Mexico’s imbalanced Positive Peace performance underpins Mexico’s difficulties in addressing its high rates of criminal violence.
Understanding peace in Mexico, a middle-income OECD member state, is not straightforward. However, the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) has developed an analytical framework through which it is possible to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a country’s capacity to foster and sustain peace.
This framework is called Positive Peace. Defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies, the Positive Peace framework was developed to highlight the socio-economic and political factors that enhance peacefulness.
Results from the 2018 Mexico Peace Index (MPI) report highlight Mexico’s imbalanced Positive Peace performance. IEP’s global research has found a negative and statistically significant correlation between imbalanced Pillar performance and levels of peacefulness. This suggests that in order to improve peace, the multiple dimensions of Positive Peace in Mexico need to work in unison.
Positive Peace in Mexico can be measured using the global Positive Peace Index (PPI), which allows for comparison across countries. It can also be measured using the Mexico Positive Peace Index (MPPI), which allows for comparison across Mexican states.
The Positive Peace taxonomy for the PPI and MPPI is divided into eight interrelated pillars, as shown in Figure 1. These are areas or domains that encompass different indicators measuring the degree to which a country or its constituent states are endowed with peace-enhancing attitudes, institutions and structures.
Mexico ranked 59th out of 163 countries in the 2017 PPI, with an overall score that outperformed both the global and the Central American and Caribbean regional averages. In contrast, it ranked 142nd in the 2017 Global Peace Index (GPI), underperforming the global and regional average, with an overall score similar to countries like Egypt, Mali, Burundi, and Venezuela.
When a country performs better in the PPI relative to the GPI, it is said to have a Positive Peace surplus. This surplus is an indication of a country’s institutional, economic and societal capacity to improve its level of peacefulness. But given that Positive Peace represents a system of relationships, this capacity can be impaired when there is an imbalance between the Positive Peace Pillars, which is the case for Mexico. An imbalance is where some Pillars are much weaker than the others.
In the PPI, Mexico performed poorly on three critical Positive Peace Pillars: well-functioning government, low levels of corruption and free flow of information. These are also the only three of the eight Pillars to exhibit deteriorating trends.
Mexico’s underperforming Pillars are characteristic of the country’s lagging institutional capacity to tackle organised crime and the violent activities associated with it. In this vein, IEP’s global research has shown that balanced performance across the Pillars of Positive Peace is a defining characteristic of highly peaceful countries. In other words, countries with the highest levels of Positive Peace tend to register the lowest variance in Pillar scores.
Figure 2 compares Mexico’s Pillar scores with the averaged Pillar scores of the countries that ranked in the top quintile of the 2017 PPI. It shows that Mexico’s three underperforming Pillars are the ones for which the distance from the scores of the top quintile countries is the largest. This highlights that Mexico’s ability to improve its levels of peacefulness largely depends on its ability to improve its underperforming Pillars.
Results from the MPPI find that the most peaceful states, as measured by the Mexico Peace Index (MPI), tend to be the ones with higher levels of Positive Peace.
The top five states in the MPPI ranking are: Yucatán, Nuevo León, Aguascalientes, Querétaro and Campeche. Three of these states are also ranked in top ten of the MPI: Yucatán, Campeche and Querétaro.
The bottom five states in the MPPI ranking are: Guerrero, Chiapas, Tabasco, Oaxaca and Morelos. Guerrero, Tabasco, and Morelos and are ranked in the bottom ten for the MPI.
When looking at the geographic distribution of Positive Peace by state, the states with low or very low levels of Positive Peace form a cluster around Mexico City in the southern region of the country, as shown in Figure 3.
Well-functioning government, low levels of corruption and free flow of information are the three worst performing Positive Peace Pillars in Mexico. But, more worrisome, they are the ones showing signs of deterioration. This highlights the need to place a greater focus on improving these areas, particularly as the record levels of homicide in 2017 could be a symptom of the deteriorating trends in these Pillars.
Government services at the federal, state and municipal levels are directly affected by the weakness of these three Pillars. The efficient allocation of public resources is undermined by corruption, whereas the degree of press freedom and the extent to which citizens can access trustworthy public information helps to uncover and prevent corruption.
Mexico’s imbalances create risks for peace and security interventions. Efforts to improve some Pillars without improving others can have counterproductive consequences. IEP’s global research has found that if, for example, the sound business environment Pillar improves without concomitant improvements in low levels of corruption and well-functioning government, then peace is more likely to deteriorate. This relation has been found to be statistically significant for Mexico and its regional peers.
Although building a sound business environment and improving levels of human capital are important, focusing on them at the expense of other Pillars will not promote societal advancement. If Mexico is to become more peaceful, public authorities at the three levels of government need to focus on strengthening its weakest Pillars.