Sub-Saharan Africa is for the first time in a half decade is not the least peaceful region in the world. That’s the word from the Institute for Economics and Peace. Their 2012 Global Peace Index says the region has increased steadily in levels of peacefulness since 2007.
“The Middle East and North Africa is now the least peaceful region, reflecting the upheaval and instability caused by the Arab Spring,” it says, adding that for the sixth consecutive year, Western Europe remains markedly the most peaceful region with the majority of its countries in the top 20.
They also venture that the world has become more peaceful for the first time since 2009. “All regions excluding the Middle East and North Africa saw an improvements in levels of overall peacefulness.”
The GPI is a measure of global peacefulness that ranks 158 nations using 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators which gauge ongoing domestic and international conflict, safety and security in society and militarisation.
Generally speaking, the Institute says improvements in their political terror scale and gains in several indicators of militarisation arising from austerity-driven defence cuts were the two leading factors making the world more peaceful in 2012. “This reverses two consecutive years where the GPI has shown a decline in global peace. If the world had been completely peaceful, the economic benefit to the global economy would have been an estimated US$9 trillion in the past year (equal to the size of the German and Japanese economies combined.)
“All regions apart from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) saw an improvement, with Sub-Saharan Africa lifting off of the bottom spot for the first time since the GPI was launched in 2007. Madagascar, Gabon and Botswana experienced notable improvements over the past year and the region also shows the largest improvement in ‘Relations with Neighbouring States’ from 2009 to 2012.
“Through its decline in peacefulness the Middle East and North Africa is now the least peaceful region globally. The drop largely reflects the upheaval and instability driven by the Arab Spring. Indeed the five indicators that deteriorated the most across the GPI last year were measures of safety and security in society, and appear to reflect turbulence that has shaken the Arab world since December 2010.”
Syria’s descent into civil war caused it to fall by the largest margin, followed by post-revolution Egypt and Tunisia respectively.
“What comes across dramatically in this year’s results and the six year trends is a shift in global priorities. Nations have become externally more peaceful as they compete through economic, rather than military means. The results for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole are particularly striking – regional wars have waned as the African Union strives to develop economic and political integration.” said Steve Killelea, founder and Executive Chairman of the IEP. “Peacefulness has returned to approximately the levels seen in 2007, but while external measures of peacefulness have improved, there has been a rise in internal conflict. This is particularly noticeable in the rise in fatalities from terrorist acts which have more than trebled since 2003.”
The trend data also show a substantial gap in peacefulness between democracies and other government types. Flawed democracies perform substantially better than hybrid and authoritarian regimes which suggest that measures of government repression, such as the “political terror scale” and the “level of internally organised conflict”, are close predictors of peacefulness.
Killelea continued: “The six year trend analysis shows that countries in the top and bottom of the Index rarely move out – suggesting peace is ‘sticky’ at both ends. There is also a notable ‘tipping point’ after which relatively small gains in peacefulness seem to be associated with large falls in corruption and large increases in GDP per capital. As countries look to develop policy-makers would do well take note of the Peace Dividend and review the frameworks that deliver the most peaceful societies.”
OTHER REGIONAL HIGHLIGHTS
The Asia Pacific region’s overall score improved by the largest extent from last year and included three of the top five risers. Sri Lanka experienced the greatest improvement in its overall peacefulness following the ending of its civil war. Bhutan showed robust gains to enter the top 20 for the first time mainly as tensions eased surrounding ethnic-Nepali refugees. The Philippines also showed a robust rise across a number of indicators.
Western Europe remains markedly the most peaceful region with the majority of countries ranking in the top 20. While Norway dropped out of the top 10 for the first time to 18th position, three Nordic countries stay ranked in the top 10, with high levels of safety and security indicating broadly harmonious societies free from conflict.
North America experienced a slight improvement, continuing a trend since 2007. Canada jumped three places in this year’s rankings as a result of fewer casualties among its troops stationed in Afghanistan. The United States’ overall score also improved slightly thanks to reductions in the percentage of jailed population, although it slipped a number of places as a result of larger gains made by other countries.
Latin America also experienced an overall gain in peacefulness, with 16 of the 23 nations seeing improvements to their GPI scores.