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2012 Global Peace Index: Living in A Slightly More Peaceful World

global peace index

Global Peace Index

The latest Global Peace Index (GPI) by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP):
Nations improve external peace – seeking to project economic power more than military

 Key Findings from this year’s Index: 

  • Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time not the least peaceful region
  • Iceland is the country most at peace for the second successive year
  • Syria tumbles by largest margin dropping over 30 places to 147th position
  • Somalia remains world’s least peaceful nation for second year running
  • End of civil war sees Sri Lanka as biggest riser, leaping nearly 30 places
  • Potential for full peacefulness is an estimated US$9 trillion in economic benefits 

LONDON, June 12, 2012 – Improvements in the Political Terror Scale and gains in several indicators of militarization arising from austerity-driven defence cuts were the two leading factors making the world more peaceful in 2012, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) released yesterday.  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).

The GPI is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).  It gauges on-going domestic and international conflict, safety and security in society, and militarization in 158 countries by taking into account 23 separate indicators.

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 militarily 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.

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. In the 2012 report, five new countries (Benin, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho and Mauritius) were added to the index, bringing the total to 158 nations covering 99% of the world’s population.


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.

For the sixth consecutive year, 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.