A Clear Divide in the State of Peace

Men handle pigeons in Erbil, Kurdistan, where tens of thousands of people displaced by conflict now reside.


A Clear Divide in the State of Peace

19 Jun 2015

As violent conflict continues to dominate headlines, the Institute for Economics & Peace finds a growing gap between peaceful and non-peaceful countries. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics draws out the key points.

Following on from the research carried out by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) in 2014 on the links between conflict, peace, and religion, the organisation has published its latest annual Global Peace Index (GPI).

The report, launched on 17 June 2015, the ninth produced by the IEP, ranks 162 countries according to their level of peacefulness, and is based on findings from a number of qualitative and quantitative indicators, grouped into the themes of safety and security in society, the number of international and domestic conflicts, and the degree of militarisation.

Global peace levels remained relatively stable in 2014.

The report finds that global peace levels remained relatively stable in 2014, but that there was a clear division between more peaceful countries, which are getting more peaceful, and less peaceful countries, in which conflict is worsening.

The impact of terrorism is central indicator for the GPI, under the definition that it must be aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious or social goal. The terrorism indicator originates from the IEP's Global Terrorism Index (GTI), published in November 2014, which found that terrorist attacks in 2013 were dominated by ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. This report found that religious ideology as the motivation for terrorism is only partly a global phenomenon, found particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia.

The key findings from this year's GPI show a similar pattern to the trends found in the GTI, with the Middle East and North Africa region showing the lowest levels of peace since 2008, when the Index started, which again can be attributed to the effect of transnational groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram.

The GPI shows that terrorist related activity from the Middle East region has spilled over into the sub-Saharan African region, with some of the largest increases in violence in Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger. The regional impact of Boko Haram is one such factor and tallies with the countries that have 'very low' levels of peace, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, and Nigeria.

Libya has seen the most dramatic falls in levels of peace.

In terms of countries where levels of peace have deteriorated over the past year, Libya has seen the most dramatic drop, falling down to 149th out of 162 countries, a country that has seen jihadi groups emerging as a potent third force, through the influence of ISIS. The Ukraine, Djibouti, and Niger also saw large falls in 2014.

The Index finds that the intensity of armed conflict increased substantially between 2010 and 2014, with the number of people killed in conflict situations increasing from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2014.

The number of refugees and internally displaced is also a central factor in the measurement of peace for the GPI. As the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre found in May 2015, the number of people internally displaced by conflict reached record numbers in 2014, with 11 million people newly displaced in that year alone, and 38 million displaced worldwide up to 2014.

The UNHCR also published their Global Trends report on 18 June 2015, which found that worldwide displacement of people was at record levels, standing at 59.5 million in 2014, compared to 37.5 million 10 years earlier. The countries with the most internally displaced correlate with many of the countries that have low levels of peace in this year's Index, including Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Pakistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Syria.

Another interesting measure of global peace, used by the GPI is the impact of violence on the global economy. In 2014 the GPI found that the impact of conflict on the global economy reached 14.3 trillion US dollars, or 13.4 per cent of global GDP.

Improvements in relations with neighbouring states.

However, the GPI found that many European countries are experiencing historic levels of peace, with Iceland heading the list as the most peaceful country in the world in 2014. Additionally, the countries with the greatest improvement in peace in 2014 were Guinea-Bissau, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Tajikistan, and Benin. It is notable that Egypt has improved its peacefulness, following a number of years of unrest. The report suggests that overall the government of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has brought some political stability to the country, which would account for this improvement, but attacks by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (ABM), which has sworn allegiance to ISIS, has continued in the country, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula.

The report also notes that several of the indicators used to measure peace have improved over the past eight years, including relations between neighbouring countries, and the financial contributions of countries to UN peacekeeping funding.

Many of the conflicts recorded in the report are within states. The Index finds that the number and intensity of conflicts between states has fallen in many countries, including military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, as has been witnessed over the past year in Iraq, ISIS have made hugely significant gains in the region.

Overall, the report concludes that peace is becoming unevenly distributed around the world, and the growing centrality of Islamist groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabaab, to global conflict is represented clearly in its findings.

You can read the full report here.

This article summarises an external report, and is not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.


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