The Pillars of Peace


During the last twenty years, humanity has entered into a new epoch in its history. This has been brought about by a convergence of many factors – finite environmental barriers are now being reached and on multiple fronts. World population recently reached seven billion and in many places it is already at straining capacity. Technology is fuelling change at an ever increasing pace which in many ways underpins the growth of globalisation. The world is connected in ways that were unimaginable even fifty years ago. Wars are no longer economically viable and change is occurring so fast that nations are struggling to keep up with both the legal and social ramifications of these changes.

Global challenges call for global solutions and these solutions require cooperation on a scale unprecedented in human history. Peace is an essential prerequisite because without peace we will never be able to achieve the levels of cooperation, trust, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve these challenges, let alone empower the international institutions necessary to address them.

Peace lies at the center of being able to manage the transition, simply because peace creates the optimum environment in which the other activities that contribute to human growth can take place. In this sense, peace is a facilitator making it easier for workers to produce businesses to sell, entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate and governments to regulate.

But if peace is an essential prerequisite for solving our sustainability challenges and improving our economic and social well-being then having a good understanding of peace is essential. This poses the question “How well do we understand peace?” Fifty years ago, peace studies were virtually non- existent. Today there are thriving Peace & Conflict Centers in numerous universities around the world. But most of these are centered on the study of conflict rather than on the understanding of peace.

Over the last century, we have moved from having departments of war to departments of defense and we are now seeing the emergence of organisations that are lobbying for the creation of departments of peace within governments. While these changes are beneficial in improving our understanding of peace, peace is not yet seen as germane to the major academic disciplines, nor is there a methodological approach to the cross-disciplinary study of peace. E.g., there is no university Chair of Peace Economics in any major Economic faculty, yet most business people believe that their markets grow in peace and that their costs decrease with increasing peacefulness.

The simplest way of approaching the definition of peace is in terms of harmony achieved by the absence of war, conflict or violent crime. Applied to states, this would suggest that the measurement of internal states of peace is as important as those external factors involving other states or neighbors. This is what Johan Galtung defined as ‘negative peace’ – an absence of violence. The concept of negative peace is immediately intuitive and empirically measurable and can be used as a starting point to elaborate its counterpart concept, ‘positive peace’. Having established what constitutes an absence of violence, is it possible through statistical analysis to identify which structures, institutions and social attitudes create and maintain peace?

What is Peace?

While there are many nuanced definitions of peace, this article uses two concepts, both of which have a rich history in peace studies. These two types of peace are commonly referred to as ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ peace as defined by Johan Galtung. Negative peace is the absence of violence or fear of violence, an intuitive definition that most people will agree with. This was used in defining the measures for the GPI which include indicators that measure both the internal peacefulness of nations as well their external peace in relation to other states.

This body of work by IEP is the only known quantitative approach to defining positive peace and as such occupies a unique position in peace studies. This work provides a foundation for researchers to deepen their understanding of the empirical relationships between peace, social development and other development variables.

Measuring Peace

Measurement is the key to understanding any human endeavor and peace is not different. If we do not measure peace, then how can we know whether our actions are either helping or hindering us in the achievement of a more peaceful world? Only by measuring and understanding the patterns of peace can we move to a better understanding of how it can be improved. The Global Peace Index (GPI) was developed in 2007 by the Institute for Economics and Peace as one of the first rigorous attempts to measure the relative levels of the peacefulness of nations. By aggregating and generating a comprehensive and reliable dataset which measures direct violence, the GPI adds to the current stock of harmonised cross-country data. Since 2007 it has informed policymakers, academics, and civil society organisations about the objective state of direct violence in countries covering over 99 per cent of the world’s population. The purpose of this research is to better understand the cultural, economic, and political conditions associated with peaceful environments. Up until now, the GPI has focused on measuring ‘negative peace’. Hence the GPI utilises 22 indicators of safety and security in society, militarisation, and ongoing domestic and international conflict to determine the multidimensional nature of negative peace in 162 countries. This means nations with a high ranking in the GPI are considered more peaceful.

Positive Peace Index

In contrast to negative peace, positive peace can inform our understanding of the appropriate attitudes, institutions, and structures which when strengthened, lead to a nation’s capacity to harmoniously and non-violently resolve conflict. The approach in this work stands in contrast to the extensive quantitative conflict literature which is predominately focused on understanding the causes for outbreak of war as a key dependent variable. The output of the Positive Peace Index (PPI) can be used for comparative studies which will further inform the understanding of the key economic, political and cultural factors that can improve peace and resilience of all societies, not just fragile states. By seeking to identify institutions which help a society move away from violence, it is hoped a more holistic picture of the key factors which drive peace can be identified. While focus on ‘trigger’ factors or individual case studies are insightful, they cannot reveal global or regional trends or help in identifying longer term causes of conflict. As the 2009-2010 Human Security Report identifies, there is still a ‘…remarkable lack of consensus in the research findings on the causes of war and peace … also the inability of conflict models to predict the outbreak of conflicts.’ To date, there are only a small number of robust findings which have widespread consensus in the research community, according to Hegre and Sambanis they suggest only three key findings have broad agreement on the causes of civil war:

While some dispute the number of robust findings, it is clear there are conflicting empirical conclusions as to the causes of conflict. In contrast, by measuring positive peace it is possible to determine another way to better understand how to reduce violence, but more importantly how to build the resilience within societies so they are less likely to fall into conflict. It is hoped this research can influence debate on how international institutions can facilitate a more holistic and positive approach to peace and state building.

