The 2021 Global Peace Index finds that the world became less peaceful for the ninth time in the last 13 years, with the average level of country peacefulness deteriorating by 0.07 per cent over the past year.
Burkina Faso had the largest deterioration in peacefulness on the 2021 Global Peace Index, falling 13 places, and is now ranked 34th in the sub- Saharan Africa region and 134th globally. Burkina Faso’s overall score deteriorated by just over 11 per cent, driven by increases in internal conflict that led to the displacement of over one million people by the end of 2020.
The country now has its worst GPI score since the inception of the index in 2008. The largest deteriorations occurred on the Ongoing Conflict and Safety and Security domains.
Burkina Faso has entered a period of extreme instability. This has diverted the attention of the security forces towards combating an Islamist insurgency, weakening efforts to maintain law and order. Vigilante groups have been co-opted by the state to help fight the insurgencies, weakening the rule of law and the government’s control of territory. In rural areas banditry has flourished, while the jihadist groups fighting the state have funded their struggle through robbery, extortion and control of the criminal economy. The security forces have also been implicated in extra-judicial executions, heightening inter-ethnic tensions.
It is estimated that over 4.6 per cent of the total population are now either refugees or internally displaced. In the prior year, this figure stood at just 0.3 per cent of the population. The conflict in Burkina Faso has led to an increase in deaths from internal conflict and the intensity of internal conflict. The government’s decision to arm and train civilian and vigilante groups has led to increased ease of access to small arms throughout the country.
Belarus had the second largest deterioration in peacefulness on the 2021 GPI, with a deterioration in score of 8.7 per cent leading to a fall of 19 places in the overall rankings. Belarus is now ranked 117th on the 2021 GPI, and is ranked ninth of the 12 countries in the Russia and Eurasia region. The political crisis that followed the August 2020 elections led to large deteriorations on both the Ongoing Conflict and Safety and Security domains.
Anti-government protests have been running since the disputed presidential poll in August 2020. The security and police forces have clashed with the demonstrators and scores of people were
imprisoned or detained. This has led to a sharp deterioration in the violent demonstrations indicator. The EU, in December 2020, introduced a third round of sanctions against 88 individuals and seven entities in Belarus. Unrest stemming from demonstrations has led to an increase in the intensity of internal conflict and a rapid deterioration in political instability.
The political crisis has led to spill-over effects with regards to neighbouring country relations. The EU sanctions against the Belarusian government included travel bans and asset freezes. Relations with both the EU and the US have deteriorated and more sanctions are likely to follow.
Honduras had the third largest deterioration in peacefulness on the 2021 GPI, with its overall score deteriorating by 7.1 per cent. It is now ranked 124th globally, and is ranked tenth of the 12 countries in the Central America and Caribbean region. Peace is now at its lowest level in Honduras in the past decade. Increases in political instability and the ongoing impact of organised criminal violence are the major drivers of the fall of peacefulness in the country.
Political polarisation and increasing social tensions led to a deterioration in political instability over the past year. The re-election of the president, Juan Orlando Hernández, in January 2018 was approved by the electoral authorities, but this led to social unrest, which was followed by UN-sponsored cross-party dialogue. However, this failed to yield any concrete agreement among the parties, heightening polarisation and raising the risk of further protests.
Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. As of 2018, only Lesotho, Jamaica, and El Salvador had higher homicide rates than the 38.9 homicides per 100,000 people recorded in Honduras. The primary driver of this high homicide rate is organised criminal activity, which has led to high levels of organised internal conflict, and has had a destabilising effect on the country’s institutions, leading to a wave of deadly violence in 2020. Its maximum-security prisons, which are already well over capacity, were affected by various riots, massacres and targeted killings. Moreover, authorities also recorded the first-ever massacre inside a female prison, when six women with suspected links to the MS-13 were murdered by rival Barrio 18 members in mid-June.
Zambia had the fourth largest deterioration in peacefulness on the 2021 GPI and the second largest in the sub-Saharan African region. Its overall score deteriorated by 7.8 per cent, with peacefulness in the country now at its lowest level since the inception of the GPI. Zambia fell 24 places in the rankings and is now ranked 71st overall. The fall in peacefulness was driven by a deterioration on the Ongoing Conflict domain.
Border skirmishes erupted between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia, which left two troops dead in mid-2020, and promoted a flurry of diplomatic activity by the Southern African Development Community to resolve the dispute. This led to a severe deterioration on the neighbouring country relations indicator. The border area has previously been the site of clashes between the two countries over the past three decades, but tensions were driven to new heights in 2020 when Zambia deployed troops in a disputed border area, leading to claims from the government of the DRC that the Zambian government was trying to annex part of the disputed territory.
The Militarisation domain also deteriorated owing to increased weapons imports and significantly increased military expenditure. As a percentage of GDP, military expenditure in Zambia increased from 1.62 per cent in 2019, to 1.94 per cent in 2020. However, despite the deterioration in the Ongoing Conflict and Militarisation domains, there was a slight improvement in the Safety and Security domain, owing to an improvement in the terrorism impact indicator and a small increase in the percentage of people who state that they feel safe walking alone at night.
Azerbaijan recorded the fifth largest deterioration on the 2021 GPI, with its overall score falling 5.6 per cent. The country is now ranked 121st globally on the index after falling six places in the rankings. Azerbaijan’s deterioration in peacefulness was driven by an escalation in its conflict with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. The country’s score deteriorated across all three GPI domains.
The deterioration in the Ongoing Conflict domain was primarily the result of a fall in the neighbouring countries relations indicator. Relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia significantly deteriorated due to the violent escalation of tensions over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but with a 95 per cent ethnic Armenian population. The conflict spanned from September 27th 2020 to November 9th 2020 when it was ended with a trilateral ceasefire agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. The armed confrontation resulted in more than 6,000 casualties from both sides, including civilians.
The conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region also resulted in a significant increase in the number of refugees and IDPs in Azerbaijan, and a resulting deterioration on the Safety and Security domain. It is estimated that over 6.5 per cent of Azerbaijan’s population are either internally displaced or refugees.
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