Saudi Arabia is showing promise and improvement in Positive Peace.
Saudi Arabia may be ranked 129 out of 163 countries on the 2019 Global Peace Index, but the Middle Eastern country has made great strides in Positive Peace over the years rising 27 ranks on the Positive Peace Index between 2005 and 2017.
Saudi Arabia has improved 14 per cent overall in Positive Peace since 2005, largely due to significant gains in gender equality.
In 2005, the country was ranked 153 out of 163 countries in terms of gender inequality. Data from the UNDP Gender Inequality Index shows that over the past 12 years, Saudi Arabia has seen many positive reforms in this area. As a result, it now ranks 48 out of 163 countries with a score more than half a point better than the global average.
Many recent milestones have influenced this improvement in gender equality. A 2011 ruling allowed women to vote and run in municipal elections, and a 2012 decision by King Abdullah permitted female athletes to participate in the Olympics. In 2013, 30 women were named to the previously all-male Shura Consultative Council, and in 2015, 20 women were elected to municipal positions in local elections. Most recently, in September 2017, the ban on women driving was formally lifted, making it legal for women to obtain a driver’s licence without asking permission from a male guardian and to drive unaccompanied as of 2018.
The mobile phone subscription rate in Saudi Arabia has also improved following the introduction of various market competitors. This has lowered the cost for cell phone services and made the internet more widely accessible. Eighty-eight per cent of Saudi Arabians own smart phones – the highest rate of smart phone users in the Gulf region.
Additional progress in Positive Peace also comes from an improved hostility to foreigners score. From 2006 to 2010, Saudi Arabia issued over 25,000 tourist visas, and in 2016, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage expanded its efforts to invite visitors, encourage foreign investment and develop a profitable tourism industry.
Despite much progress, Saudi Arabia did see deteriorations in the Freedom of the Press Index and democratic political culture. Politics are largely dominated by the country’s absolute monarchy, headed by King Salman bin Saud.
Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies, measured in the 2018 Positive Peace Report by the Institute for Economics and Peace. The 2019 Global Peace Index, measures Negative Peace, defined as the absence of violence or fear of violence.