Iceland maintained the title of number one as the most peaceful country in 2020 since the first the Global Peace Index launched 13 years ago.

Which is the most peaceful country in the world?

The Global Peace Index 2020 finds that the level of global peacefulness deteriorated, with the average country score falling by 0.34%.

This is the ninth deterioration in peacefulness in the last twelve years, with 81 countries improving, and 80 recording deteriorations over the past year. The countries at the top of the index retained their place from the 2019 GPI.

The 2020 GPI reveals a world in which the conflicts and crises that emerged in the past decade have begun to abate, only to be replaced with a new wave of tension and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For this article, we explore the world’s five most peaceful countries in 2020.

Read: 10 most peaceful countries in 2022

1. Iceland

Iceland has maintained the title of the most peaceful country since the first the Global Peace Index launched 13 years ago and is the only Nordic country that is more peaceful now than in 2008.

Iceland is once again the most peaceful country in the region and world, a position it has held since the inception of the index. The country did, however, record a slight deterioration in peacefulness on the 2020 GPI, driven by a deterioration in the homicide rate, and a small increase in military expenditure.

2. New Zealand

New Zealand maintained its position as the second most peaceful country in the world in the 2020 GPI. On a regional scale, the nation leads the way for peacefulness in Asia-Pacific.

The March 2019 ‘Christchurch Attack’ perpetrated by a far-right terrorist on two mosques in the country’s South Island killed 50 people. The impact of this terrorist attack accounts for New Zealand’s very slight deterioration in overall peacefulness.

New Zealand improved the incarceration rate, reduced the number of homicides, and decreased weapons imports.

3. Portugal

In the previous 2018 GPI, Portugal’s ranking fell from third to fourth. Hinging on increases to UN peacekeeping funding, improvements on the Political Terror Scale and decreasing the homicide rate, Portugal has found its seat back in the third most peaceful position on the 2019 GPI, and again in the 2020 GPI.

Portugal has made significant strides in peacefulness in recent years. In the 2014 GPI, Portugal was transitioning out of a national financial crisis and ranked 18th.

Today, Portugal is often cited as an example of economic resurgence and peace progress after its recent financial crisis and bail out recovery. Now enjoying its highest economic growth in two decades, foreign direct investment has returned to 2009 levels, and the nation retains its most peaceful ranking on the GPI.

4. Austria

Austria has maintained very high levels of peace for several years now. Many of Austria’s indicators remain unchanged, and despite improvements in UN Peacekeeping funding, weapons exports and a reduced terrorism impact, one particular deterioration led to a slight downfall.

Austria’s most notable deterioration occurred in the likelihood of violent demonstrations indicator.

Social unrest increased in Austria after the election of Sebastian Kurz’s People Party and its partner the Freedom Party in October 2017. Thousands of Austrians gathered on the eve of the anniversary of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz taking office to protest in late 2018, and have protested regularly since.

5. Denmark

Ranked fifth on the GPI, Denmark has maintained its very peaceful position since 2017, where it fell from the second place.

Over the last year, Denmark recorded a very small deterioration in peacefulness, due to an increase in weapons imports and number of external conflicts. Positively, there were 24 European countries, including Denmark, which enjoyed a reduction in the impact of terrorism.

‘Perspectives on peace’ is a new inclusion to the annual GPI. It measures freedom in life, treatment with respect and satisfaction with standards of living.

Denmark was one of the five European countries to deteriorate in freedom in life satisfaction and recorded a slight deterioration in the standard of living satisfaction.

Despite this, Denmark maintains a high ranking on the GPI, which is re-enforced by its position in the top ten on the Positive Peace Index.

Next up: The 5 Most Improved Countries from the 2020 Global Peace Index 

View the full global rankings via our interactive map or download the 2020 Global Peace Index report in full for free.


Vision of Humanity

Editorial Staff

Vision of Humanity

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.