What are the factors that shape the relative peacefulness of nations?
The overall level of world peace world fell for the third year in a row, according to the latest version of the Global Peace Index produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Most of this trend was driven by the increased "social and political turmoil in the Middle East and North African Nations during the early part of 2011," the report notes.
But what are the factors that shape the relative peacefulness of nations? And, what is the connection between peace—or its opposite—on their economic growth, well-being, and prosperity?
The map below charts the Global Peace Index (GPI) scores for 153 countries worldwide. The GPI is based on 25 separate indicators of internal and external conflict, including wars and external conflicts, deaths from external conflicts, militarization, weapons exports, homicides, access to weapons, violent political demonstrations, prison populations, and police presence.
Iceland and New Zealand are the first and second most peaceful countries on the planet according to the GPI, followed by Japan, Denmark, and the Czech Republic. Canada is ranked eighth. Not surprisingly, the US—with the world's largest military, enmeshed in a seemingly "perpetual war" on terrorism, a large prison population, high homicide rate, and relatively large domestic police presence—is ranked 82nd, between Gabon (81) and Bangladesh (83). The five least peaceful nations are North Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia. War-ravaged Libya fell from 83 to 143. It's worth pointing out the considerable differences among the rising BRICs nations. Two of them have high GPI scores—Russia (147) and India (135) - and thus rank among the world's least peaceful nations, while the other two—Brazil (74) and China (80)—rank in the neighborhood of the United States.