The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) today published its 2014 Global Peace Index, ranking Iraq as the fourth least peaceful country to live in on Earth. The annual index ranks 162 nations according to Global Peace Index score (GPI) calculated by indicators of militarization, domestic and internal conflict, and society and security. According to IEP, Iraq ranks 159th, followed by South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria, which ranks the lowest on the scale. The most peaceful countries on Earth are New Zealand, Austria, Denmark and Iceland, which ranks the highest.
Among the indicators the IEP uses to gauge GPI are the number of homicides, access to weapons, the percentage of the population in jail, violent crime, terrorist activity, deaths from internal conflict, UN peacekeeping funding, relations with neighboring countries, weapons exports, electoral process, functioning of the government, political participation, women in government, freedom of the press, and gender inequality. The United States currently ranks 101st out of 162 countries by these indicators, according to IEP. Iraq, by comparison, ranks among the worst nations for violent crime, homicides, terrorist activity, functioning of the government and corruption.
The Index is used by foreign policy analysts to help identify countries that are at risk of deteriorating into violence and unrest or that show improvements in peace. In past indices, IEPs predictive models have been able to identify the ten countries most likely to experience declining levels of peace in the following two years with 90 percent accuracy. The countries IEP predicts in its current Index will deteriorate in peacefulness are Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Chad, Georgia, Liberia, Nepal, Qatar and Zambia.
IEP estimates the global cost of war and violence rose to a staggering $9.8 trillion dollars, or 11.3 percent of the world’s economy, in 2014. China’s increased military expenditures and the increase in the number of conflicts around the globe were contributing factors in the rise. In 2013, China spent $188 billion dollars on its military and increased its expenditures by 12.2 percent in 2014, one of its largest military budget increases on record. The United States currently spends $640 billion annually on its military. By comparison, the Watson Institute for International Studies estimates the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq since 2003 has cost the U.S. at least $3.7 trillion dollars.
The continuing deterioration of peacefulness in the globe colors the Index this year. The bloody conflict in Syria, now in its second year, has outstripped the war in Afghanistan in violence, making Syria the least peaceful country on Earth. South Sudan, threatened by escalating ethnic violence and civil war, plummets in the Index, ranking the third least peaceful and pushing Iraq into its fourth place position. Recently, the United Nations warned of an emerging food crisis in the central African nation, as the U.N. mission shifted from peacekeeping operations to protecting civilians from the violence. Other nations that fell in the ranking this year were Mexico, Mali, Egypt and Ukraine. Steven Killelea, the founder of IEP, notes that a strong rebound in global peace is unlikely in the coming years.
Among the four most peaceful countries, Iceland continues to remain on top due to its low levels of militarization and internal conflict. European nations, in general, continue to keep their peaceful status. Canada remains the most peaceful nation in the Americas, ranking seventh overall, followed by Japan in the Orient, which ranks eighth.
With escalating violence and civil war looming, Iraq does not seem to be headed toward an increase in peacefulness in the coming year. Whether fourth place Iraq outstrips South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria as the least peaceful place on Earth remains a terrifying prospect.
By Steve Killings