The 2018 Global Peace Index report has revealed that the world is less peaceful now than at any time in the last decade as tensions, conflicts, and crises that emerged in the last decade remain unresolved, with violence costing the world $14.6 trillion. Two of the least peaceful countries are in Africa.
The report, released by Vision of Humanity on 6 June, states that the largest contributors to the deterioration in the last year were the escalations in both interstate and internal armed conflicts, a rise in political terror and reduced commitment to UN peacekeeping. Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq and Somalia are the least peaceful countries whilst Iceland, New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark are the most peaceful countries.
The report revealed that peacefulness levels dropped .27% in 2017, and 2.38% over the last decade. Some positive steps include the fact that 71 countries improved their levels of peace and 60% of countries reduced military expenditure. However, on the negative side, there has been a 264% increase in battle deaths over the last ten years.
Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa remained the world’s least peaceful region in 2018, despite a slight improvement in its overall score, the report said. The scores in both Iraq and Syria improved: although the conflict is no less bitter, the diminishing geographic reach of Islamic State (ISIL) and other rebel groups means that overall levels of violence have diminished.
However, these improvements have been offset by increased hostility on the Arabian Peninsula. The deepening animosity between Sunni and Shia nations and groups has played out in Yemen. The economic and diplomatic embargoes placed on Qatar by its neighbours Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Bahrain resulted in the country having the region’s biggest deterioration.
Regionally, the strongest improvements were in the Safety and Security domain, including in indicators such as refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), political terror, terrorism impact and violent crime. By the beginning of 2018, ISIL had lost more than 90 per cent of the territory it controlled at its peak in 2015, including almost all its holdings in Iraq and all but a few increasingly beleaguered outposts in central Syria. The conflict is far from over, and the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies have re-focused on other rebel groups, since the ability of ISIL to wreak havoc has been curbed.
“Iraq was the region’s most significant improver, although it still ranks 160th out of 163 countries. There were improvements in refugees and IDPs, political instability, terrorism impact, intensity of internal conflict – which is now at a 10-year low – and internal conflicts fought; however, this was slightly offset by an increase in violent demonstrations. Syria, the region’s third largest improver, had improvements in political instability and terrorism impact, but remains the world’s least peaceful country,” the report stated.
“Four of the five largest deteriorations in the Middle East – Qatar, Iran, Oman, and Saudi Arabia – are a reflection of the deepening rivalry between predominantly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and its allies and Shia Iran and its allies. This animosity has long been a factor in Syria, but the ascent of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan, combined with the policies of the Republican administration in the United States and higher risk tolerance in Tehran, seem to have escalated the problem. These tensions are playing out in deteriorations in the regional scores for political stability, neighbouring countries relations, and internal and external conflicts fought, the last of which deteriorated by 13 per cent over the year.”
Sub-Saharan Africa’s regional ranking remained unchanged at number six, despite a slight deterioration in its overall score, Vision of Humanity said. The largest regional improvements were in terrorism impact, perceptions of criminality, violent crime, neighbouring countries relations, and militarisation, but those were offset by deteriorations in violent demonstrations, refugees and IDPs and political terror.
“Nonetheless, there were some notable intra-regional variations in the data. Six of the top seven improvers were in West Africa, including the Gambia, which scored the world’s largest improvement after Yahya Jammeh was voted out of power at the end of 2016.
“Of the 14 West African nations, the overall scores of only two – Niger and Nigeria – deteriorated last year. There were substantial sub-regional improvements in the domain of Safety and Security, including Liberia by eight per cent, the Gambia by 5.9 per cent, and Ghana by 5.5 per cent.
“The most notable West African exceptions were Togo and Cameroon. In Togo, which had the region’s second largest deterioration, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand the resignation of President Faure Gnassingbé, whose family have ruled the country for 50 years. Cameroon, with the region’s third largest deterioration, has seen Anglophone secessionists launch a number of attacks on government security forces during the year.
“The Lake Chad basin region continues to have problems with Boko Haram and a humanitarian crisis brought on by prolonged drought. The United Nations estimates that almost 11 million people need humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad Basin.
“Boko Haram’s geographic reach shrank in 2017, leading to a reduction in the impact of terrorism in the groups’ principal areas of operations in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad, although they still remain a threat. The group seems to have switched tactics from relying on armed assaults to suicide bombings.
“In eastern Africa, there seems little sign of an end to the four-year old civil war in South Sudan, and the emergence of a new faction in the country under President Salva Kiir’s former military chief Paul Malong. This is likely to prolong the breakdown in peacefulness of the world’s youngest country.
“Ethiopia fell six places to 139 after Amhara protesters targeted Tigrayan business interests and foreign investors, leading to deteriorations in its scores for violent demonstrations and political terror. Neighbouring Kenya, in contrast, gained three places as a result of a reduced number of attacks by militants allied to Somalia’s al-Shabaab movement and fewer refugees coming over its north-eastern border.
“The largest deterioration in the region was recorded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his second and final term at the end of 2016 has led to increasing violence, particularly in the country’s eastern provinces. The DRC now has more than five million people internally displaced and violence is expected to continue to escalate ahead of elections scheduled for December 2018, despite the presence of 15,000 UN peacekeepers,” the Global Peace Index report said.
Rest of world
Elsewhere, the report stated that despite retaining its position as the most peaceful region in the world, Europe deteriorated for the third successive year. For the first time in the history of the index, a Western European country experienced one of the five largest deteriorations with Spain falling 10 places in the rankings to 30th, owing to internal political tensions and an increase in the impact of terrorism.
In the last decade, 61 per cent of the countries in Europe deteroriated, due to higher levels of political instability, increased impact from terrorism, and increased perceptions of criminality. No single Nordic country is more peaceful now than in 2008.
The Asia-Pacific region’s peacefulness deteriorated, with 11 countries falling hile eight improved. Mynanmar had the biggest deterioration, falling 15 places. Australia had the second largest deterioration due to higher levels of incarceration and higher levels of militarisation.
In North America, the level of peacefulness in the United States has declined for the second consecutive year and is now at the worst level of any time since 2012. Canada suffered a deterioration in its terrorism impact rating after the Quebec City and Edmonton attacks.