The peace gap: Inequality between countries grows

Conflict-affected countries have dramatically deteriorated in peacefulness, feeling the worst of the global long-term downturn in peace.

The gap between the least and most peaceful countries is growing. Since 2008, the 25 least peaceful countries declined in peacefulness on average by 11.8 per cent, while the 25 most peaceful countries improved by 1.7 per cent on average.

The Global Peace Index (GPI) shows that the deterioration in peacefulness around the world has been considerably larger in countries that were already less peaceful to begin with, which has led to an increase in the ‘peace gap’ between peaceful and conflict-ridden countries.

While there has been some fluctuation in the level of peacefulness of the world’s most peaceful countries, the change has been minimal, with a 1.7 per cent improvement in peacefulness, since 2008.

The ten largest improvements come from a wide range of countries and regions, with no discernible pattern in the indicators that improved. By contrast, the world’s least peaceful countries have experienced a clear and sustained deterioration in peacefulness over the last decade, with the average level of peacefulness deteriorating by 11.8 per cent.

Over the last decade, the world overall has become considerably less peaceful, with the average level of country peacefulness deteriorating by 3.78 per cent since 2008.

Peacefulness has declined year on year for seven of the last ten years. Since 2008, 81 countries have become less peaceful, compared to 81 that have improved.

Most of the deterioration in peacefulness over the last decade occurred in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. If this region was excluded from the analysis, the average level of peace in the world would only have deteriorated by 0.95 per cent.

Even within the MENA region, the deterioration in the last decade was concentrated in a handful of countries, most notably Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and Bahrain. However, although there has been relatively little variation in peacefulness outside of MENA, there are some concerning trends in the more peaceful regions of the world.

In Europe, the region that has consistently ranked as the most peaceful since the inception of the GPI index, the safety and security and ongoing conflict domains have deteriorated since 2008. Most strikingly, over half of the countries in Western Europe and all but one of the Nordic countries are less peaceful now than in 2008. Despite its high level of peacefulness overall, Europe has seen significant deteriorations in terrorism impact, neighbouring country relations, violent demonstrations, and political instability.