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World less peaceful in 2013 - report

altThe world has become a less peaceful place, according to the 2013 Global Peace Index, which estimates the total economic impact of violence at $9.46 trillion for 2012.

Overall, since 2008 the world has become 5% less peaceful, according to the seventh annual Global Peace Index (GPI) report, with the three least peaceful countries being Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria - Syria’s score dropped by the largest margin, with the biggest ever score deterioration in the history of the GPI.

“The last year has been marked by the rising intensity of the civil war in Syria and its geopolitical ramifications, the continued US withdrawal from Afghanistan alongside persistently weak performances by the major economies. These factors have contributed to the world becoming slightly less peaceful, continuing the global slide in peacefulness which has now been in effect for the last six years,” the report reads.

Afghanistan this year returned to the bottom of the GPI, partly due to increases in political instability and terrorist activity. It replaced Somalia, which experienced a slightly more peaceful year and moved up from the lowest position in the GPI for the first time in two years, according to the report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

Cote d’Ivoire registered the second-most substantial decline in peace while Burkina Faso suffered the third-largest deterioration. These two countries are however by no means indicative of Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, however. “The region ranks above the three regions of Russia and Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia in the 2013 GPI, which partly reflects its rising prosperity and a degree of insulation from the global financial crisis.”

Libya experienced the greatest improvement in its score, with a newly elected government and recovering institutions following the turmoil of the recent revolution and civil war, however it is still lowly ranked. Sudan and Chad experienced the second and third-most substantial gains as their respective conflicts eased, but conditions in areas of both countries are far from peaceful and they remain in the lower reaches of the GPI.

Since the 2008, 110 countries have become less peaceful, while 48 have improved their score. Three main factors that have contributed to the deterioration in peace scores from 2012-2013: the number of homicides, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP and political instability.

The number of deaths from internal conflicts has risen significantly. In the past year, the drug war in Mexico claimed twice as many lives as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the GPI finds.

“Over the six years global peace was negatively affected by a number of major international events including major outbreaks of violence in the Middle-East, caused by the Arab spring; a deterioration of security in Afghanistan and Pakistan; civil wars in Libya and Syria; the escalation of the drug war in Central America; continued deteriorations in peace in Somalia, DRC and Rwanda and violent demonstrations associated with the economic downturn in a number of European countries such as Greece,” the GPI reads.

“On the positive side, the improvements in peace were mainly driven by declining rates of homicide in the US, Western and Eastern Europe, and the winding down of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan which resulted in declines in the number of external battlefield deaths from organised conflict.

According to the GPI report, the total economic impact of containing violence is equivalent to 11% of global GDP, or $9.46 trillion. If the world could reduce the cost of violence by 50% it would generate enough money to repay the debt of the developing world, provide enough money for the European stability mechanism, and fund the additional amount required to fund the Millennium Development Goals, the study pointed out.

Europe is the most peaceful region, with 13 of the top 20 most peaceful countries: Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand occupy the top three spots, with small and stable democracies performing best.

With regard to military spending, the GPI noted that military spending as a percentage of GDP increased in more countries than it decreased, with 59 countries increasing spending, while 36 cut their military spend.

“This is in contradiction to the total amount of money spent on defence, which dropped this year for the first time since 1998. The drop was related to only a few large countries decreasing their level of expenditure, most notably the U.S. which decreased its military spending from 4.6% to 4.1% of GDP.”
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