Peace be with whom?

The Global Peace Index uses a detailed and well founded methodology to compare the peacefulness of nations. Founded by Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist, Steve Killelea, it forms part of the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think tank dedicated to the research and education of the relationship between economics, business and peace.

Besides the rankings and detailed scores published on the Vision of Humanity website there is a detailed annual report, written in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit. As the 2008 report says (p. 3)

The concept of peace is notoriously difficult to define. The simplest way of approaching it is in terms of harmony achieved by the absence of war or conflict. Applied to nations, this would suggest that those not involved in violent conflicts with neighbouring states or suffering internal wars would have achieved a state of peace. This is what Johan Galtung defined as a “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 to identify which structures and institutions create and maintain peace? The Global Peace Index is a first step in this direction; a measurement of peace that seeks to determine what cultural attributes and institutions are associated with states of peace.

Internally, Australia is a peaceful nation. But it does have a sophisticated military capability, is a some risk of terrorism, and has a high level of involvement in UN peacekeeping and in regional task forces (East Timor, the Solomons) as well as other less peaceful foreign military activities (Iraq, Afghanistan). Setting asides whether they are good nor not, these things do push down Australia’s ranking under the GPI to 27th on the list of 140 nations and just inside the top 20%. The 26 countries ahead of Australia are the following:

I find it disconcerting that Australia cannot be at least as peaceful as Canada.

Global Peace Index Rankings 2008

Country Rank Score Country Rank Score
Iceland 1 1.176 Belgium 15 1.485
Denmark 2 1.333 Slovenia 16 1.491
Norway 3 1.343 Czech Republic 17 1.501
New Zealand 4 1.350 Hungary 18 1.576
Japan 5 1.358 Chile 19 1.576
Ireland 6 1.410 Slovakia 20 1.576
Portugal 7 1.412 Uruguay 21 1.606
Finland 8 1.432 Netherlands 22 1.607
Luxembourg 9 1.446 Hong Kong 23 1.608
Austria 10 1.449 Romania 24 1.611
Canada 11 1.451 Oman 25 1.612
Switzerland 12 1.465 Bhutan 26 1.616
Sweden 13 1.468 Australia 27 1.652
Germany 14 1.475

The list of the least peaceful nations is, sadly, unsuprising: Russia, Lebanon, North Korea,Central African Republic, Chad, Israel, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq.

Australia has increased its overall score for peacefulness, despite increases in incarceration and the importation of conventional weapons. It is too early to see the effects of the Rudd Government’s foreign policy on Australia’s peacefulness. Possibly Australia will move up the index as it withdraws from foreign conflicts. Some of our neighbours, especially Indonesia, have become more peaceful, auguring well for Australia’s peace.