There is a trend in military downsizing from the largest forces while non-state actors increase their presence, according to the 2019 Global Peace Index.

Trends in Military Downsizing

While the world has become less peaceful since 2008, the global levels of militarisation have also been decreasing.

According to the Global Peace Index 2019, the five largest militaries in the world all reduced their armed services personnel rate over the last year.

The five largest militaries in the world are:

– Saudi Arabia

– Russia

– India

– China

– United States of America

More than half of the world’s countries followed suit. In fact, 61% of the 163 countries included on the Global Peace Index reduced their number of armed service personnel since 2017.

Analysing military spending

Three of the world’s largest militaries, China, India and the United States, also reduced their military expenditure as a percentage of their gross domestic product (GDP).

In the decade leading up to 2019, 98 per cent of countries reduced their military expenditure.

Regionally, Asia-Pacific lead the way while the Middle East and North Africa, and South Asia, saw a region-wide increase. Led by improvements in Iraq, the Middle East and North Africa region began to reduce the regional military spending.

Despite declining peace, global trust in a country’s own military increased from 61% in 2008 to 65% in 2018.

In India, the world’s fifth largest military, 94 per cent of respondents reported having trust in the military. This is the equal fifth highest level worldwide, tied with Finland, but below Rwanda, which is at 99 per cent, Pakistan at 96 per cent, and Azerbaijan at 95 per cent.

In the United States and Russia, 91 per cent and 81 per cent of respondents trust in their military respectively.

There is no data available to calculate the perception of trust in the military in China or Saudi Arabia.

Dramatic increase in conflicts linked to non-state actors

Traditional military downsizing does not explicitly point to a more peaceful world. Instead, the data reveals a world where civilian organisations, including terrorist or organised crime groups, are rousing conflict.

Since 2011, non-state violent conflicts outnumber incidents of state-based violence. Since 2016, there has been a further uptick.

Non-state violent conflicts include the use of armed force between two organised groups. Neither are the government of a state, which results in at least 25 battle deaths per year.

Conflict in the Middle East

The Middle East has seen the largest number of non-state violent conflicts and the most fatalities. ISIL’s control of territory has diminished over the past three years.

With the loss of 60 per cent of its territory between 2015 and 2017, ISIL’s power as a non-state violent actor is still significant but declining.

Signs of recovery in Syria have begun to materialise and the country is no longer the least peaceful country in the world. However, it is still the location of the most lethal non-state violent conflict worldwide.

Violence in Africa

The African continent has also been characterised by substantial non-state violence related to non-state actors, with the Central African Republic reporting the second highest number of fatalities. Violence fuelled by religious sectarianism has killed thousands and displaced even more.

Significant non-state violence ensued when the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s former President Joseph Kabila failed to step down at the end of his second and final term.

This violence saw the country listed as having one of the five greatest deteriorations in peacefulness on the 2018 Global Peace Index, and internally displaced more than five million people.

Violence in Central America and South America

In Mexico and Brazil, organised crime is responsible for acts of non-state violence, which contributes to both countries incurring an economic cost of violence.

This is equivalent to ten and nine per cent of their GDPs respectively.

While organised crime is rife, the military offers little promise of protection to locals. Central America and the Caribbean, and South America, are the two regions with the lowest trust in their military.