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 quantitative and qualitative indicators. 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 or the fear of violence’, which can be achieved through non-peaceful means. Positive peace ‘is the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and maintain peaceful societies’. The GPI measures a country’s negative peace, thus the lower score, the better the ranking in the index.
Overall, the global level of peace has deteriorated by 0.27% over the last year with 92 countries deteriorating and 71 improving. This is consistent with a trend over the last decade of tensions, crises and conflicts that have contributed towards a decline of peacefulness that has been gradual and sustained. Over a ten year period battle deaths have increased by 264% and the global economic impact of violence in 2017 was equivalent to 12.4% of global GDP. This has increased by 16% since 2012 and the aftermath of the Arab uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the start of the Syrian War. The MENA remains as the world’s least peaceful region, while Europe, which underwent a decline in peacefulness, remains the most peaceful.
While there are 23 indicators, these are grouped into three domains of peacefulness: ongoing domestic and international conflict, societal safety and security, and militarisation, giving a complete picture of a given country’s peacefulness in terms of its internal affairs and those with other states. One criticism that has been levelled at the GPI is that it allows for ‘freeloaders’ in global security, who will achieve low scores due to their non-interventionism while others are carrying the weight and have higher scores. Another is that there is no contextualisation behind the scores and a build up of a country’s military in response to problems in neighbouring countries would incur a score penalty similar to that of a build up in order to project power. A third is that there are no indicators that relate specifically to violence towards women and children, a category that it would benefit the GPI to include. As regards the first two criticisms, the GPI is driven by impartial data that reflects an ongoing state of affairs and the choices that a given country makes regarding such things as its level of military involvement in world affairs, the percentage of its GDP devoted to its military, purchase and ownership of heavy weapons and so on. While the nuance behind this may be lost, the outcome of the analysis is the state of world affairs in relation to positive peace based on comparable data and an indication over time as to whether a given country is becoming more peaceful and stable or is becoming less peaceful and secure.
The UN Security Council countries, who wield the most clout in global politics, are a point of interest, particularly France, the UK and the US, as they are functioning liberal-democracies and thus have high levels of political participation and personal freedom. GPI scores, however, include such criteria as internal political problems, terrorist events, arms sales, the number of heavy weapons owned, and involvement in wars abroad. One indicator, nuclear and heavy weapons capabilities, is automatically graded at the highest (5) if a country possesses nuclear weapons. In terms of overall positions in the GPI, with 2017 positions in brackets for comparison, the positions of the big five are: the UK 57th (41st), France 61st (51st), China 112th (116th), the US 121st (114th) and Russia 154th (151st).
For more information regarding this week’s blog see:
For last year’s blog on the 2017 GPI:
Dr Carl Turner, Site Coordinator