Global peacefulness deteriorated by a very small margin (.07%) over the past year – the smallest change since 2011 as more countries recorded an improvement in peacefulness than a deterioration, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) report.
Over the last year, 87 countries recorded an improvement, while 73 recorded a deterioration in peacefulness, according to the recently released 2021 GPI, which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness.
The 2021 GPI, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), reveals a world in which the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, only to be replaced with a new wave of tension and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising tensions between many of the major powers.
“The full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on peacefulness is still unfolding. While some forms of violence declined in the short term, growing unease with lockdowns and rising economic uncertainty resulted in civil unrest increasing in 2020. Over 5 000 pandemic-related violent events were recorded between January 2020 and April 2021. It is still too early to fully gauge the long-term effects of the pandemic on peace. However, the changing economic conditions in many nations increases the likelihood of political instability and violent demonstrations,” the GPI 2021 report said.
Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008. It is joined at the top of the index by New Zealand, Denmark, Portugal, and Slovenia. Afghanistan is the least peaceful country in the world for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, and Iraq.
Only three of the nine regions in the world became more peaceful over the past year. The largest improvement occurred in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), followed by Europe and South Asia. However, MENA still remains the least peaceful region in the world. An improvement in the level of Ongoing Conflict in MENA was the biggest driver of increased peacefulness, with every indicator on the domain, recording an improvement.
The largest regional deterioration occurred in North America, which deteriorated across all three GPI domains. The primary driver of this fall in peacefulness was a deterioration on the Safety and Security domain, especially in the United States, where growing civil unrest led to increasing perceptions of criminality and political instability, and more violent demonstrations.
In the past fifteen years peacefulness has fallen, with the average country score deteriorating by just under 2%. Of the 163 countries in the GPI, 86 recorded improvements, while 75 recorded deteriorations. Two of the three GPI domains deteriorated over the past decade, with Ongoing Conflict deteriorating by 6.2 per cent and Safety and Security deteriorating by 2.5 per cent. Militarisation was the only domain to improve.
Terrorism and civil unrest have been the biggest contributors to the global deterioration in peacefulness. Ninety countries recorded increased terrorist activity, while only 50 had lower levels of terrorism. However, after peaking in 2014, during the height of the Syrian civil war, total deaths from terrorism have fallen every year for the last six years, with the largest falls occurring in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria.
Although the impact of terrorism and conflict have fallen over the past six years, the level of civil and political unrest has risen, the GPI found. The number of violent demonstrations rose in 61 countries since 2008, and fell in just 27 countries. There was a 244 per cent increase globally in riots, general strikes, and anti-government demonstrations between 2011 and 2019. There is currently no sign that this trend is abating.
In 2021 the Ongoing Conflict domain improved for the first time since 2015, with falls in the total number of conflicts fought, and a decrease in the overall intensity of internal conflict. Twenty-one countries improved on internal conflicts fought, while only one deteriorated. However, although the total number of conflict-related deaths has been falling for the past six years, the total number of conflicts and deaths is still much higher than a decade ago. Since 2010, the number of conflicts globally has increased by 88 per cent.
The economic impact of violence to the global economy in 2020 was $14.96 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This figure is equivalent to 11.6 per cent of the world’s economic activity (gross world product) or $1 942 per person. Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and the Central African Republic incurred the largest proportional economic cost of violence in 2020, equivalent to 82, 42, 40, and 37 per cent of GDP, respectively.
Around 18 per cent of people globally have suffered from an experience of violence, meaning that they or someone they know experienced serious harm from violent crime at some point in the last two years. The experience of violence is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are five countries where more than half of the population have had a recent experience of violence.
Despite the high fear of violence across the world, most people feel that the world is getting safer, the GPI found. Nearly 75 per cent of people globally feel as safe or more safe today than they did five years ago. The region that fared the worst was South America, where over 50 per cent of those surveyed felt less safe than five years ago.