Malaysia Ranked 38th in 2009 Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index and How to Achieve It

Untold numbers of scholars have empirically studied war and until three years ago, no one had attempted to study an arguably obvious alternative, peace.

The release of the 2009 Global Peace Index on June 2nd marked the 3rd anniversary of a “landmark occasion” in the new field of peace studies. The Global Peace Index (GPI) forges new ground for economists, politicians, businessmen, and thinkers alike by providing a peerless “clear, statistically valued measure of peacefulness.”

The GPI, which ranks 144 countries on how peaceful they are, is based on 23 quantitative and qualitative determinants including political instability, level of violent crime, potential for terrorist acts, and military sophistication. The process is empirically-based, relying on information from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), and grounds itself in objectivity, transparency, and the knowledge of a panel of renowned experts on peace. After the 23 determinants and their respective data sets or analyses were established, the results were normalized and weighted to allow for comparison between countries.

The results label small, politically stable democracies as the most peaceful. Among the countries in the top 10 are New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland, and Slovenia. The United States, nowhere near the top, gained six spots from its 2008 ranking to settle 83rd out of 144. Their 2009 improvement resulted mainly from a decrease in the likelihood of potential terrorist attacks. The bottom of the ladder offers no surprises: war-torn Iraq ranks worst, followed by Afghanistan, continually unstable Somalia, Israel, and Sudan. Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose name carries with it stale memories of a brutal Yugoslavian civil war, is remarkably the most improved country in the 2009’s GPI, earning 23 spots to finish 50th on the index.

Perhaps even more revealing than the results, however, are the implications and conclusions from the GPI. For the first time since its inception, the GPI attempted to ferret out the values, practices, or qualities inherent in a peaceful country. The 2009 GPI, in other words, moves beyond a simple ranking scheme and towards the practical realm of policy implications.

Logic dictates that a peaceful society is preferred to a violent one, and the GPI puts truth to the statement by outlining the concrete advantages of a peaceful society. From their data set, for every 10 place improvement on the GPI, on average a country will see “consumer spending on household goods and services increase by approximately $87 per head of population,” among many other similar quantitative consumer spending benefits.

Impressively, the GPI also calculated what violence is costing the world financial markets. The GPI claims that for 2007 the total effect of the cessation of violence could have been “as much as $7.2 trillion or $72 trillion over a ten year period.”

What, then, are these factors that generate upward mobility on the GPI? How can a country become more peaceful and earn that $7.2 trillion globally? The study identified seven “drivers of peace,” including the functioning of government, freedom of the press, extent of regional integration, life expectancy, primary school enrollment ratio, and the number of women in parliament. For advancement in a particular category, OLS regression analyses predict an increased GPI score.

Practically speaking, the theory behind the logic appears sound: understand the facets of a peaceful society, model your country after them, and reap the benefits of peace. The GPI targets the first step: quantifying and identifying what makes a peaceful society peaceful. While they group the seven drivers listed above into the three “core elements” of social and political peace; demilitarization; and state of national security, their results should not startle reasoned minds. It follows consistently that a peaceful world can lower costs, improve investment opportunities, and create a favorable business environment. The study encounters problems, however, in both the logic and the data.

The study relies heavily on correlation, which while useful, does not imply causation. In other words, while the GPI identified the aspects of a peaceful society and what they believe to be the factors that can produce such a society, they encounter the problem of the “chicken or the egg.” Is a country peaceful because it is generating political stability, economic rewards, social attitudes, and national security? Or, is it the other way around?

Because the direction of the relationship can not be concretely established, the study is not yet complete. It would benefit most directly from a time series study, analyzing the “drivers” over a set period of time.

More theoretically, the model has room for improvement. Environmental resources are absent from the model, and in a world where resource scarcity is a very real threat and can lead to conflict, needs to be accounted for. There appear to be some combating interests in the model as well. Although peace may create a better business environment, some would maintain that “war sells.” Finally, the model appears to have a bias against larger states, punishing them in relation to smaller European democracies. While this may be due to the sheer size and complexity of a state the size of the U.S., China, or India, further examination of the model might be merited.

The model could be clearer in terms of the policy recommendations. While it supports the dissemination of peace-related studies, especially in education systems, it calls for the creation of an ambiguously described “peace industry” to rival current defense industries.

Despite these flaws, the GPI is treading on ground previously ignored by many scholars. In quantitatively defining and ranking countries based on peace, the GPI opens the door for further studies with a view to a formulaic approach to peace. The 2009 GPI is a step in the right direction, but ultimately peace, like many other concepts, may not be easily forced into the mathematical confines of an economist’s equation. Author: Chris Hildebrand, Contributor Source: Diplomatic Courier Released: 07 Jun 2009


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