Indexing peace

Whilst the Global Peace Index for 2009 shows that the world has become slightly less peaceful in the past year, each respective country of the Western Balkans has enjoyed a marked improvement compared to 2008.

By Ian Bancroft

The third edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI) has concluded that the world has become slightly less peaceful in the past year; primarily due to the intensification of violent conflicts in specific countries, combined with the global economic downturn, and the effects of rapidly rising food and fuel prices. For the Western Balkans, however, the GPI for 2009 reveals that each respective country improved its ranking vis-a-vis 2008.

The GPI, which is collated and calculated by the Economist Intelligence Unit, attempts to measure peace – defined primarily by employing Johan Galtung’s notion of ‘negative peace’ or the ‘absence of violence’ – through twenty-three indicators, with the particular choice of indicators and weights assigned to them determined by the GPI’s International Review Panel of international experts. The indicators are divided into three broad categories – ‘measures of on-going domestic and international conflict, measures of safety and security in society and measures of militarization’.

The first category includes data on the number of external and internal conflicts fought from 2002 until 2007, the estimated number of deaths from organized conflict (external), the number of deaths from organized conflict (internal), the level of organized conflict (internal) and relations with neighbouring countries. Ten further indicators – ‘ranging from the perception of criminality in society, to the level of respect for human rights and the rate of homicides and violent crimes’ – provides measures of societal safety and security. The final category – measures of militarization – uses a variety of date concerning, for instance, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP, number of armed services personnel per 100,000 people, the volume of transfers (imports and exports) of major conventional weapons per 100,000 people, military capability/sophistication and ease of acccess to small arms and light weapons.

In order to determine the overall composite score and index, a sixty percent weight is applied to the measure of internal peace and a forty percent weight to external peace; justified by the notion that ‘a greater level of internal peace is likely to lead to, or at least correlate with, lower external conflict’. According to the 2009 GPI, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Austria were the five most peaceful countries; with Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq the least. With respect to the Western Balkans, Slovenia, in joint ninth place is the most peaceful country, followed by Croatia (49th position), Bosnia and Herzegovina (50th position), Albania (75th position), Serbia including Kosovo (78th position), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (88th position) and Montenegro, which was for the first time included in the index as an independent country, in 91st position. Despite widely expressed fears about the stability of the region, each country improved on its 2008 GPI ranking.

The GPI, which is endorsed by a variety of eminent Nobel laureates, individuals and organizations, provides a strong and important basis for more rigorous and comprehensive research into the causes and characteristics of peace; though as the OECD remarked, ‘much work remains to be done to improve the measurement tools’. In addition, steps need to be taken to improve the quality, depth and reliability of the qualitative data, particularly through the incorporation of civil society perspectives, in order to ensure that the GPI can serve as an effective early-warning system to guide specific efforts designed to transform conflicts and prevent potential outbreaks of violence.

To learn more about the Global Peace Index (GPI), please visit



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