South Africa more violent as global peace levels continue to deteriorate

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The 17th edition of the just released annual global peace index (GPI) reveals the average level of global peacefulness deteriorated for the ninth consecutive year with 84 countries recording an improvement and 79 a deterioration – South Africa was one of those countries to deteriorate, dropping eight places in global rankings.

The report, according to international think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), demonstrates that deteriorations were larger than improvements, as the post-COVID rises of civil unrest and political instability remain high while regional and global conflicts accelerate.

South Africa in 2022 dropped eight places to be ranked 130 out of 163 countries, with Afghanistan being ranked least peaceful and Iceland, at number one, being ranked the world’s most peaceful country.

The IEP estimated that violence cost South Africa 15% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or $176 billion (R3.3 trillion), in 2022. This amounts to $2 947 (R55 000) per person. These figures are up from 2021, when violence cost the South African economy an estimated $118 billion.

In the Sub-Saharan Africa region, South Africa ranked 26 out of 44 countries when it comes to peacefulness, making it less peaceful than other African countries such Namibia and Zambia.

A snapshot of key results from the 2023 IEP report reveals deaths from global conflict increased by 96% to 238 000 in 2022; new data shows more conflict deaths in Ethiopia than Ukraine, eclipsing the previous global peak during the Syrian war; seventy-nine countries saw increased conflict levels including Ethiopia, Myanmar, Ukraine, Israel and South Africa; the global economic impact of violence increased by 17% or $1 trillion to $17.5 trillion in 2022, equivalent to 13% of global GDP; a Chinese blockade of Taiwan would cause a drop in global economic output of $2.7 trillion, almost double the loss in the 2008 global financial crisis; 92 countries increased military expenditure and 110 decreased their military personnel and conflicts are becoming more internationalised with 91 countries involved in some form of external conflict, up from 58 in 2008.

Iceland remains the most peaceful country, a position it holds since 2008, followed by Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and Austria. For the sixth consecutive year, Afghanistan is the least peaceful country, followed by Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Highlighting the shifting dynamics of conflict, both Afghanistan and Syria recorded improvements in peacefulness.

Ukraine’s overall score recorded a 13% decline, the largest in the 2023 GPI, and is now 157th on the Index. Libya experienced the largest improvement in overall peacefulness, improving by seven percent and rising 14 places to 137th.

The shift in global distribution of conflict continued as major conflicts in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and South Asia declined, while conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Asia-Pacific intensified. The Russia and Eurasia region recorded the largest deterioration in peacefulness in the world.

Ten of 23 GPI indicators improved, 11 deteriorated and two had no change. The largest deteriorations were in External Conflicts Fought and Deaths from Internal Conflict. Other notable deteriorations included Neighbouring Country Relations and Political Instability, where 59 countries deteriorated.

The impact of violence on the global economy increased by $1 trillion to $17.5 trillion. This is equivalent to 13% of global GDP, approximately $2 200 per person. This was due to increased military expenditure owing to the Ukraine war. The disparity in the economic impact of violence is stark: the 10 countries most affected averaged 34% of GDP, compared to three percent for the 10 least affected.