Today’s map comes from the Global Peace Index, released by the Institute for Economics and Peace last week. The index is a combination of 23 indicators which taken together offer a useful way to compare the levels of peace across countries.
“Peace” can be a subjective term, so the indicators seek to dial in on specific measurements of levels of violence and levels of freedom from fear of violence. Homicide rates, incarceration rates, IDPs and refugee flows, perceptions of criminality in a society, and even a country’s financial commitments to United Nations Peacekeeping are all weighted into this index to give researchers an approximation of how countries rank against each other.
One big thing that distinguishes this index from other similar rankings is that it offers a way to quantify something that international relations and peace scholars call “positive peace.” This is peace not defined as “the absence of conflict.” But rather as the presence of “attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin peaceful societies.” In other words, how resilient is a country to shocks and how free from fear are its citizens?
Using these 23 measurements the GPI concludes that the most peaceful country in the world is…Iceland.
Indeed, Europe accounts for the plurality of the most peaceful countries in the world. But Iceland is a particularly useful example of the value of “positive peace” to help steer a country through enormous upheaval. The report’s lead author, Aubrey Fox, noted that even as Iceland became ground zero for the 2008 global financial collapse, its citizens had sufficient reason to believe that the crisis would not lead to any sort of violence; the institutions and attitudes of that country are sufficiently peaceful. On the flip side, a country without such robust levels of positive peace would probably not have faired to well.