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A Candid Discussion with Steve Killelea

Killelea GPI

Photo Credit: Steve Killelea

Interview conducted by Reza Akhlaghi.

One of Australia’s leading business leaders, Steve Killelea is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Mr. Killelea is also the driving force behind the Global Peace Index (GPI), the world’s first and leading measure of global peacefulness. GPI measures ongoing domestic and international conflicts, safety, and security in society and militarization around the world. Mr. Killelea sat down with Reza Akhlaghi, senior writer at FPA, to discuss this year’s GPI report and its key findings.

This year’s Global Peace Index (GPI) has a revised indicator called the Political Terror Scale. Can you tell us about this indicator and the methodology employed in measuring it?

This indicator was always there, it used to be called: respect for human rights. We re-named it this year, in order to make clear what it really measures. This is an indicator that we source from Gibney, M., Cornett, L., & Wood, R., Political Terror Scale. The Political Terror Scale measures levels of political violence and terror that a country experiences in a particular year based on a 5-level “terror scale.” The data used in compiling this index comes from two different sources: the yearly country reports of Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The average of the two scores is taken for our assessment.

In this year’s Index, Africa is no longer the least peaceful place. What have been the contributing factors behind Africa’s improvement in peacefulness?

Sub-Saharan Africa has been improving slowly, but consistently, over the past 6 years. The indicators that have recorded the largest improvements over the 6 year period are: relations with neighbouring countries, availability of small arms and light weapons, and the number of deaths from conflict.

Why do you think worldwide military spending has declined? Do you think spending cuts by the world’s most powerful country and biggest economy will contribute to global peacefulness?

The economic crisis has undoubtedly led to cuts. Reducing our ability to project force increases our chances for peace. The money can also be redirected to more productive activity such as education, which in turn can further improve peacefulness. However, reductions in military spending is an historic trend fueled by improvements in the relations between states. The indicator that has improved the most in the six years of the GPI is relations between neighboring states. Additionally, since 2000 all regions of the world have reduced their military spending except the United States, which has increased it.

Syria and Greece have dropped substantially in the Index. The former the result of what appears to be an unfolding civil war and the latter of economic disintegration. Are these two countries contributing to the decline of their respective region in peacefulness? How?

Western Europe, the region in which we include Greece, has actually slightly improved its peacefulness this year. Syria, on the other hand, had a large drop and together with the Arab Spring counties of Egypt, Tunisia, and Lybia, has led to the MENA region become the least peaceful of the world. Greece has now steadily declined for the last four years dropping from 44 to 77 on the GPI.

You have indicated that a substantial improvement in the U.S. economy would have a notable impact on world’s peacefulness. Can you elaborate on this assertion and tell us how likely a substantial improvement in U.S. economy is?

A substantial improvement in the U.S. economy is unlikely. However, if it were to happen it would lead to increased peacefulness due to its positive impact on other parts of the world in trade and job creation as well as in the U.S. internally.

What is your outlook for world’s peacefulness over the next 12 months?

Aside from the decrease in the MENA region, the rest of the world has been improving slightly its peacefulness. This reverses two years of declining peace, and, after six years, the world has the same level of peacefulness as it did six years ago. Over this period external peacefulness has improved while internal peacefulness has declined. If history were to repeat itself, then this trend would continue.