The 10 Most Peaceful Countries in the World

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Europe remains the most peaceful region, but the 2017 Global Peace Index shows that peace in the U.S. has taken a tumble.

Each year the non-profit think tank Institute for Economics and Peace performs an in-depth analysis on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies. Known as the Global Peace Index (GPI), the report takes into consideration 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators; for 2017 there were 163 independent states and territories included, accounting for 99.7 per cent of the world’s population.

While last year saw a dip in peace, this year, surprisingly, peace has seen an uptick. According to the report, “the results of the 2017 GPI find that the global level of peace has slightly improved this year by 0.28 per cent, with 93 countries improving, while 68 countries deteriorated."

Europe remains the most peaceful region in the world, while the largest regional drops in score happened in North America, followed by sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa. The report notes:

“The score for North America deteriorated entirely as a result of the US, which more than offset a mild improvement in Canada. The US’s score has been dragged down largely because of a deterioration in two indicators: level of perceived criminality in society and the intensity of organised internal conflict. The latter measure has deteriorated because of the increased levels of political polarisation within the US political system. The US also has experienced the fourth largest drop in Positive Peace globally, after Syria, Greece and Hungary in the ten years to 2015.”

(Making America less peaceful does not feel like making America great again.)

Meanwhile, here are the countries that ranked as most peaceful.

1. Iceland
2. New Zealand
3. Portugal
4. Austria
5. Denmark
6. Czech Republic
7. Slovenia
8. Canada
9. Switzerland
10. Ireland (tie)
10. Japan (tie)

If you're wondering how the United States fared specifically, it went from 103 in 2016 to 114 this year, dropping 11 spots.

"The past year has been a deeply worrying one for the US, with the presidential campaign highlighting the deep divisions within American society. Accordingly, the score for intensity of organised internal conflict has worsened," notes the report. "Data have also shown a declining level of trust in government and other citizens which has generated a deterioration in the score for level of perceived criminality in society.

"Social problems within the US are also likely to become more entrenched and racial tensions may continue to simmer," the authors add. "Reflecting these tensions, rising homicide rates in several major American cities led to a deterioration in the homicide rate indicator, contributing to the decline in the US’s peace score."

The five countries at the sad end of the list all suffer from ongoing conflicts, among other tragedies; Syria is at the bottom as the least peaceful, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.

You can download the 135-page report. It’s long but fascinating; it is pretty grim – exploring terrorism, refugees, war – but there is hope and upward thinking as well. Beginning on page 80 is the section on Positive Peace, which represents the “capacity for a society to meet the needs of its citizens, reduce the number of grievances that arise and resolve remaining disagreements without the use of violence.” More of that, please.