Peace and Democracy


Democracy is in crisis, according to head of UN Democracy Fund. Roland Rich spoke today at an event hosted by the Institute for Economics and Peace where he questioned what democracy means now and what will it mean in the future. The disucssion inspired us to write a short article on governance and peace, in particular democracy and peace. If you would like more information we encourage you to read Chapter 1 of the Pillars of Peace Report that analyses how a well-functioning government can impact on levels of peace. 

Democracy and Peace

Governance is related to the extent to which various groups can participate and engage in their country’s political, social and economic life. This helps control corruption; formulate and implement good policies; provide public goods and infrastructure and more.

Governance issues are generally linked with government types; however there are some notable exceptions. A key component of good governance is citizens feeling their governments are accountable, not corrupt, and are not mismanaging public goods. It is for these reasons that democracies, on the whole, have better quality public policies as they provide better prospects for citizens to hold their governments accountable.

Generally speaking, authoritarian regimes are less responsive to the interests of their citizens which can significantly hamper their development processes. Hence, the link between government type and the peacefulness of a nation is strong. In saying this, it should be noted there are some exceptions with hybrid regimes like Singapore, Qatar or Bhutan scoring relatively highly on the GPI.

Quality of governance as measured by the EIU covers a broad range of aspects associated with governing such as political systems, accountability and sound management.

The figure above shows that there is a clear and significant difference between government types and the level of peacefulness of a nation. In terms of peace, democracies fare better on key indicators such as political instability, Political Terror Scale, relations with neighboring countries, and the number of homicides per 100,000 people. Authoritarian regimes and hybrid regimes perform worse than both flawed democracies and full democracies.

Hybrid regimes are regimes that share some overlap with both authoritarian regimes and flawed democracies. It is interesting to note that authoritarian regimes performed better than hybrid regimes until 2010.

The decrease in peacefulness of authoritarian regimes was a result of the Arab Spring when Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Syria descended into violence. In Africa the countries of Rwanda, Cote d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso also fell with increases in terrorist activity and internal conflicts. These changes in peace were largely due to internal factors rather than external violence and conflict.

Governance and Peace

A well-functioning government is a necessary foundation of a peaceful society. According to the Pillars of Peace, a framework for identifying the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peaceful societies, governance is one of the 8 crucial ingredients in the recipe of peace.

A well-functioning government can be broken down into two key domains: government effectiveness and government relationship with citizens. Because the government controls a large portion of a country’s resources, it has a major impact on the wellbeing of individuals through how well and fairly they run. This can mean the difference between having access to land, water, social security, education access to land, social security, and having rules which are favourable to operating a business. Consequently, a poorly governed country can create the seeds of tensions either by the under provision of public goods or their equitable distribution. 

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