Iceland is most peaceful country in the world, Europe the most peaceful region

by Ray Clancy on July 5, 2017

Expats looking for a peaceful new life abroad might want to head to Iceland, which has been named as the most peaceful country in the world, followed by new Zealand and Portugal.

The annual Global Peace Index (GPI) ranks Syria as the least peaceful place to be, which it has now held for the last five years, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.

(JasperGrom/Bigstock.com)

Overall some 93 countries recorded higher levels of peace while 68 deteriorated, resulting in an improvement in world peace, but there were some surprises as some European countries recorded a deterioration in positive peace levels and political turbulence in the United States meant North America deteriorated more than any other region in the world.

The eleventh edition of the index report, published by international think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), reveals that despite improvements in Canada, the growing intensity of internal conflict, increases in terrorism and higher perceptions of criminality saw the US fall 11 places to 114th.

‘While the true extent of the significant political polarity in the US will take years to be fully realised, its disruptive influence is already evident. Underlying conditions of increasing inequality, rising perceptions of corruption, and declining falling press freedoms have all contributed to this deterioration in the US, leading to the overall decline in peace in the North America region,’ said Steve Killelea, IEP executive chairman.

The report also analyses the rise of populism by measuring attitudes, structures and institutions that sustain peace. It says that a sharp increase in support for populist parties in the past decade closely corresponds with deteriorations in positive peace, with some of the largest falls recorded in Italy, France and Spain.

‘The increasing role of populist parties in mainstream European politics is reflected against a backdrop of deteriorating positive peace, specifically in terms of persistent challenges to the free flow of information, levels of corruption and acceptance of the rights of others. Without addressing these underlying drivers of peace it will not be possible to build more peaceful societies,’ Killelea explained

Despite the global number of deaths from terrorism decreasing by 10% between 2014 and 2015, the number of countries witnessing historically high levels of terrorism hit an all-time high in this year’s report at 23, including Denmark, Sweden, France, and Turkey.

Europe was significantly impacted, with major attacks in Nice seeing France fall five places in the overall ranking to 51. The impact of other attacks such as in Brussels and London were also evident, although the more recent attack in Manchester has yet to be reflected in the figures.

But Europe is still the most peaceful region with countries in Europe making up eight out of the top 10 ranks, and the report says that in the UK, the political uncertainty generated by the Brexit vote had little impact following the appointment of the new prime minister, which acted as a stabilising counterbalance.

The report says that Portugal’s climb to third in the overall rankings was driven by a steady recovery from its fiscal crisis, resulting in overall greater internal stability for the country that was ranked 16th less than five years ago.

‘Although this year’s uptick is reassuring, the world is still mired with conflict in the Middle East, political turmoil in the US, refugee flows and terrorism in Europe. When combined with the increasing level of peace inequality, whereby the least peaceful countries are moving further apart from the most peaceful, the resulting scenario is one in which further improvements in peace are not guaranteed,’ Killelea concluded.

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