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The current Global Peace Index shows a grim picture. Also in Europe, peace has diminished. At least, more countries have reduced their military spending than increased.
The world was not a more peaceful place last year. At least not if you consider the data of the new Global Peace Index , published this Wednesday (06.06.2018) in London for the twelfth time by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP, for its acronym in English). In 2017, peace declined in 92 nations, while there were improvements in only 71 countries, reports Steve Killelea, founder and president of the IEP, in an interview with DW. The negative trend remains for the fourth consecutive year.
In general, world peace has declined in the last decade, according to Killelea. This is mainly due to conflicts in the Middle East. According to the GPI, the Middle East and North Africa are the least peaceful regions in the world. At the bottom of the classification of 163 States is Syria. Other countries at the end of this scale are Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia.
Western Europe falls in the index
The IEP has identified Europe as the most peaceful region of nine regions of the world. Four of the five most peaceful countries on the planet are in Europe: Iceland, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. The other is New Zealand. Germany is still in place 17. However, Killelea says: “23 of the 36 countries that we counted as Europe deteriorated during the past year”. These are mainly found in Western Europe. In general terms, Eastern Europe has even improved.
The Global Peace Index is calculated on the basis of 23 indicators in the areas of “security in society”, “permanent conflicts” and “militarization”. In the area of security in society, IEP researchers analyze, for example, the homicide rate, the number of detainees, the number of police officers and even the perception of criminality. The area of militarization includes the number of soldiers, military spending in relation to economic production and also possible arms exports.
More countries invest less in armament
While Europe is under pressure from the US Administration to increase its arms budget, the global trend of defense spending is pointing down. Killelea explains: “Over the past decade, 104 countries have reduced their arms spending in relation to economic production and 115 countries have reduced their military personnel.”
However, a look at the past ten years also reveals that the intensity of conflicts has increased significantly. Killelea expresses it in numbers: “The death toll in the world’s battlefields has increased 246 percent and the death toll from terrorism has increased 203 percent in the last decade.”
Emerging sub-Saharan Africa
The largest positive changes in the Global Peace Index have resulted in sub-Saharan Africa. The Gambia, for example, climbed 35 places in the ranking, the biggest improvement in the index. But also Liberia, Burundi and Senegal are among the five countries with the greatest advances.
The Global Peace Index also presents the category “positive peace” for the first time this year. The ranking tries not to treat peace simply as an absence of conflict and war. “Positive peace” examines the structures, social factors and institutions that contribute to the peace of societies. And what is good for peace is also good for the economy, says Killelea: “Every percentage of improvement of positive peace goes hand in hand with an economic growth of 1.8 percent.” On the contrary, beyond human suffering, the economic costs of conflicts, wars and violence are gigantic: $ 2,000 per person living on this planet, according to the Global Peace Index.