This week we set aside the usual focus on current conflicts and take a look at the state of peace in the world, as measured by the Global Peace Index. There is mixed news, as 93 countries improved against 68 that deteriorated, and six out of nine regions in the world became more peaceful over the last year. The 2017 Report can be downloaded for free using the links provided below.
The Global Peace Index (GPI) is released annually and provides a ranking of 163 independent states and territories, covering 99.7% of the world’s population based on 23 indicators. Among other things, it is a useful tool for identifying states at risk of descent into violence and seeing a general overview of the state of peace in the world. The key concept behind the GPI is the idea of the ‘positive peace’, one which underpins peace studies as a whole and has a strong influence on conflict resolution.
Positive peace is better understood in relation to ‘negative peace’ where there is an absence of violence, which can be achieved through non-peaceful means. The goal of the absence of violence is limited and peace is defined as the absence of war. Positive peace is the existence of conditions that promote peace, coined in phrase ‘peace by peaceful means’ and peace is defined by integration. The GPI measures positive peace using eight key pillars, which are a good explanation of what is required for there to be a positive peace. These are:
- Well functioning government
- Sound business environment
- Acceptance of the rights of others
- Good relations with neighbours
- Free flow of information
- High levels of human capital
- Low levels of corruption
- Equitable distribution of resources
A country with a high positive peace score is unlikely to deteriorate into internal violence and is also able to withstand a major systemic shock, such as an economic or political crisis. A change in the GPI score, whether it is annual or over a longer period of time, also allows for conflict management and prevention measures. The best analogy for this is a health check.
But was does this mean for conflict resolution? A mistake would be to treat the ending of violent armed conflict, such as terrorism, insurgency and war, and the attainment of the conditions for a positive peace as two separate things, occurring in sequence (negative peace first, positive peace later). While the absence of violence (the negative peace) is a required condition for the achievement of a positive peace, it is not a precondition. Armed conflict takes place due to a contradiction in the aims and goals of competing parties, whom see their aims and goals as incompatible. The goal of conflict resolution is for the parties to reach an understanding whereby violence is replaced by non-violent ways of achieving their aims and goals. One way to do this is to enable the conditions that will lead to the achievement of a positive peace, including personal and economic security, and equality of rights and opportunity. This effectively means laying the foundations for the eight pillars of positive peace while the violence is ongoing, with the dual aim of stopping armed violence and revitalising a society so that it is able to withstand further pressure in the future. The reason that armed conflict re-escalates lays in the failure to build a sustainable peace after violence has ended.
An indication of the importance of the eight pillars of positive peace can be found in the top five performing and bottom five performing countries in the GPI. At the top there is Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, and Denmark. At the bottom there is Yemen, South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The most peaceful region is Europe, the least peaceful the Middle-East and North Africa. The western UN Security Council countries, with their claims to democratic freedom, would be expected to fare better than most, but GPI scores include such criteria as internal political problems, terrorist events, arms sales, the number of heavy weapons owned, and involvement in wars abroad. These criteria help explain their rankings out of 163 countries: the US comes in at 114, the UK at 41, and France at 51. For comparison, Russia ranks at 151 and China at 116.
For more information regarding this week’s blog see:
Dr Carl Turner,