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Indicators in Practice

Mar 4, 2015

Global Peace Index

The Global Peace Index is a measure of national peacefulness, defined as the absence of violence or the fear of violence, according to 22 qualitative and quantitative indicators.

Scope: 162 countries; also sub-national peace indices are available for the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom 

First Released: May 2007, the latest eighth edition is from 2014

Intended Audience: the public and policymakers 

Potential Application: Develop a ranking of countries according to their peacefulness, as a measure of stability and the absence of violence.

Developers: Institute for Economics and Peace 



The Global Peace Index (GPI) is a measure of national peacefulness, which is defined as the absence of violence or the fear of violence. Using three broad themes, the level of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic or international conflict; and the degree of militarization. The latest version, released in 2014, is the eighth edition and includes 162 countries representing 99.6 percent of the global population. Overall, the authors assess that we are living in the most peaceful century in human history, although a seven-year trend analysis shows "notable deterioration in levels of peace." 

Overview of Results

Iceland ranked No.1 in the GPI in 2014, reflecting a larger trend of the top-10 highest ranking nations being all relatively small, stable democracies. Asia-Pacific countries are also found in the top of the rankings, with New Zealand coming in No. 4 and Japan in No.8. Europe continues to be the most peaceful region, while the least peaceful region is South Asia. Syria is now at the bottom of the GPI due to current geopolitical instability, and South Sudan experienced the largest drop in the GPI, garnering the third least peaceful country. 

Other countries that also experienced deteriorated rankings including Egypt, Ukraine, and the Central African Republic. These declines in global peace were largely driven by decreasing scores in four indicators: terrorist activity, the number of internal and external conflicts fought, detahs from internal conflicts, and the number of displaced persons as a percentage of the overall population. The largest improvement was found in Georgia. 

From a macro-level point of view, the GPI contextualizes what world peace means: the global economic impact of vioence is $9.8 trillion USD or 11.3 percent of global GDP. This amount is roughly two times the total GDP of Africa. 500 million people live in countries at risk of instability and conflict, and 200 million of these are below the poverty line. 

How is the GPI Calculated?

The GPI assesses the absence of violence or the fear of violence using 22 indicators that fall into three categories: 1) ongoing domestic and international conflict; 2) societal safety and security; and 3) militarization. The indicators are then weighted along two components: how at peace internally a country is; and how at peace externally a country is (its state of peace beyond its borders).

The GPI combines a range of quantitative and qualitative data to assess each country's score. Experts score less tangible, easily measured indicators like "political instability" or "level of perceived criminality." Other indicators, such as the number of external and internal conflicts fought are based on quantified datasets. 

The 22 indicators are then weighted according to expert input to produce a final score that ranges between 1 and 5, with 1 being the most peaceful to 5 being the least peaceful. 

Relationship with Environmental Performance

Do more peaceful states perform better on the EPI? With the exception of some outliers (e.g., Syria, Russia, Israel), there appears to be a roughly positive relationship between the GPI and EPI scores. Countries that are more peaceful (i.e., score lower on the GPI) tend to have higher EPI scores (i.e., score higher on the EPI). This result is reinforced when looking at the lowest performers on the EPI, which includes many countries that are currently experiencing political conflict (e.g., Somalia).