Explore/Economics & Peace
In an interview with the Russian International Council of Affairs, Daniel Hyslop, Research Manager at the Institute for Economics and Peace, talks about main trends in world peace over the last 6 years, the Global Peace Index, its methodology and Russia’s ranking.
What is the Global Peace Index?
The Global Peace Index is intending to measure the absence of violence or the fear of violence. This is a negative peace. The scores that we attribute to countries are between 1 and 5. The closer to 1 is more peaceful. The rankings represent relative differences in peace between different countries. So, countries at the top of the index are more peaceful than the ones at the bottom.
What peace trends can be observed over the past 6 years?
The Global Peace Index (GPI) has been running for 6 years. The first edition was in 2007. So, now we have a small trend of data. What we found is that the average level of peace in 2012 is approximately the same as it was in 2007. If you look at the average of all the scores across all the countries, the scores are about the same as they were in 2007.
So, in that time peace has gone up and down, but it returned more or less back to the 2007 level. For example, from 2007 to 2009 peace improved, but from 2009 to 2011 peace decreased, and it improved again from 2011 to 2012.
The main thing that we noticed over these 6 years is that the external peace indicators – that measure militarization and ongoing international conflicts – are the ones that broadly improved, whilst the internal indicators have worsened. And that matches up with the suggestion that inter-state conflicts have actually been decreasing and conflicts between citizens and their governments have been increasing. So, the trends in the GPI empirically confirmed that.
Last year’s findings confirmed that Sub-Saharan Africa is no longer the least peaceful region in the world, as the Middle East and North Africa are now. The reason for that is not just the Arab Spring effect in those regions but also the fact that in the past 6 years Sub-Saharan Africa has been improving a lot in terms of its average level of peacefulness.
And the indicators within the GPI significantly improved for Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, indicators like “neighboring country relations” in Africa improved, and indicators like “perceptions of criminality in society” are better in Africa now than in Latin America. From the regional perspective that was quite a big change.
Another striking observation is that with these 6 years of data there appears to be quite a strong suggestion of a tipping point in terms of the relationship between peacefulness and corruption. As countries get to a certain level of peacefulness we found that corruption dramatically falls off and vice versa.
As well, we noticed that there is a substantial gap in peacefulness between democracies and other types of government. Thus, full democracies and flawed democracies tend to perform substantially better than hybrid or authoritarian regimes.
We have done research on the relationship between resilience and peace. We found that countries that are at the top of the index tend to have the structures, attitudes, and institutions that help build resilience, especially against external shocks. A really good example here is Iceland which suffered significantly during the 2008 financial crisis. It went down on the index as there were quite a lot of violent demonstrations and an increase in violent crime but since then it managed to bounce back up.
The same can’t be said about countries that are lower down in the index, such as Greece. In 2008 Greece was 54th in the Index and since the financial crisis it has fallen off a cliff: in 2012 it is 77th out of 158 countries. Greece didn’t have the same sort of resilience towards external shocks.
And the final thing in terms of trends is that peace is a fluid continuum: it is constantly moving; countries are going up and down. So, these are the key trends that we indicated in our 2012 Global Peace Index Report. And as we get more years of data we will be able talk about these trends with more assurance.
What was the Arab Spring’s effect on the Index?
We saw the most significant change in 2011. Countries like Egypt, Tunisia, and Bahrain experienced big movements in the index. In 2012 Syria was the country with the largest change in the index. This reflects the transition period when countries are moving from hybrid authoritarian regimes to more democratic systems. This is the period when you see a significant increase in conflicts and violence – it is bad for negative peace in a short term but it is good for positive peacebuilding and a long term peace in the future.
How is the Index calculated? What indicators does it consist of?
The index has 23 indicators that can be divided into two major domains: internal and external. And these domains in turn can be broken into three separate categories:
demonstrations, incarceration rate);
The choice of banding and the weighting of these indicators are determined by an expert panel. It is a group of 8 people who discuss the index at least three times a year to discuss the methodology and review the index outputs.
Some of the data for smaller countries or countries with more closed regimes might not be available in quantitative form or even at all, how do you fill in these gaps?
The nature of a lot of the data that we are trying to collect is not available via administrative sources. The quantitative sources that we do have are all publically available from a variety of intergovernmental organizations.
Because the index covers 99% of the world population (158 countries), we are trying to harmonize the data across from many countries. In order to be able to do it we need to look at qualitative assessments. We work very closely with the Economist Intelligence Unit and they have a team of country analysts who score the 8 qualitative indicators of the index and attribute a score between 1 and 5, which is then peer reviewed by the expert panel. That is really important part of the process for us in terms of filling data gaps and also generating new data.
What does the Index dynamics indicate about the peace level in Russia?
In this 2012 Index Russia is ranked 153 out of 158 countries. So, it is in the bottom 10, it is one of the least peaceful countries in the Index.
This is due to several reasons:
Russia tends to do badly on the militarization indicators and the internal safety and security indicators. For instance, Russia has one of the worst scores for the number of internal security and police officers per 100 000 people (4 out of 5) because Russia has a very large number of police.
The incarceration rate in Russia is very high as well (3.5 out of 5), it is 490 per 100 000 people or 7th highest in the world.
Russia scores poorly on the number of terrorist acts (3.5 out of 5) and the level of political terror (4 out of 5).
It is also in the bottom quintile for the number of heavy weapons (4.5 out of 5)
Russia’s score was affected by its involvement in the conflict with Georgia in 2008 but it has slightly improved since then.
Overall, Russia slightly improved in the last year. And there are indicators on which Russia performs really well: Russia imports very few major conventional weapons and it keeps up with its UN peacekeeping payments. As well Russia has the best possible score for a number of displaced people as percentage of the population (1 out of 5) and for a number of deaths from external conflicts.
So, there are indicators on which Russia performs well; but militarization as well as safety and security indicators are the ones that need to be improved in order for Russia to improve in the rankings.
It should be noted that some parts of Russia may be quite violent whilst large part of the country can be in fact free from conflict and be quite peaceful.
Russia is a very large country, and one of the dilemmas for the Global Peace Index is that we are trying to aggregate all these data and average it at the country level which may elide important sub-national differences.
What is the practical use of the Global Peace Index?
The GPI is there to start a meaningful discussion about what peace means. So, this is an exercise that is performed by everyone that uses the Index.
The other practical use is that the GPI generates data and aggregates the current stock of data into one place, thus, enabling us to build a very useful database that we can disseminate to other researchers and academics.
As well, the data is now used as a monitoring and evaluation tool by the UNDP and many governmental agencies. It allows policymakers to track countries’ progress and which indicators are improving and which ones are going down.
I would conclude by saying that the main goal of the Global Peace Index is to try and tease out and understand what institutions, attitudes, and structures can create a more peaceful society. This is really in contrast with a lot of conflict literature that tends to be focused on understanding negative processes, such as why conflicts occur. The Global Peace Index is about a longer term research program which is about trying to understand the positive processes which create peace.
Mr. Hyslop, thank you so much for this interview.
Listen to the interview here:
Source: Russian Council