IEP’s latest research briefing “COVID-19 and Peace” spotlights COVID-19 and its impact on global levels of peacefulness. We investigate its economic impact and the early fiscal response, and look across the globe to uncover the prospects of a recovery.

COVID-19 and Peace Report – Key Results

  • The socio-economic factor most highly correlated with the number of COVID-19 infections has been the level of air travel before the lockdowns. The US, France, Italy, Spain and the UK have some of the highest air travel rates in the world.
  • The crisis has raised tensions between the US and other countries like China, over the role of the World Health Organization (WHO), trade disputes and the origins of the virus. These tensions are likely to increase as economies face protracted downturns.
  • Most indicators in the Global Peace Index are expected to deteriorate. The one area that may improve is military expenditure, as countries redirect resources to propping up their economies.
  • Europe is expected to see an increase in political instability, including riots and general strikes, all of which have increased substantially in the past decade.
  • Reduction in overseas aid budgets will further stress fragile and conflict affected countries, such as Liberia, Afghanistan, Burundi and South Sudan, which are highly dependent on international aid.
  • Countries with poor credit ratings, such as Brazil, Pakistan, Argentina and Venezuela may not be able to borrow enough to sustain their economic recoveries, leading to increases in political instability, riots and violence.
  • As economies contract, countries will find it more difficult to repay existing debt. The combination of indebtedness and weak activity is likely to lead to increases in poverty, political instability and violent demonstrations. Lebanon has defaulted on its bonds, contributing to an economic crash and violent clashes in its streets.
  • The world lacks a credible approach to deal with this crisis. The impact is likely to sharpen the focus on other socio-economic factors that have been brewing, such as the growing inequality in wealth, deteriorating labour conditions in developed countries and increasing alienation with the political system.
  • The sharp fall in oil prices will affect political regimes in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, which may result in the collapse of the shale oil industry in the US, unless oil prices return to their prior levels.
  • The pandemic may curtail Iraq’s capacity to combat ISIL insurgencies.
  • Many countries will struggle to fund expensive interventions. Examples are Saudi Arabia’s ability to support the government of neighbouring Yemen, Turkish and Russian support in Syria or Iran’s support of militias, such as Hezbollah.
  • Iran has warned that the pandemic is an internal security threat that further compounds the US-led sanctions against the country.
  • The pandemic and the weak oil markets have worsened the internal security and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. It has also led Colombia, Brazil and other countries to close their borders with Venezuela, causing further hardship for vulnerable Venezuelans.
  • As OECD economies contract, more countries will likely reduce their peacekeeping contributions.
  • The economic downturn will impact food security. A total of 113 million people in 53 countries were already on the brink of starvation even before the onset of the pandemic. Countries such as Venezuela, Burundi and Yemen will see deepening food shortages.
  • There have been protests in the US, Germany, France and Poland against lockdown regulations. Millions of Brazilians demonstrated in the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro against the government’s handling of the pandemic.
  • Prison breaks were reported in Venezuela, Brazil and Italy, with inmates reacting violently to new restrictions associated with COVID-19.
  • Drug trafficking and other types of crime have seen a temporary reduction as a result of social isolation around the world. However, reports of domestic violence, suicide and mental illness increased.
  • OECD countries with greater development in the Positive Peace Pillar Well-Functioning Government have been able to test a higher proportion of their population for the COVID-19 virus.