For the past 10 years, the Global Peace Index (GPI) has rated Europe as the most peaceful region in the world. However, its 2017 publication highlights some topical concerns which, for now, are slowing the increase in peacefulness, but could foreshadow an increase in civil unrest and conflict.
The 2017 Global Peace Index (GPI) is the leading study on global peace, and it is produced annually by the Institute for Economics and peace (IEP), an independent nonprofit research institution focused on a quantitative measurement of peace.
The report found topical concerns in the progression of Positive Peace, as well as causal correlations with the rise of populism. This trend sustains a reversion of priorities in European society which contradicts the idea of an union, making use of sensationalist themes and concern to boost sharp action and extreme opinions.
The US also has also suffered an erosion in their indicators, and the country had the fourth largest drop in Positive Peace globally, after Syria, Greece and Hungary, between 2005 and 2015. North America had one of the largest region decreases in peacefulness in the report.
The notable increase in support for populist parties in the last decade coincides with deteriorations in Positive Peace. Europe’s overall low ratings, in comparison to global percentages, demonstrates a dangerous trend in Positive Peace which could come to stain the title of most peaceful region in the world.
While Europe’s overall score on Positive Peace improved by 0.3% between 2005 and 2015, it was well behind the global average improvement of 1.6 %.
Positive Peace, which includes the attitudes, institutions and structures which create and sustain peaceful societies, is a different measurement of peace used by the GPI. While Negative Peace rates the absence of violence and conflict, Positive Peace measures the actions and initiatives taken in order to install and perpetuate peace in societies.
Deterioration in Peace
According to the GPI, Positive Peace is deteriorating in many countries in Europe. Furthermore, several key “pillars”, which support Positive Peace, are eroding as well. Altogether, there has been a slowing in the progress of Positive Peace in Europe, concluded the 2017 GPI.
The study predicts that falls in Positive Peace may lead to internal tensions and political instability, and that becomes worrisome when close attention is paid to the “pillars” of concern for Europe.
The three main concerns are free flow of information, low levels of corruption and acceptance of the rights of others.
Free Flow of Information (4.7%)
The importance of free and independent media for peace is its role in establishing transparency in society. It is the extent to which citizens have access to information, how well informed they are, and how independent the media is. This is vital for the maintenance of peace, as it reduces uncertainty and develops trust, allowing people to make informed decisions.
Countries like Greece, Turkey and Hungary showed the most deterioration in this aspect. Altogether, 23 countries in Europe have moved backwards in terms of free flow of information. Meanwhile, the rest of the world showed improvement in the indicator.
Low Levels of Corruption (3.3%)
This indicator is a measurement of the perception of corruption by peoples. High perceived corruption can create civil unrest, while low corruption can improve cooperation and trust in institutions.
In Europe, the indicator deteriorated 3.3%, while the world average deteriorated by 2%. This reflects the low trust in major political parties, a trend that has been in place for the last decade in several countries, and particularly notable in the emergence of scandals in Spain, France and Iceland.
Acceptance of the Rights of Others (2.4%)
This indicator refers to state guarantees of basic human rights and freedoms, legally and informally, as measurements of tolerance in a society as well as the distribution of equal rights. 21 countries in Europe saw this indicator deteriorated between 2005 and 2015. During the same time-span, Norway had the largest deterioration of the indicator, which decreased 43%.
In the last 12 months, this indicator had the third highest deterioration in Europe, at 2.4%, which is eight times more than the global deterioration of 0.3%. The GPI points out that it can be attributed to the perception Europeans have of the refugee crisis and the fear of terrorism.
In 2016, eight of the 10 European countries surveyed, over half the respondents believed that refugee income increased the probability of terrorism in the country.
In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six in 10 people say they have an unfavourable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each state polled. Not only is the perception on terrorism increase a factor, but also the perception on lack of participation of refugees and their consequent burdening the European state they move into.
Finally, it is important to note that the issues which affect indicator’d erosion are heavily capitalised on by populist parties in Europe. Negative trends in Positive Peace can be correlated with the rise of populism across Europe.
Iceland is rated the #1 country in the index, joined by Portugal, who showed the biggest improvement in the region, Austria and Denmark, which were all rated highly in the past GPI. Europe continues to be the most peaceful region in the world, representing eight out of the top 10 most peaceful countries in the world.
Furthermore, despite the notable deterioration, two Pillars improved in the 2017 index: Sound Business Environment and High Levels of Human Capital.
High Levels of Human Capital (-5.2%)
Europe has educated citizens and sound promotion of education, which increases productivity, social capital and allows for political participation.
Sound Business Environment (-6.5%)
The most improved indicator seen in Europe, it gauges the strength of economic conditions and institutions which support the private sector. Business competitiveness and economic productivity are linked with high peace assessments, along with the presence of regulatory systems which are propitious to business operations.