World Refugee Week & The State of Global Peace

This week is World Refugee Week and we celebrated World Refugee Day on Monday 20th June. Latest data from the UNHCR shows that a record number of 65.3 million people are either displaced, seeking asylum or are refugees, an increase of more than five million in the last twelve months. 

This is the highest number ever recorded. 

Most of the refugees originate from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia and the highest numbers of internally displaced people live in Colombia, Syria and Iraq. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the region most refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs are fleeing. 

The rising number of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced peoples are evidence of a more unstable and more violent world, and this is exactly what the Global Peace Index found to be the case earlier this month. 

Data from the Global Peace Index shows the world has experienced a 0.53 per cent decline in peace from 2015 to 2016, continuing a decade long trend. 

As refugees and asylum seekers leave MENA, the GPI found it was the world’s least peaceful region in2016, following a recurrent pattern over the previous nine years. MENA saw the biggest deterioration in peace in 2015 as the civil wars in Syria and Yemen deepened and led to increased external intervention, and the impact of terrorism in the region increased.  Countries within MENA also experienced some of the largest declines in peace; these include Yemen, Libya and Bahrain, countries that are seeing high levels of refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs. 

Yemen’s travails have affected the scores of some it’s neighbours in the MENA region.  For example the UAE’s military intervention in the war, which included dispatching ground troops to southern Yemen, has affected that country’s scores for ongoing domestic and international conflict and militarisation. The growing role of foreign powers in Syria’s debilitating civil war, which has led to the deaths of between 250,000 and 470,000 people, has had an impact on Jordan which launched waves of air strikes in January 2015 after one of its pilots was captured and executed by the Islamic State. 

Terrorism has also played a significant role in the global decline in peace globally and within MENA. 

The majority of terrorist activity is highly concentrated in five countries - Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the breadth of terrorism is spreading with only 23% of countries in the Index not experiencing a terrorist incident between 2015-2016. There is an increased responsibility for governments to respond to the growing domestic threat posed by ISIL in the MENA region as demonstrated by the poorer terrorism scores for Saudi Arabia, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. 

Alongside terrorism, battle deaths from conflict are at a 25 year high. These, and the high numbers of refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs are driven by a small number of countries, demonstrating the global repercussions of breakdowns in peacefulness. 

The decline in peace is not uniform across all regions, as 81 countries became more peaceful aside the 79 that became less peaceful. If MENA is removed from the calculation of the global average, the world’s average peace score would actually improve.  So the global trends are that the lowest scoring countries are deteriorating in peacefulness more than the countries that improved. This is therefore representative of growing inequality in global peace; the least people regions are become less peaceful while the most peaceful are continuing to improve their levels of peace, creating a global peace divide. The global and regional breakdown in peacefulness we are seeing is leading to numbers displacements never seen before and highlights the need for the international community to work together to create a more peaceful global state.

View the Global Peace Index here.

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