The composite index approach of the PPI was chosen because positive peace is a latent and multidimensional concept which is represented in different social, political and economic forms. Defining positive peace as “the set of attitudes, institutions and structures which when strengthened, lead to a more peaceful society” it is clearly an unobservable variable that cannot be represented or embodied in any single factor.

The empirical link between negative peace and the factors in the positive peace index appear to hold in developing and developed contexts. Both negative and positive peace can be seen as the producer and product of forms of trust and cohesion that are a pre-requisite for well-functioning and prosperous societies. Countries higher in positive peace also tend to have many other fundamentally positive social and economic outcomes. For instance, IEP finds high peace countries have:

By moving countries away from direct violence and towards positive peace, this demonstrates that it is also possible to reap a significant social and economic dividend as a primary by-product of creating peace. The Positive Peace Index is similar to the GPI in that it is a composite index attempting to measure a multidimensional concept. The PPI is the first known attempt to build an empirical derived index aiming to measure the latent variable of positive peace.

The starting point for developing the PPI was to correlate the GPI against over 300 cross country harmonised datasets measuring a variety of economic, governance, social, attitudinal and political factors. This aggregation of data attempted to cover every relevant quantitative and qualitative data set measuring factors at the nation-state level. Each dataset which was significantly correlated was then organised under eight distinct headings or factors, these have been previously referred to as the Pillars of Peace and become the eight domains of the PPI. These structures were derived by empirical inspection and from the large body of qualitative and quantitative literature highlighting the importance of these factors.

Under each of the eight domains, the data sources most closely correlated with the GPI were then aggregated for each country. This resulted in the PPI having the following key features:

All indicators are scored between one and five, with one being the most ‘positively peaceful’ score and five the least ‘positively peaceful’. This means countries which score closer to one are likely to have relatively more institutional capacity and resilience in comparison to nations which score closer to five.

The weightings are between 0.5 and 0.8 and have been derived by the strength of the indicator’s statistical correlation to the 2011 GPI score. The stronger the correlation to the Global Peace Index, the higher the weighting portioned in the Positive Peace Index. The lowest weighting is given to the Interpersonal Safety and Trust indicator which accounts for 3.9 per cent of the index. This is in comparison to the most heavily weighted factor of Intergroup Cohesion which is weighted at 0.80 and accounts for more than twice the portion of Interpersonal Safety and Trust at 6.2 per cent of the PPI.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the nations at the top of the PPI tend to be high on the GPI, in the high income category, and full democracies as defined by the EIU Democracy Index. On average, North America and Western Europe are the most positively peaceful regions, with Sub-Saharan Africa clearly well behind on positive peace. Interestingly, the average positive peace score is close to equal in Central and Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa. This suggests these diverse regions on an average face similar challenges in terms building resilience and institutional capacity.

The lower ranked nations in the PPI tend to be lower income nations with hybrid or authoritarian regimes. Despite the fact that hybrid regimes are on average slightly less peaceful than authoritarian regimes on the GPI, they tend to have the same average PPI score. Evidently, the countries facing governance or economic constraints will have ongoing challenges in boosting their levels of positive peace. Additionally, with the purported declines in intergroup cohesion, slight increases in corruption and declines in press freedom, there may be future challenges to boosting positive peace.

India ranks very low in both the PPI and the GPI despite being the largest democratic nation on Earth. In terms of the GPI, India performs poorly in the following indicators: Perceptions of criminality in society; Political Terror Scale; Terrorist acts; and Number of external and internal conflicts fought. In relation to the PPI, India performs poorly on many Positive Peace scores too. Furthermore, its formal institutions score poorly on corruption.

For humanity to grow and prosper in a world that is facing finite resource constraints, global threats and the potential of economic devastation through warfare there needs to be a new paradigm for managing international affairs. Much of the interaction of nation states is based on competition and win/loss outcomes. Although, some level of competition is healthy but the ongoing inability to reach agreement on many critical issues demonstrates the failures of the current system. A focus on peace can create a paradigm shift simply because the attitudes, institutions and structures that create peace also create by-products such as resilience, economic prosperity and international cooperation which are at the heart of a viable future, therefore peace is a prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century!

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