The world became a more peaceful place in 2017

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The world became a more peaceful place in 2017, according to figures released in the annual Global Peace Index (GPI). Since last year 93 countries recorded higher levels of peace while 68 deteriorated, resulting in an improvement in world peace. The improvement was mainly driven by lower levels of state-sponsored terror – extra-judicial killings and torture – and the prior withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan.

Despite the global number of deaths from terrorism decreasing by 10% between 2014 and 2015, the number of countries witnessing historically high levels of terrorism hit an all-time high in this year’s report at 23, including Denmark, Sweden, France, and Turkey. Europe was significantly impacted, with major attacks in Nice seeing France fall five places in the overall ranking to 51st. The impact of other attacks such as in Brussels and London were also evident, although the more recent attack in Manchester has yet to be reflected in the figures. Click on the image for an interactive map.

Iceland maintained its position as the world’s most peaceful country, a title it has held onto since 2008, while New Zealand and Portugal replace Denmark and Austria in second and third position. Portugal’s notable climb to third in the overall rankings was driven by a steady recovery from its fiscal crisis, resulting in overall greater internal stability for the country that was ranked 16th less than five years ago.

REGIONAL RANKING + HIGHLIGHT

Six of the nine regions became more peaceful with the greatest improvements recorded in South America. Europe held onto its position as the most peaceful region, while the MENA region remains the most violent.

1. Countries in Europe make up eight out of the top ten ranks, making it the world’s most peaceful region, despite record levels of terrorism in a number of countries. Progress has been driven in part by a steady economic recovery which has bolstered scores for indicators such as likelihood of violent demonstrations. Poland witnessed the greatest deterioration as public protests resulting from political tensions escalated. More broadly, southeast Europe experienced widespread decline as an increasingly prominent nationalist rhetoric led to a deterioration in relations with neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. In the UK, the political uncertainty generated by the Brexit vote had little impact following the appointment of the new prime minister, which acted as a stabilising counterbalance.

2. The overall GPI score for North America fell in 2016 but its place as the second most peaceful region remained. The US experienced a significant decline, which contrasts with Canada’s improvement bringing it to 8th position in the GPI. The level of external conflict and weapons export indicators played a significant part in Canada’s improvement, despite rises in incarceration rates and terrorism impact.

3. Most countries in the Asia-Pacific region experienced improvements in their overall scores, with New Zealand, Japan and Australia amongst the most peaceful globally and the Philippines and North Korea remaining among the least peaceful. The subsidence of political volatility in Cambodia last year meant it made more progress than any other country in the region.

4. South America had the largest regional improvement in this year’s index, surpassing Central America and the Caribbean as the fourth most peaceful region, spearheaded by progress in Guyana and Argentina. Chile, ranked 24th in the Index is the region’s most peaceful country, while Colombia, despite the ratification of the peace accord between the government and the FARC, remains the region’s least peaceful country.

5. Central America and the Caribbean fell one place since last year, with five of the 12 countries in the region experiencing deteriorations in peace. The region’s most turbulent country, Mexico, saw the most substantial decline as a consequence of deteriorating relations with the US, while Costa Rica, 34 in the overall GPI, was the region’s top performer, despite a slight deterioration.

6. Sub-Saharan Africa’s average score fell this year with the most notable deterioration in Ethiopia. The government-imposed six-month state of emergency was reflected in indicators of domestic conflict, resulting from rising ethnic tensions and widespread violence stemming from public protest. The Central African Republic recorded the biggest improvement in the region and globally, as the country continues to emerge from a wave of inter-communal violence. Meanwhile Sierra Leone and Guinea, which have recovered from the 2014 Ebola outbreak, also registered improvements in their overall level of peace.

7. Most countries in Russia and Eurasia recorded improvements in the 2017 GPI, but the region retains the third-worst regional score. Moldova, Kazakhstan and Georgia are the most peaceful countries in the region, and despite slight improvements in overall peacefulness, Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine are the three least peaceful.

8. South Asia hosts some countries as peaceful as Bhutan (ranked 13th overall), yet also some of the least peaceful countries in the world such as Pakistan (152nd) and Afghanistan (162nd). The scores for Sri Lanka and Pakistan improved this year, while the only deteriorations (although moderate) were registered in Nepal and Afghanistan. In Nepal, a high level of political instability is partly to blame for the slow progress in rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake of 2015, while Afghanistan’s overall score deteriorated for the sixth successive year as overall hostility continued to increase.

9. MENA witnessed a further deterioration in its overall score in 2017, with regional instability exacerbated by the intense rivalry between Shia Iran and the Sunni Arab Gulf monarchies, withSaudi Arabia at the forefront. That said, almost half the countries have bucked the overall negative trend in the region by achieving an improvement in their overall score. Morocco continues to benefit from a broader degree of political and social stability, while tensions between Qatar and some fellow Gulf Arab states have eased. Iran’s overall score has also improved following a high turnout in elections in early 2016 which is reflected in a reduction in political instability and the likelihood of violent demonstrations.

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