World peace has deteriorated steadily over the last seven years, with wars, militant attacks and crime reversing six earlier decades of gradual improvement, a global security report said on Wednesday.
Conflict in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Central African Republic in particular helped drag down the annual Global Peace Index, according to research by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
In particular, rising numbers of people were killed in militant attacks across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa while murder rates rose in the emerging world’s growing urban centres. More people also became refugees by fleeing fighting.
Crime and conflict rates in more developed regions, particularly Europe, generally fell, said the report.
The deterioration appeared the most significant fall in 60 years, the IEP said. Estimates of what the index would have been prior to its launch in 2007 showed world peace improving more or less continuously since the end of World War Two.
“There seem to be a range of causes,” Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the IEP, told Reuters. “You have the repercussions of the “Arab Spring”, the rise of terrorism particularly following the invasion of Iraq and the repercussions of the global financial crisis.” The study examines 22 indicators across 162 countries, including military spending, homicide rates and deaths from conflict, civil disobedience and terrorism.
Over the past seven years, the IEP said its average global peace indicator for all the countries in the world together moved from 1.96 to 2.06, indicating a less peaceful world.
When that figure was adjusted to take into account the different populations of each country, the deterioration was even more marked, from 1.96 to 2.20.
Syria and Afghanistan were rated the least peaceful countries in the world, with South Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine and Egypt showing some of the sharpest falls in security levels.
Iceland held its number one position as most peaceful.
RISING MILITARY SPENDING
The IEP estimates violence and military spending cost the global economy some $9.8 trillion, which is roughly 11.3 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and up $179 billion year-on-year, it said.
While the United States and Western European states are largely cutting defence spending, China, Russia, countries along their borders and most Middle Eastern states are buying more arms as tensions rise.
There was some good news, Killelea said. Overall, measures of human rights from Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department showed improvement.
Deaths classed as being due to terrorism, however, continued to rise in the developing world and particularly countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and others.
The United States also saw its position deteriorate due to last year’s Boston bombing and associated gunfights that killed five including a suspect.
Published using data up to March, the study did not include the latest violence in Iraq and Ukraine.
“There’s no doubt that if the data went to now, the picture would be even worse,” Killelea said.
South Africa ranked 122 on the list of 162 countries, and number 29 out of 44 sub-Saharan African countries. According to the IEP, Sub-Saharan Africa saw the second sharpest deterioration in the regional scores but still fares better than Russia and Eurasia, Middle-East and North Africa, as well as South Asia.
The institute pointed out that four out of the ten countries with the sharpest negative score changes came from sub-Saharan Africa, topped by South Sudan and the Central African Republic. South Sudan, the world’s newest sovereign state, witnessed a major outbreak of violence in late 2013 that continues to this day, brought about by an uprising against the government by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The conflict has also drawn in Ugandan forces in support of the government.
Violent conflict has also affected the Central African Republic and Mali, in both cases resulting in intervention by French and other foreign troops. Consequently, the categories where the region deteriorated the most were in those related to the number of external and internal conflicts fought, the number of refugees and displaced people and relations with neighbouring countries. Many other countries also saw a worsening in the political terror scale score, although it should be noted that a large number also improved.
Countries that performed better in 2014 included Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, Madagascar and Ethiopia, of which Madagascar was notable for climbing 10 positions in the regional ranking and 25 positions in the global ranking.