Pakistan was the second least peaceful country in South Asia despite making modest improvements over the past year — a year that saw the world become increasingly violent with deaths from conflict at a 25-year high, according to a new report.
According to 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI), Pakistan’s global ranking improved modestly from 156 in 2015 to 153 in 2016 of 163 countries this year with a score of 3.145. However, the country remained sixth of seven countries in the region, just behind neighbouring war-torn Afghanistan.
Although the government’s crackdown on terrorist groups helped the security situation, the country remained hostage to organised conflict, with a rising number of casualties over the past year. The influence of the Afghan Taliban remained particularly strong, the report noted.
Pakistan was also among the five countries where terrorist attacks were most rampant. Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan were the only countries worse affected by militant attacks.
Interestingly, while deaths from internal conflicts in Pakistan were almost negligible in GPI’s 2008 report, around 6,000 casualties were reported in 2016 GPI.
While terrorist attacks were at an all-time high and more were people displaced in 2016 than at any time since World War 2, the annual index — which measures 23 indicators including incidents of violent crime, countries’ levels of militarisation and weapons imports — said intensifying conflicts in the Middle East were mostly to blame for the rise.
But beyond the Middle East, the world was actually becoming more peaceful, researchers behind the index said.
“Quite often, in the mayhem which is happening in the Middle East currently, we lose sight of the other positive trends,” said Steve Killelea, founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which produces the index.
“If we look in the last year, if we took out the Middle East … the world would have become more peaceful,” Killelea told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
More than 100,000 were killed in conflict in 2014, up from nearly 20,000 in 2008. Syria, where nearly 67,000 people were killed in 2014, accounting for the bulk of the increase, according to the index.
The United Nations has said the number of displaced people is likely to have “far surpassed” a record 60 million last year. The economic cost of violence over the past decade was $137 trillion – greater than the global GDP in 2015, the IEP showed.
The indicator which improved the most in the last year was funding for UN peacekeeping operations, which reached a record high in 2016, IEP said.
“However, peace-building and peacekeeping spending remains proportionately small compared to the economic impact of violence, representing just 2 percent of global losses from armed conflict,” Killelea said in a statement.
More than 120,000 UN peacekeepers are currently deployed in 16 operations worldwide. The largest being deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan’s Darfur region, South Sudan, Mali, Central African Republic and Lebanon.
Another improvement was a 10 per cent fall in global military spending in the last three years, IEP said.
Europe is the most peaceful region in the world, although the region’s peace score dropped in the wake of the attacks in Paris and Brussels. Deaths from such attacks in Europe have more than doubled over the last five years.
Last year, world leaders agreed to “significantly reduce all forms of violence” by 2030 and find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity, as part of a set of Sustainable Development Goals to fight inequality and extreme poverty.
Building lasting peace takes more than just improving security, Killelea said.
“Quite often as an international community we lose sight of that and try and have a one shoe fits all (approach),” he said.
“For me the most profound thing about the index is the ability to use it … to better understand the qualities … which create peaceful societies,” Killelea said.
Iceland is the world’s most peaceful country listed in the index, followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand and Portugal. The least peaceful country is Syria, followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.