2019 Global Peace Index: Trending Upwards

Global Peace Index & Keaton Tengwall, DM&E for Peace

Created 06/26/2019



Globla Peace index

Peace is something that always presents a challenge to measure. It is hard to obtain an accurate view or estimate of global peace when it can be defined in many different ways. The Global Peace Index (GPI) seeks to measure and quantify peacefulness on a global scale. Created by the Institute for Economics & Peace in 2007, the GPI has since been annually released, both ranking the peacefulness of 162 countries, as well as evaluating the trends in peacefulness from year to year.

Key Points:

  • The average level of global peacefulness increased for the first time in five years, albeit only slightly by -0.09%. (1-5 scale with 1 being most peaceful)
  • 86 countries saw increases in peace while 76 saw a decrease in peace.
  • Iceland maintained its spot as most the most peaceful country in the world, which has been the case since 2008. While Afghanistan became the least peaceful country, replacing Syria.
  • Since 2008, global peacefulness has declined by 3.78% with 81 countries seeing increases in peacefulness and 81 countries seeing decreases.
  • The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2019 was $14.1 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. This is equivalent to 11.2% of the world’s economic activity or gross world product.



  • The GPI approach to defining peace focuses on the relationship between Negative Peace and Positive Peace. Negative Peace is described as the harmony achieved by the absence of violence or the fear of violence. On the other hand, Positive Peace is described as the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. This relationship forms a complete definition of peace, combining both the lack of violence and/or conflict, with the active peace measures of institutions and social groups. 


  • Choosing the indicators to represent this definition of peace represents its own unique challenges. The GPI focuses on three key domains of peacefulness when evaluating peace within a country. The first of which is Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict. This domain examines internal and external conflicts, as well as the role and duration in conflicts. The second area is Societal Safety and Security. This domain looks at crime rates, terrorism, violent demonstrations, political stability and more. The final domain is Militarisation. This measures a country’s military build-up and its level of peacefulness domestically and internationally. Strong consideration is given to percentage of GDP spent on the military. These three categories all have their own indicators, summing to 23 indicators in total, each of which are given a point value on a scale of 1-5. 



  • While peace did see a slight increase in 2019, it is important to keep the -0.09% increase in peace within the perspective of the long term 3.78% decline in peace we have experienced over the last decade. This fall in peace over the last decade is attributed to many factors such as, increased terrorist activity, intensification of Middle Eastern conflicts, and rising regional tensions in Eastern Europe and Northeast Asia. 


  • Of the three GPI domains, it was Militarism that saw the largest increase in peace. This was caused by many major countries reducing their percentage of GDP spent on military, also reducing the amount of armed personnel for most countries. In addition, higher UN peacekeeping funding and a reduction in weapon exports also aided in decreasing militarism on a global scale. The regions with the largest decreases to military expenditure were that of sub-Sarah, South America, and MENA. 


Change in Score by Indicator, 2019 GPI

  • The GPI report takes note of the largest movers in both directions in relation to various categories. When looking at the 23 indicators which are the basis for domain peace scores, we see that UN Peacekeeping Funding saw the largest improvement of all indicators, almost doubling the improvement seen by the second place mover, Deaths from Internal Conflict. On the other end of the spectrum, External Conflicts Fought was the indicator that saw the largest decrease in peace in 2019. While deaths from conflict fell, the total number of conflicts in the world increased. 


  • Regionally, four of the nine regions improved in peacefulness. The Russia & Eurasia region saw the largest improvement in peace, with Europe, Asia-Pacific, and MENA also improving. Central America and the Caribbean was the region that decreased most in peacefulness due to wide-spread crime and political instability. Closely followed by the decrease in the North America region, coming mainly from a decrease in peace in the US, which has seen a decrease every year since 2016. Europe maintained its spot as the most peaceful region, which has been the case for every year of the GPI. The MENA region remains the least peaceful region for the fifth year in a row but did see an improvement from last year.


  • Lastly, we have the largest movers on a country-level scale. Ukraine(Rank 150) had the largest increase in peace, with Sudan(151), Egypt(136), North Macedonia(65), and Rwanda(79) round out the top five biggest improvements. Ukraine saw large improvements in both the Ongoing Conflict domain, as well as the Safety and Security domain. The overall largest mover of any country, and the largest decrease in peacefulness in 2019 was Nicaragua(120). Nicaragua dropped 54 spots in the rankings from last year, mainly due to its ongoing political crisis which began in April of 2018. Burkina Faso(104), Zimbabwe(132), Iran(139), and Brazil(116) follow Nicaragua as the largest movers in a negative direction.


Economic Impact of Violence

  • The GPI provides a spotlight on the economic impact that violence and a lack of peace can have on regional and global economies. The impact of violence on the global economy improved for the first time since 2012, with a decrease of 3.3% or $475 billion. This decrease leaves the total global economic impact of violence at $14.1 trillion PPP for 2018. Equivalent to 11.2% of global GDP or $1,853 per person. The improvement in economic impact can largely be attributed to a decrease in armed conflict, specifically de-escalation of conflicts in Syria, Colombia, and Ukraine. 


Breakdown of the Global Impact of Violence, 2018


  • Military expenditure accounts for 40.2% of the global impact of violence, equivalent to $5.7 trillion PPP. Internal security expenditure is a 31.7% or $4.5 trillion impact on the global economy, down one percent from last year. Homicide increased three percent from last year, up to 8.6%. This is not due to an increase in homicides, rather the increase of income per capita globally leads to a higher economic impact of homicides. Perhaps one of the most jarring results is the economic impact of Suicide. Suicide accounts for a $737 billion or 5.2% of the global economic impact. This makes suicide more costly than all of the Armed Conflict variables combined, with a impact that is $364 billion greater than Armed Conflict.


  • On average, in the ten least peaceful countries, the average economic cost of violence was equivalent to 35% of their GDP. Meanwhile, the top ten most peaceful countries had an average economic cost of violence equal to 3.3% of their GDP. The three countries that suffered the largest economic cost from violence were Syria (67% of GDP), Afghanistan (47%), and Central African Republic (42%).

All data and graphs were sourced directly from the Global Peace Index, created by the Institute for Economics and Peace. The full report can be found here and an interactive GPI map here.

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