Hiroshima University researchers find links between Positive Peace and Environmental Sustainability

IEP’s Global Peace Index (GPI) and Positive Peace Index (PPI) have provided researchers from Hiroshima University with important evidence to show the interconnected nature of environmentalism and Positive Peace, as well as how improvements in one area can aid improvements in the other.

Peace and environmental sustainability — two lofty but vital goals for all countries — are known to be intrinsically related, according to Dahlia Simangan, IEP Ambassador and Associate Professor at Hiroshima University. 

However, researchers still tend to investigate them separately, and when viewed together it is often with little examination into the nuances of either peace, environmental sustainability or their effects on each other.

A team of researchers from Hiroshima University, including Simangan, have found that elements of environmental performance are more strongly associated with Positive Peace, specifically its pillar concerning equitable resource distribution, than with negative peace, especially its indicator on the degree of militarization. This research was recently published in Earth System Governance.

“These concepts [of peace and sustainability] are very broad, and their relationship is influenced by many other factors,” said Simangan“In this study, we analysed how their specific components influence each other.” 

The researchers noted that while there are indices to measure peace and indices to measure environmental wellbeing, there is not an index that comprehensively incorporates both. Further, previous analyses on the intersection of environmental sustainability and peace tended to focus on negative peace, or the absence of violence. To overcome these previous limitations, the researchers examined three different indices.

“For the peace component, we used the datasets from [IEP’s] GPI and PPI to include both direct and indirect forms of conflict and violence,” Simangan said. “For the environmental sustainability component, we used [Yale’s] Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which measures environmental health and ecosystem vitality.”

The PPI is measured using eight pillars: well-functioning government, sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbours, free flow of information, high levels of human capital and low levels of corruption.

The GPI uses three domains: the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict, the level of societal safety and security and the degree of militarization.

The EPI has two main objectives: environmental health, which encompasses air quality, sanitation and drinking water, heavy metals and waste management; and environmental vitality, which includes indicators of biodiversity and habitat, ecosystem services, climate change and so on.

The researchers conducted several correlation tests and found a consistent pattern.

“We found out that environmental performance — especially regarding air quality, safe sanitation and safe drinking water — is more closely associated with Positive Peace than negative peace,” Simangan said.

“Our study also revealed that contrary to general expectations, some low-income countries score fairly well in both negative peace and environmental sustainability. However, they often fall short in achieving Positive Peace outcomes. These findings confirm our hypothesis that Positive Peace is more conducive to accommodating environmental considerations.”

As the results show how interconnected environmentalism and Positive Peace are, and how improvements in one area can aid improvements in the other, the researchers said their next step is to look to create an integrated model.

“We will continue to concretize the various components of holistic peace and multidimensional sustainability in order to provide a more comprehensive index that illustrates the myriad pathways between the two,” Simangan said. “Our ultimate goal is to develop this integrated index with annually updated datasets available for researchers and policymakers.”

Global environmental changes are transforming the security landscape in which both conflicts and peacebuilding processes take place. While existing research underscores the importance of climate-sensitive approaches to peacebuilding, the focus has been on violent conflict and environmental degradation. Integrating the components of Positive Peace and environmental sustainability using mixed methods, interdisciplinary research design enables a holistic approach to peace and sustainability.

The full research article is available through Earth Systems Governance Journal