Global Peacefulness is on a Downward Spiral
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The 14th edition of Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 163 independent countries and territories according to their degree of peacefulness has said that the level of peacefulness has receded. This is according to its 2020 report released on June 21, 2021.

Produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace, the average country score deteriorated by 0.34 percent corresponding to a peace recession for the nineth time over the last twelve years—made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assessment is based on key metrics including civil unrest and riots, ecological threat, safety and security, militarization, ongoing conflict, economic impact of violence and COVID-19.

While 81 countries saw an improvement in their rankings with Iceland clinching the top spot as the most peaceful country in the world—joining the likes of New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark, 80 countries on the other hand recorded deteriorations with Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yamen and South Sudan occupying the bottom five.

Read the rankings here

How the regions fare

Here is a summary of the regional overview

Regionally, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) emerged as the least peaceful region in the world. MENA hosts three of the five least peaceful countries in the world with no country from the region recording higher than 27th on the score card of GPI.

Europe was adjudged the most peaceful region hosting six of the ten most peaceful country globally albeit it recorded a “slight deterioration”. Protests in Poland against judicial interference, demonstration against corruption in Romania and protests against a new labour law in Hungary contributed to political unrest in the region.

North America—Canada and US—recorded an overall improvement score of 1.28 percent. The report revealed that it was the first time since 2016 that the region had recorded an average improvement since 2016 with Canada claiming a spot in the top ten most peaceful countries and US ranking 121st overall.    

Sub-Saharan Africadipped slightly with a deterioration score of 0.5 percent. Characteristically, disputed elections and demands for political change facilitated civil unrest and political destabilizations across the region account for the slip albeit South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire improved on their peacefulness.

Increased sporadic clashes in Benin following a disputed election in 2019 led the country to fall 34 places in the rankings. Cross border armed robberies and violent crimes pushed Niger into the abyss of “entrenched criminality” in Africa. Killings of civilians by Boko Haram in Nigeria and economic problems in Gambia are significant dimensions of a deepening regional crisis compounded by Covid 19, food scarcity and climate crisis. 

Benin’s President Patrice talon casts his ballot at a polling station in Cotonou, Benin, April 11, 2021. Reuters/Charles placide Tossou

South America recorded the biggest slip in the 2020 GPI. No South American country is currently ranked higher than 35th on the index. Political and civil unrest, violence and resource scarcity leading to internally displaced people in Venezuela, mass protests in Chile against the price of metro-tickets, demonstrations against cuts to social welfare programs in Colombia and cuts to petroleum subsidies in Ecuador are part of the litany of issues that affected the peacefulness of the region. 

Central America and the Caribbean receded with a growing number of deaths arising from external conflict. The region was characterized by civil unrest, high levels of corruption and economic hardship. For example, in Honduras perceived corruption culminated in violent conflict and forced international migration. Haiti, Nicaragua and Mexico recorded an increase in refugees fleeing violence.   

Falls in peacefulness in Bhutan, Nepal Sri Lanka and Afghanistan in the South-Asian region were driven by changes in militarization and safety and security areas. In India tensions between different political, ethnic and religious groups posed a significant threat to peacefulness while Afghanistan emerged as the least peaceful country in the region haven recorded violent attacks, increasing homicide rate and increased weapon imports.

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