By Shout-Africa News – LONDON, – New Zealand tops rankings for second consecutive year in the Global Peace Index: World Less Peaceful in 2010 Report, which cites violence impacting global conomy by $7 trillion annually.
The Index reports notes that a drop in peace is due largely to 5% increase in homicides, more violent demonstrations and fear of crime, and 4-year trends show Middle East and Africa with most gains in peacefulness, while South Asia sees sharpest fall in peace, with military spending as a % of GDP reaching its lowest point in 4 years.
The world became less peaceful for the second consecutive year, according to the fourth annual Global Peace Index (GPI) published today. As the global economy continues to falter, this year’s data shows an intensification of conflicts and growing instability linked to the downturn that began in 2008, with several countries seeing sharp increases in homicides, violent demonstrations and fear of crime.
The increase in violence is depriving the global economy of assets when they are needed most. A 25 percent reduction in global violence would free up $1.8 trillion USD annually – enough to pay off Greece’s debt, fund the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and meet the EU’s 20-20-20 climate and energy targets.
The only study to quantify global peacefulness, the GPI is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). This year it has expanded to rank 149 independent states. Composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators, it combines internal and external factors ranging from military expenditure to relations with neighbouring countries and levels of violent crime.
“The research carried out by the IEP based on 4 years of GPI data provides a quantifiable demonstration that improving peace can transform the global economy and unleash the wealth needed to tackle debt, fund economic expansion and create a more sustainable environment,” said Steve Killelea, founder of the GPI.
Top-ranked New Zealand was one of only three countries in the top ten to improve in peacefulness in the 2010 Index. Iceland moved into the #2 spot as the country’s economy stabilised after falling to #4 in last year’s ranking, the improvement demonstrating the resilience of peaceful nations.
Commenting on the results, Prof. Jeff Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University said: “The GPI continues its pioneering work in drawing the world’s attention to the massive resources we are squandering in violence and conflict. The lives and money wasted in wars, incarcerations, weapons systems, weapons trade,
and more, could be directed to ending poverty, promoting education, and protecting the environment. The GPI will not only draw attention to these crucial issues, but help us understand them and to invest productively in a more peaceful world.” said Prof. Jeffrey Sachs,
Despite the global slide, the Middle East & North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa have made the most gains since the research began in 2007. Reasons for the improvement vary, but include more political stability and a drop in military expenditure in the Middle East & North Africa and less access to weapons, a decrease in conflicts and better relations with neighbouring countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Conversely, South Asia saw the greatest decrease in peacefulness, as a result of increased involvement in conflicts, a rise in deaths from internal conflict and human rights abuses. The main countries experiencing decreases in peacefulness were India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Year-on-year, Latin America had the steepest fall in peacefulness because of more internal violence, homicides and increased levels of perceived criminality.
Georg Kell, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact said: “This research clearly indicates the strong positive relationship between peace and factors critical to successful business operations, including market size, cost structures and profits. Business leaders would be well advised to take this research into account when creating their strategic and operational plans and making investment decisions”.
The US improved its 2010 score but slipped three spots down the index due to the addition of new countries and the re-rating of the number of heavy weapons. Methodological changes aside, this year the US saw its biggest improvement in peacefulness over the four years of the study through a decrease in political instability and in the number of deaths from external conflict.
Western Europe continues to be the most peaceful region, with the majority of the countries ranking in the top 20. All five Scandinavian nations rank in the top ten; however, Denmark dropped five spots to #7 because of decrease in respect for human rights and continuing involvement in Afghanistan.
Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan were the least peaceful countries for the second consecutive year. Syria, Georgia, the Philippines, Russia and Cyprus were this year’s biggest fallers.
The GPI was founded by Killelea, an Australian international technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. It forms part of the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank dedicated to the research and education of the relationship between economics, business and peace. An international panel of experts in the study of peace advises on the identification and weighting of indicators in the GPI, which is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
 According to the IEP/Economists for Peace & Security research presented in the GPI2010 Discussion Paper
 Prof. Sachs is also Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia, President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit aimed at ending global poverty and is author of hundreds of scholarly articles and many books, including the New York Times bestsellers Common Wealth (Penguin, 2008) and The End of Poverty (Penguin, 2005).