Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The World Is Less Peaceful In 2013


Just before the brutal crackdown in central Istanbul by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authoritarian regime in Turkey, Vision of Humanity released their 7th annual Global Peace Index, showing that Europe is the most peaceful region, with 13 of the top 20 most peaceful countries. I guess the violence in Gezi Park will bring that average down for 2014. Overall, the Global Peace Index shows that the world has become less peaceful, with a sharp rise in the number of homicides. The GPI measures peace in 162 countries according to 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators of the absence of violence and fear of violence. The report comes with a cool interactive map, showing where every country in the world falls on the peace scale. (of the 162 countries, Iceland is the most peaceful and Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, and Pakistan are among the least peaceful. The U.S. is #100, a tad better than China (#101) but not nearly as peaceful as any of our closest allies, like the U.K. (#41), Canada (#9), France (#50), Germany (#18), Holland (#25), Italy (#34), Australia (#19), Sweden (#8), Spain (#21) or Japan (#7). From the report:
During the last twenty years, humanity has entered into a new epoch in its history. This has been brought about by a convergence of many factors-- finite environmental barriers are now being reached and on multiple fronts. World population recently reached seven billion and in many places it is already at straining capacity. Technology is fuelling change at an ever increasing pace which in many ways underpins the growth of globalisation. The world is connected in ways that were unimaginable even fifty years ago. Wars are no longer economically viable and change is occurring so fast that nations are struggling to keep up with both the legal and social ramifications of these changes.

Global challenges call for global solutions and these solutions require cooperation on a scale unprecedented in human history. Peace is an essential prerequisite because without peace we will never be able to achieve the levels of cooperation, trust, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve these challenges, let alone empower the international institutions necessary to address them.

Peace lies at the center of being able to manage the transition, simply because peace creates the optimum environment in which the other activities that contribute to human growth can take place. In this sense, peace is a facilitator making it easier for workers to produce businesses to sell, entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate and governments to regulate.

But if peace is an essential prerequisite for solving our sustainability challenges and improving our economic and social well-being then having a good understanding of peace is essential. This poses the question “How well do we understand peace?” Fifty years ago, peace studies were virtually non-existent. Today there are thriving Peace & Conflict Centers in numerous universities around the world. But most of these are centered on the study of conflict rather than on the understanding of peace.

Over the last century, we have moved from having departments of war to departments of defense and we are now seeing the emergence of organisations that are lobbying for the creation of departments of peace within governments. While these changes are beneficial in improving our understanding of peace, peace is not yet seen as germane to the major academic disciplines, nor is there a methodological approach to the cross-disciplinary study of peace. E.g., there is no university Chair of Peace Economics in any major Economic faculty, yet most business people believe that their markets grow in peace and that their costs decrease with increasing peacefulness.

The simplest way of approaching the definition of peace is in terms of harmony achieved by the absence of war, conflict or violent crime. Applied to states, this would suggest that the measurement of internal states of peace is as important as those external factors involving other states or neighbors. This is what Johan Galtung defined as ‘negative peace’-- an absence of violence. The concept of negative peace is immediately intuitive and empirically measurable and can be used as a starting point to elaborate its counterpart concept, ‘positive peace’. Having established what constitutes an absence of violence, is it possible through statistical analysis to identify which structures, institutions and social attitudes create and maintain peace?

...In contrast to negative peace, positive peace can inform our understanding of the appropriate attitudes, institutions, and structures which when strengthened, lead to a nation’s capacity to harmoniously and non-violently resolve conflict. The approach in this work stands in contrast to the extensive quantitative conflict literature which is predominately focused on understanding the causes for outbreak of war as a key dependent variable. The output of the Positive Peace Index (PPI) can be used for comparative studies which will further inform the understanding of the key economic, political and cultural factors that can improve peace and resilience of all societies, not just fragile states. By seeking to identify institutions which help a society move away from violence, it is hoped a more holistic picture of the key factors which drive peace can be identified. While focus on ‘trigger’ factors or individual case studies are insightful, they cannot reveal global or regional trends or help in identifying longer term causes of conflict. As the 2009-2010 Human Security Report identifies, there is still a ‘…remarkable lack of consensus in the research findings on the causes of war and peace … also the inability of conflict models to predict the outbreak of conflicts.’ To date, there are only a small number of robust findings which have widespread consensus in the research community, according to Hegre and Sambanis they suggest only three key findings have broad agreement on the causes of civil war:

• The lower a country’s average income, the higher the risk of war.
• War is more likely if a country has already experienced a war, the more recent the war, the more likely the risk.
• The risk of war increases as a country’s size increases.

...The empirical link between negative peace and the factors in the positive peace index appear to hold in developing and developed contexts. Both negative and positive peace can be seen as the producer and product of forms of trust and cohesion that are a pre-requisite for well-functioning and prosperous societies. Countries higher in positive peace also tend to have many other fundamentally positive social and economic outcomes. For instance, IEP finds high peace countries have:

• Higher per capita incomes
• More equitable distribution of resources
• Better health and education outcomes
• Improved trust between citizens
• Greater social cohesion

By moving countries away from direct violence and towards positive peace, this demonstrates that it is also possible to reap a significant social and economic dividend as a primary by-product of creating peace. The Positive Peace Index is similar to the GPI in that it is a composite index attempting to measure a multidimensional concept. The PPI is the first known attempt to build an empirical derived index aiming to measure the latent variable of positive peace.

...For humanity to grow and prosper in a world that is facing finite resource constraints, global threats and the potential of economic devastation through warfare there needs to be a new paradigm for managing international affairs. Much of the interaction of nation states is based on competition and win/loss outcomes. Although, some level of competition is healthy but the ongoing inability to reach agreement on many critical issues demonstrates the failures of the current system. A focus on peace can create a paradigm shift simply because the attitudes, institutions and structures that create peace also create by-products such as resilience, economic prosperity and international cooperation which are at the heart of a viable future, therefore peace is a prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century!



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