U.S. Ranked 88th or 16th in Peace Indices

by Sato Matsui and Pammie Shapiro

Recently, the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) released the annual 2012 Global Peace Index (GPI), and also the inaugural report on the Positive Peace Index (PPI), which aims to incite optimism in the analysis of global peace measurements.

Measuring Peace in Different Ways

While the GPI measures the “absence of violence and absence of the fear of violence” using socio-economic and statistical indicators of interior and exterior conflict as well as the degree of social security and militarization, the PPI helps broaden our understanding of international peace by monitoring “formal and informal institutions that move a society away from violence and towards peace,” such as the quality of  business environment, the corruption level of the government, the availability of education, and the flow of information and resources.
Together, these reports give a comprehensive view of how 158 nations compare and interact dynamically to create a quilted fabric of peace advancement.

Read the full report and explore the Interactive GPI Global Map.

Key Findings of GPI

– Overall, the world has become more peaceful for the first time in three years. One-hundred-and-one improved their GPI scores this year, while all regions of the world have become more peaceful with the exception of the Middle East and North Africa.

– If 25% of the global violence level went down, it would add an additional $2.25 trillion to the global economy. Despite popular notions of the positive impact of war industries on economy, studies show that violence is a significant drain on global fiscal resources.

– This year the U.S. scored 88 out of 158 in the GPI, missing the median mark by 9 points. For a nation of high economic affluence, the ratio of citizens in jail remains remarkably high. The fairly low rank comes mainly from high levels of militarization. Data shows, however,  that the U.S. has been on a steady climb towards peace since 2007.

– For the second consecutive year, Iceland is ranked the most peaceful nation. Studies show that the ratio of citizens who are in jail is a mere 47 per 100,000, proving to be one of the lowest in the world.

– For the second consecutive year, Somalia is ranked the least peaceful nation. Over 20% of the population is displaced due to internal conflicts and unstable government, while famine and poor infrastructure make the country a fertile ground for internal violence.

– Statistics reveal a “tipping point” for nations with low levels of conflict, at which even small steps taken towards peace-making leave a lasting and significant impact on the further reduction of violence.

– Calculations indicate that by excluding the increases in US. .military expenditure from the past decade, the global military expenditure would have fallen.  Although overall, there was a decline in the level of militarization from 2009 and it was one of the top five indicators that improved from the year previous.

– Sri Lanka saw the greatest improvement in the GPI scale, rising nearly 30 ranks at the conclusion of their civil war. After two decades of civil war, the defeat of terrorist organization Tamil Tigers in 2009 led to a significant drop in the number of deaths due to internal struggle.

– Syria fell by the widest margin of 30 places, largely due to its descent into civil war. The UN estimated that by March of 2012, over 9,000 Syrians men, women, and children had lost their lives in the civil conflict.

– While most indicators of international violence have dropped, the “level of perceived criminality in society” revealed a significant rise. Over the last 6 years, the level of external peace has improved while internal peace has in turn worsened.

– There remains a significant gap between democracy and other forms of government. According to the GPI, even a flawed democracy scores better than various forms of authoritarian regime.

– According to the GPI, the top five biggest fallers are all Arab Spring countries. This stems largely from the instability and upheaval of various regime changes that led to an increase in violent protests.

– Terrorism is one of the most predominant sources of conflict since 2001. Although the best area of improvement is given to the decline in political terror scale, non-state actors continue to pose threats to the global community.


Key Findings of PPI


The United States scores 16th out of 158 in the Positive Peace Index.

– The top five ranking nations are all Nordic, in the order of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland.

– Of the ten lowest ranking nations, a majority are from the Sub-Saharan African nations, the last five of which are Ethiopia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe. These nations also correlate with the the least equitable distribution of resources and availability of education.

– The only indicator for which the North American Region does not score the highest score is the Good Relations with Neighbors.  Φ

Sato Matsui and Pammie Shapiro work with the Peace Alliance, P.O. Box 27601, Washington, DC 20038 | Phone: 202-684-2553.

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