Peace potential: How a violent society can transform itself

A Positive Peace surplus can lead to lasting changes in a country’s levels of violence and social resilience.

In Mexico, last year’s homicide rate reached historically high levels and the rate of gun violence had substantially increased. On a global scale, it is one of the least peaceful nations, ranking 140 out of 163 countries on the 2019 Global Peace Index, alongside Chad and Cameroon. Mexico’s ongoing struggle with high levels of organised crime, corruption, homicide and violent crime make the country’s challenges seem overwhelming. Yet despite this, the peace potential in Mexico is actually at one of the highest levels in the world.

IEP research finds that 85 per cent of countries showing large improvements in levels of violence over the last decade had improved on ten or more Positive Peace indicators, demonstrating that strong foundations in Positive Peace precede broader improvements in actual peace in a society.

In addition, the research shows that countries are more likely to have increased levels of violence in the future, because they lack the necessary attitudes, institutions and structures to prevent violence from breaking out once the country experiences a shock. Approximately 60 per cent of countries with large Positive Peace deficits suffered substantial falls in peace within seven years.

High levels of Positive Peace take place when attitudes make violence less tolerated, institutions more responsive to the needs of a society, and structures underpin nonviolent action.  When a society can resolve tensions without resorting to violence, Positive Peace often plays a part. Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that foster and sustain long-lasting peace, and consists of an eight-part framework. The eight factors of Positive Peace, or the eight pillars that build Positive Peace include Well-functioning Government, Sound Business Environment, Equitable Distribution of Resources, Free Flow of Information, Acceptance of the Rights of Others, High Levels of Human Capital, Good Relations with Neighbours, and Low Levels of Corruption.

Mexico’s ranking on the 2018 Positive Peace Index – 62 out of 163 countries – shows a different side to the country, and a hopeful path forward. A closer look at Mexico reveals high scores for the Positive Peace pillars of Sound Business Environment, High Levels of Human Capital, Good Relations with Neighbours, Equitable Distribution of Resources and Acceptance of the Rights of Others, which outperform global and regional average scores. On the ground, improvements in pillars such as Sound Business Environment and High Levels of Human Capital correlate with falling levels of unemployment and increased secondary school enrolment, and can promote spill over in innovation, stability and development. This firm foundation in Positive Peace can propel Mexico into a virtuous cycle, which increases gains in Positive Peace, and leads to less violence.