The results are in, and it's official. The seventh annual Global Peace Index ranks the world's most and least peaceful countries.
Peace-loving Americans be warned! The results of 2013's GPI may surprise you. While Afghanistan's last-place spot may be expected, the good old US of A comes in at a lowly 100 out of 162.
Vision of Humanity, the nonprofit organization behind the index, started measuring peace in 2007. Dedicated to studying, advocating for, and acting on peace, Vision for Humanity created the index as part of their "strategic approach to raising the world’s attention and awareness around the importance of peace to humanity’s survival in the 21st century."
The most peaceful region of world is Europe, Scandinavia specifically, with Iceland coming in at the top and Denmark at number two. Smaller nations tended to be more peaceful than larger ones. Overall, the world has become 5% less peaceful than it was in 2008, with Syria falling a staggering 70% in peacefulness. The three countries with the largest improvements in peace over the past six years are Chad, Georgia, and Haiti, while the countries that experienced the greatest improvement in the last year are Libya and Sudan. Although conflicts between separate nations have decreased in the past few years, the index shows that internal conflicts, like those in Syria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Latin America, have gotten worse. Most Arab Spring countries saw a decrease in peacefulness compared to before the Arab Spring.
How does one measure peace? First of all, VFH has defined peace as: "Harmony achieved by the absence of war, conflict or violence or fear of the aforementioned." Enlisting the help of the Economist Intelligence Unit for data collection and crunching, as well as a team of independent peace-experts or "peaceperts," if you will, the group decided on 22 separate indicators of peace. These 22 indicators were grouped into three overarching categories: ongoing domestic and international conflict, societal safety and security, and militarization. The lower the score in each of the 22 categories, the more peaceful the nation.
So how did countries like Sierra Leone, Mongolia, Brazil, Morocco, and Nicaragua beat out the USA in peacefulness? The index measures the obvious: internal war and conflict, homicide rates, and political instability, but it also measures the conflict that a country causes to other nations. Under the "militarization" category, "Military expenditure as parGt of GDP," "Volume of transfers of major conventional weapons per 100,000 people," "nuclear weapons capability," and "financial contribution to UN peacekeeping missions" all affect a nation's score.
While the U.S. scored relatively low in domestic conflict and societal safety (with the exception of our high homicide rate), we scored exceptionally high in the militarization category.
In other words, it's not just about how peaceful things are within a country's borders, it's about a country's overall contribution (or lack thereof) to world peace. These external measures of peace adequately reflect a world that is undeniably interconnected and growing increasingly more so by the minute. It is no longer okay, if it ever was, to not worry about the impact we have on our fellow human beings, even those in faraway lands.
Perhaps this index will inspire our foreign-policy makers to take the advice of four musical (and famously peaceful) Brits, and ensure that the love we take in this world is equal to the love we make.