Global cost of violence improves for the first time since 2012

The positive outcome marks the end of five years of rising costs of violence.

The global economic impact of violence improved for the first time in six years, according to the latest Global Peace Index.

Between 2017 and 2018, global costs decreased by 3.3 per cent or $475 billion. But the economic impact of violence around the world remains substantial at $14.1 trillion in 2018, equivalent to 11.2 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) or $1,853 per person.

The findings show the improvement is due to the winding down of armed conflict in Syria, Colombia and Ukraine, where the cost of conflict decreased by 29 per cent in 2017.

This decline in violence also resulted in a positive knock-on effect for refugees and internally displaced persons, and terrorism, with reductions in the costs for both.

The positive outcome marks the end of five years of rising costs of violence after the economic impact of violence rose by 11 per cent to $14.58 trillion between 2012 and 2017, coinciding with the start of the Syrian war and rising violence in Libya, Yemen and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in both Iraq and Syria has led to an improvement in the security situation in both countries over the past two years, leading to a decline in the level of violence and its economic impact.

Regions vary substantially according to the makeup of the cost of violence. The greatest variation between regions is the relative impact of military expenditure. This represents 59 per cent of the economic impact for the MENA region and only eight per cent in the Central America and Caribbean region.

The next biggest variation is in the violent crime, homicide and suicide category, which varied from 45 per cent of the regional composition in South America to four per cent in the MENA region.

Internal security expenditure also varies significantly by region. Europe and Asia-Pacific have the highest percentage, at 42 and 41 per cent respectively. The lowest spending region on internal security was South Asia at 20 per cent.

On average, countries in sub-Saharan Africa spend 12 times less on violence containment than Europe and five times less when compared to the Asia-Pacific region. Higher expenditure, especially for internal security, is expected in higher income countries given the higher wages and better-equipped security and judicial systems.

Read the latest Global Peace Index 2019 online.