Blight Unto the Nations

Only three countries in the world are less peaceful than Israel, according to Global Peace Index figures released this week.

The study, in its third year, was collated by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the Institute for Economics and Peace, an Australian nonprofit research body, and ranks 144 of the world’s nations for how “peaceful” they are.

This year’s report concludes that New Zealand is the most peaceful country, climbing three places since last year, with Nordic countries Denmark, Norway and Iceland positioned next and Austria in fifth place.

However, the study points out that the world has, overall, become less peaceful since last year’s report.

Israel is positioned 141st out of 144 countries, fourth from bottom, with only Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq ranking below.

Although Israel appears to have slipped five places since last year, when it ranked 136th, it was situated at a similar level to this year’s report – fifth from bottom (above Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and Iraq), as four more countries were added to the index this year.

The report uses 23 indicators to determine the existence or absence of peace, such as respect for human rights, military capability, potential for terrorist attacks and perceptions of criminality in society.

Israel received the lowest possible “peace” scores for military capability, aggregate number of heavy weapons, number of armed services personnel and volume of imports of major conventional weapons.

Nevertheless, it scored well under UN deployments and electoral processes (free and competitive elections).

A possible setback of the study relates to the fact that some of the indicators are qualitative, as opposed to statistical, and were evaluated by a team of “country analysts” who also filled in quantitative data gaps with estimates, according to the report.

The level of internal organized conflict and violent crime are two such categories ranked by analysts, as opposed to by statistical data alone.

The United States faired well this year, climbing to 83rd in the world, up 14 places since last year, and the UK is now in 35th place, up from 49th last year, though still below most other EU countries.

Commenting on the world becoming less peaceful, the document’s analysis points to the economic downturn as one possible cause.

The study reports that figures “reflect the intensification of violent conflict in some countries and the effects of both the rapidly rising food and fuel prices early in 2008 and the dramatic global economic downturn in the final quarter of the year.”

“Rapidly rising unemployment, pay freezes and falls in the value of house prices, savings and pensions is causing popular resentment in many countries, with political repercussions that have been registered by the GPI through various indicators measuring safety and security in society.”