Which countries have the highest and lowest levels of peace? How can COVID-19 affect peace?
European countries occupy the top spots for peace in the 2020 edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI) rankings published by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP).
Launched in 2007, GPI was designed to measure a country’s level of peace — a particularly difficult trait to quantify. The IEP approached this task by looking at a country’s level of Negative Peace, which they defined as the “absence of violence or fear of violence.”
The concept of Negative Peace complements what IEP defines as Positive Peace, the “attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.” To measure Positive Peace, IEP created a separate metric called the Positive Peace Index (PPI).
To measure Negative Peace, IEP selected 23 indicators which fall into one of these three domains:
- Ongoing domestic and internal conflict
- Societal safety and security
All scores of the indicators are normalised to a 1 to 5 scale, with 1 being the most peaceful and 5 being the least. The final GPI score is 60% of the internal peace indicators and 40% of the external peace indicators.
Given the design of the GPI, the lower score, the more peaceful a country is.
Iceland is ranked as the most peaceful country in the world based on the overall GPI, a position it has been holding since 2008. The nation obtained a score of 1.078.
Occupying the rest of the top five are — in order — New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, and Denmark. With this, European countries have taken all of the five highest spots.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan retains its position last year as the least peaceful country in the world among the 163 countries included in this year’s rankings.
Other countries in the bottom five are Syria (162nd), Iraq (163rd), South Sudan (160th), and Yemen (159th).
As we can see in the map above, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have the highest concentration of countries with low peace levels. No country in MENA made it past 27th place in the peace rankings.
This year, IEP observed a 0.34 percentage point decline in the global level of peace — the ninth year that a decrease has been recorded since the creation of GPI.
The accumulation of all these declines amounts to a 2.5 percentage point decrease in the level of peace in the world since GPI was first published.
Peace and the COVID-19 pandemic
According to IEP, 81 countries recorded improvements while 80 countries registered declines in the peace levels the previous year.
This year, however, we are faced with a pandemic, the effects of which are already clearly felt on a global scale. IEP said that the economic consequences due to the pandemic can trigger a new wave tension which can negate the improvements from the past year. With this, they expect that most of the indicators will be deteriorating this year.
To battle the global recession resulting from the pandemic, IEP points out two factors that can greatly help.
First would be favourable economic conditions such as:
- low levels of central government debt
- low levels of unemployment
- low tax burdens
- low dependence on international trade
The second one is a high level of Positive Peace. This implies:
- high effectiveness of institutions
- high level of social cohesion
- Transparent, representative governments
Before the pandemic, some countries may already have possessed these qualities. For some, one or both of these factors may be weak. By evaluating their weak and strong points, leaders can be guided in striking a balance between socio-institutional development and economic management.