Global Peace Index - Click to enlarge
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Giving Peace A Chance
The new Global Peace Index shows how countries gain huge benefits by promoting peace. Now we should be using the Index to shape economic and foreign policies, writes Stuart Rees
The third Global Peace Index (GPI) was launched at the United Nations in
The creation of the GPI is due to the vision and generosity of Steve Killelea, a significant but low-key Australian businessman-philanthropist. The report's credibility owes much to Steve's selection of internationally respected research staff, including
This year's league table of peaceful nations ranks New Zealand first,
Qualities which contribute to the peacefulness of countries include functional governments, low levels of corruption, high participation rates in primary education, freedom of the press and good relations with neighbouring states. The social values which bolster such forms of governance include tolerance and an equitable distribution of a nation's wealth through education and health services. The public in the peaceful nations reject the use of torture, see their country as respecting human rights and believe that women and men make equally good political leaders. Gender equality as measured by the percentage of women in a parliament is also a modest driver for peace.
Citizens' rejection of violence, their support for the UN and their caution about the use of military force also indicate ways of supporting peace. The GPI study shows that the peaceful countries were more likely to want the elimination of all nuclear weapons, would only have supported military action in
Two particular facets of societies — firstly, the extent of nationalism and secondly, the close association of religion with politics — appear more likely to foster violence than peace. There is a lesson here for many countries, not least for the
Attitudes to God and religion are also reported as likely to promote violence rather than peace. Where religion is intertwined with politics, where the state uses religion for its own ends, or where organised religion takes over the state, prospects for peace are seriously eroded. By contrast, nations are likely to be categorised as peaceful when citizens feel that politicians do not need to believe in God. They are also more likely to believe that good and evil are more contingent than absolute, and are more likely to believe that it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral.
An innovation in this year's GPI statistical analysis concerns the economics of peace. This analysis has been made possible by Killelea's encouragement of research at the
This relationship between peace and economic prosperity has also been recently affirmed by the
Researchers in the economics of peace, like Ben Goldsmith at the
There's a built-in irony in the respect now being paid to such quality-of-life criteria. They affect GDP by improving economic performance. How refreshing it would be if nightly news bulletins included social as well as stock market criteria, indications of peacefulness rather than reports on the swinging fortunes of big companies.
The commentary on the Global Peace Index shows that activities which contribute to peace should be central to all deliberations about social, economic and foreign policies. Economic stimulus packages, for example, are more likely to be effective if they help to build the structures and values inherent in the most peace-oriented societies. Peace, it seems, is not only good for business, it's a "pre-requisite for survival in the 21st century".
Source from NewMatilda: http://newmatilda.com/2009/06/18/giving-peace-chance