Global peace declines for first time since WWII

Syria has replaced Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the world. (AFP)

Syria has replaced Afghanistan as the least peaceful country in the world. (AFP)

World peace has deteriorated steadily over the past seven years, with wars, militant attacks and crime reversing six earlier decades of gradual improvement, a global security report said on Wednesday.

Conflict in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) in particular dragged down the annual Global Peace Index, according to research by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

In particular, militants killed rising numbers of people in attacks across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa while murder rates rose in the emerging world’s growing urban centres. More people also became refugees by fleeing fighting.

Crime and conflict rates generally fell in more developed regions, particularly Europe, said the report.

The deterioration appeared the most significant fall in 60 years, the IEP said. Estimates of what the index would have been prior to its launch in 2007 showed world peace improving more or less continuously since the end of World War II.

‘Range of causes’
“There seem to be a range of causes,” said IEP founder and executive chair Steve Killelea.
“You have the repercussions of the Arab Spring, the rise of terrorism particularly following the invasion of Iraq and the repercussions of the global financial crisis.”

The study examines 22 indicators in 162 countries, including military spending, homicide rates and deaths from conflict, civil disobedience and terrorism.

The IEP said its average global peace indicator for all the countries in the world combined had moved from 1.96 to 2.06 over the past seven years, indicating a less peaceful world.

When that figure was adjusted to take into account the different populations of each country, the deterioration was even more marked, from 1.96 to 2.20.

Syria and Afghanistan were rated the least peaceful countries in the world, with South Sudan, the CAR, Ukraine and Egypt showing some of the sharpest falls in security levels.

Iceland held its number one position as most peaceful.

The IEP estimates violence and military spending cost the global economy about $9.8-trillion, which is roughly 11.3% of the world’s gross domestic product and up by $179-billion on the year.

Defence spending
The United States and Western European states are largely cutting defence spending. But China, Russia, countries along their borders and most Middle Eastern states are buying more arms as tensions rise.

There was some good news, Killelea said. Overall, measures of human rights from Amnesty International and the US state department showed improvement.

But deaths classed as owing to terrorism continued to rise in the developing world and particularly countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan and others.

The US also saw its position deteriorate because of last year’s Boston bombing and associated gunfights that killed five, including a suspect.

The study was published using data up to March and did not include the latest violence in Iraq and Ukraine.

“There’s no doubt that if the data went to now, the picture would be even worse,” Killelea said. – Reuters

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