World peace index takes hit as murders up 8pc
The world has become more violent over the past six years, driven by political instability, a rising murder rate in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa and higher levels of military spending, according to the 2013 Global Peace Index published this week.
While state-on-state violence has declined as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars wind down, rebellions within states have risen both in number and intensity, contributing to the overall decline in peacefulness between 2008 and 2013, the Washington-based think tank Institute for Economics and Peace said in its latest report.
Murder rates are one of the metrics used by organisations such as the CIA and rating agencies to determine political risk. High rates of crime, and changes over time, are often an indicator that a society is in trouble.
Ireland's rating has changed markedly over the past few years. In 2007, we were rated the fourth safest country in the world.
Today, we are at No 12 following one of the worst economic collapses in history. That's one of the fastest declines on the planet, but still leaves us among the world's safest nations.
Other countries where suffering is obvious include Syria – its ranking has plunged 70pc over the past six years– and Cote d'Ivoire. Meanwhile, Chad, Haiti and Georgia have seen the most improvement since 2007.
Overall, the Global Peace Index has declined by 5pc in the 2008-2013 period, and the gap between peaceful and violent states has widened.
"Peace is becoming more unequal," said IEP research director Daniel Hyslop. "The bottom 10 countries have really separated out, and Iraq and Afghanistan have become less peaceful than they were in 2008."
Meanwhile, the top 10 countries – mostly in northern Europe, plus Japan and New Zealand – have remained quite constant.
The failure of fragile states to make much progress despite the billions of dollars of development aid funnelled into them and attempts to enforce peace through military intervention raises questions about the type of assistance for highly unstable environments. Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo all have seen their scores deteriorate.
In a more optimistic sign, there were improvements in the Positive Peace Index, which measures attitudes and institutional structures considered building blocks for a peaceful society. This index has gained by 1.7pc since 2005, providing some clues as to what works in spreading peace. The gains were led by countries that saw improvements in resources distributed more equitably, respect for the rights of others, the level of human capital, free flow of information and a well-functioning government.
Other key findings include:
* Europe remained the most peaceful region overall, with 13 of its countries in the top 20, though it slid somewhat in 2012, largely due to political upheaval from the euro-zone debt crisis.
* South Asia was the least peaceful region.
* Countries that have become more violent saw a 15pc drop in official development aid.
* Homicides rose by 8pc over the last year. In Mexico, there were more than 2,500 deaths from its drug wars in 2012 – twice as many deaths as there were lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Homicides have also risen in Honduras, El Salvador and sub-Saharan Africa, but stayed flat in the United States.
* Military spending as a share of GDP rose in many countries from 2012 to 2013, though in the United States it has declined from 4.6pc to 4.1pc.