Global Peace Index, 2008

By Emmanuel Narokobi

In May 2007, the brainchild of Australian entrepreneur, Steve Killelea was born. Steve’s baby, the Global Peace Index (GPI), is an attempt to measure the relative position of a nations’ and regions’ peacefulness. It is maintained by the Institute for Economics and Peace and developed in consultation with an international panel of peace experts from peace institutes and think tanks, together with the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Australia with data analysed by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

So everyone loves lists and in 2008 the top 10 most peaceful countries on the planet were:

  1. Iceland
  2. Denmark
  3. Norway
  4. New Zealand
  5. Japan
  6. Ireland
  7. Portugal
  8. Finland
  9. Luxembourg
  10. Austria

and the most unpeaceful nations were:

  • 131. Russia
  • 132. Lebanon
  • 133. North Korea
  • 134. Central African Republic
  • 135. Chad
  • 136. Israel
  • 137. Afghanistan
  • 138. Sudan
  • 139. Somalia
  • 140. Iraq

Our buddies from Australia came in 27th just under Bhutan and just above Italy and our Malaysians came in at number 38. But as always, PNG had a very interesting peace ranking. We came in at 95, just under Belarus and just above Jamaica. In fact we are 2 places ahead of the United States of America which is at 97.

So how is all this measuring done, well the GPI uses 24 indicators to rank nations according to their relative internal and external peacefulness. They include their: 

  • military expenditures as a percent of GDP and number of armed service personnel per 100,000 population; 
  • relations with other countries; 
  • respect for human rights; 
  • potential for terrorist acts; 
  • number of homicides per 100,000 population, including infanticide; 
  • level of violent crime; 
  • aggregate number of heavy weapons per 100,000 population and ease of access to small arms and light weapons; 
  • number of jailed population per 100,000 population; and 
  • number of internal security officers and police per 100,000 population.

Some critisim has been levelled aginst the GPI, like the one from the The Economist, when publishing the index, admitted that, “the index will run into some flak.” Specifically, according to The Economist, the weighting of military expenditure “may seem to give heart to freeloaders: countries that enjoy peace precisely because others (often the USA) care for their defense.” The true utility of the index may lie not in its specific rankings of countries now, but in how those rankings change over time, thus tracking when and how countries become more or less peaceful. (See also comments from Rense.com)

The GPI has also been criticised for not including indicators specifically relating to violence against women and children. Riane Eisler, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, argued that, “to put it mildly, this blind spot makes the index very inaccurate.” She mentions a number of specific cases, including Egypt, where she claims 90% of women are subject to genital mutilation, China, where, she says, “female infanticide is still a problem,” and Chile, where 26% of women “suffered at least one episode of violence by a partner, according to a 2000 UNICEF study.”

In its defence though Steve Killelea, has been said to have created a definition for the Peace Industry, and argued that the Index “is a wake-up call for leaders around the globe.”

If anything though the GPI does serve as a useful guide and standard by which Global Peace can progress. As always with these types of lists, they aren’t always accurate but I hope PNG does deserve its spot. You can see our statistics in detail here.

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