New 'Peace Index' of Nations a Puzzler

The Human Development Index (HDI) developed by the United Nations was formulated after decades of research and includes all the countries of the world. However, over the years a number of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) have also developed their own indexes and rankings which lack the thoroughness of the HDI. The latest addition to the index category is the Global Peace Index (GPI) published by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Peace is an elusive concept, and philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and others have attempted to define it without complete success. However, we live in a world of quantitative science, and as a result, there is a desire to quantify and rank everything, even peace. The fourth edition of the Global Peace Index was published last month. Ranking 149 countries using 23 indicators, the GPI indicates whether or not a country is more peaceful or less peaceful.

The GPI defines peace as “harmony achieved by the absence of war or conflict,” and thus only those countries that do not have any internal tensions or conflicts with any of their neighbors are at peace. What this does is limit the number of countries that can ever be defined as "being at peace."

The fact that all five Scandinavian countries are in the top ten and that New Zealand is the country most at peace reflects this point. As is to be expected, and the report points this out, island nations -- with the exception of Sri Lanka -- have fared well in the rankings.

The world’s fastest growing economy, China, is ranked 80 out of 149, and the second fastest growing economy, India, is ranked 128. India has internal problems and external tensions, but it has always had a peaceful transition of power and civilian control over the security forces. What is interesting is that countries like Iran (104), Saudi Arabia (107), Thailand (124), and Uzbekistan (110) -- all of which experienced immense internal turmoil -- are under autocratic rule and still ranked higher than India.