Eurasia remains the third least peaceful region. The biggest improvements were in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan; the largest deteriorations were in Ukraine, due to the persistent conflict with pro-Russian separatist forces in the Donbass region.
  8. South Asia remains the second least peaceful region. Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and India deteriorated; while Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan improved modestly. Internal security concerns were heightened in Bangladesh and Nepal owing to antigovernment protests. Afghanistan has seen a resurgence of violence in the last year, with a number of clashes between government and Taliban forces, and the possible reemergence of Al-Qaeda after the withdrawal of coalition forces in 2014.
  9. Middle East and Africa (MENA) which was ranked the lowest in the 2015 GPI, had the biggest deterioration in peace this year, as the civil wars in Syria and Yemen deepened and led to increased external intervention. Yemen, whose long-standing political crisis exploded into outright civil war in early 2015, witnessed a large slump, driven by the rising casuality rate, a large increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced people, and higher levels of terrorist attacks by both al-Qaeda and ISIL.

Global Peace Index 2016