Using 24 indicators, such as a nation’s level of military expenditure, its relations with neighbors, and the respect for human rights, the report quantifies the different aspects of peacefulness. It measures peacefulness within, as well as between, nations.
Understanding the texture of peace is more useful than saying simply “at war” or “peace is good.” It helps us see that no country is totally peaceful and that degrees of peacefulness can be quantified for comparison among countries or over time. We can also see how the lack of peace has costs beyond acts of violence per se.
The report identifies some of the drivers of peace, such as levels of democracy and transparency, education, and national well being. Their data show that
[t]he most peaceful societies have higher per capita income, high levels of well-being, more freedom, perform better at sustainability, and appear to have a more equitable distribution of social spending (Institute for Economics & Peace, 2010, p. 4).
The study also examines the economic consequences of peace. One remarkable finding for 2010 is that
…had the world been at peace, world economic output might have reached US$62.4 trillion, an increase of 8.5% and easily exceeding the output losses due to the economic crisis of 2008/9… Even a reduction in levels of violence of just 15% would equal the output loss due to the economic crisis (Ibid, p. 51)
I doubt that many people who turn to violence as a solution for conflicts, or any military contractors who benefit from the lack of peace, will read this report and suddenly decide that they’re misguided. But for the rest of us, this study provides some tools to question the direction we’re going, a way to measure progress, and a way to demonstrate the consequences of violence to the economy and the quality of life.
By the way, last year I celebrated ironically the ascension of the US to #83 on the list. It’s not good for anyone that the most powerful nation on earth is ranked among countries with severe poverty, Balkan states, which are still recovering from major conflict, and former Soviet republics. This year the US has dropped to #85.
Institute for Economics & Peace (2010). Peace, wealth and human potential. 2010 discussion paper.