Michael Collins, Executive Director of the Americas of Institute for Economics and Peace, spoke about the Decline of Democratic Values and Rise of Autocracy Globally. Mr. Collins presented findings from a recent Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) Report, with regards to reducing violence in line with targets and indicators related to SDG #16. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP)is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute. They dedicate their work to shifting the World to focus on peace as a positive, tangible and achievable measure of human well-being and progress. This is the 14th year of the Global Peace Index and it ranks 163 countries according to their relative state of peace. The definition of peace in the index is the “lack of violence or fear of violence.”
And we track that using 23 different indicators. And the methodology for doing that is developed by IEP, but it is sort of overseen by an international panel of experts. The indicators are largely distributed in three domains namely:
- Domestic and international conflict.
- Measures of safety and security within society
- The degree of militarization.
Some of the key findings for the 2020 are presented as follows. The countries in red are the least peaceful countries and those in green are the most peaceful. Overall, findings show the average level of peacefulness has deteriorated by 0.34 percent. It is the ninth deterioration in the last 12 years. 81 countries became more peaceful, 80 countries deteriorated and improvements were driven by the impact of terrorism, homicides by weapons imports and exports, and deteriorations by the political Tarasco refugees, 90 percent intensity of internal conflict. Read more…
The political terror scale generally gives representative impression of this scenario. There are authoritarian regimes that exercise extrajudicial killings, imprisonment without trial and torture. The report picked out Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Canada, Singapore, Czech Republic, Japan, and Switzerland as the 10 most peaceful countries for the 2020 report.
All of these, with the exception of Singapore, are considered or assumed to be full democracies.
Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Congo DRC, Central African Republic, and Russia are the 10 least peaceful countries. All of these, with the exception of South Sudan that has not made it into the metric that we consult are authoritarian, deemed to be authoritarian regimes.
Tends of peace. We have seen a decline in peace over the last 12 years. Overall, 81 countries became less peaceful, 79 countries became more peaceful, highlighting that decreases in peace, larger than increases in peacefulness and overall peace over the last 10, 12 years has declined by 2.5 percent. When we break this out into the three domains that I mentioned before, we see that levels of militarization have continued to improve by 4.5 percent, a small deterioration in safety and security. But there has been a significant increase in ongoing conflict that is largely an authoritarian regime in the Middle East. Breaking this out a tiny bit more, we do see a general difference even in trends with regards to levels of peacefulness for democracies versus authoritarian regimes. But interestingly, we do see a significant decrease in peacefulness in democracies over the last and full democracies over the last five years.
Militarization. A general decrease in armed forces personnel, sustained decrease in military expenditure, although there has been a steady increase in the number of weapons imports. So the economic impact of violence in 2020, we calculate to be 14.5 trillion dollars, it basically equates to 10 percent of the world’s GDP or nearly 2,000 dollars per person, what if there could be 10 percent more peaceful, that would mean that there is 1.5 trillion dollars that could be used to other economic activities, ideally for a variety of activities, ideally activities that are going to contribute further to development of peacefulness.
Positive peace. This refers to the attitude, institutions and structures that create and sustained peaceful societies. The term is used commonly in the peacebuilding field. The Institute developed a quantitative measure for positive peace by making reference to Global Peace Index and compare that with thousands of measures of socioeconomic progress to understand which ones correlate most closely with subsequent ups and downs in a country’s level of peace. The study identified 300 indicators that correlate very closely, placed into eight buckets, called the eight pillars of positive peace. They are these ones. These are the characteristics of the most peaceful societies on Earth. And these pillars interact and relate to each other systemically and incredibly complex ways. One of the things that we see is that countries with high levels of positive peace also have higher per capita income, high levels of resilience to crises such as Covid-19, political shocks, ecological threats, better environmental outcomes, higher measures of wellbeing and better performance on development goals. Now, there’s also a very strong correlation with the SDGs. We see that 85 percent of the SDG 169 targets are relevant to at least sort of two pillars of positive peace. The only area that we don’t see that that largely is the free flow of information and low levels of corruption, which are actually most described in SDG #16.
Now when we break out the positive peace indicators, per domain, we see something pretty interesting. This is the overall positive peace globally, which has improved 2.5 percent over the last decade. So, if we then look at institutions, this is generally operations of government. We see that there has been more that it is very slowly, progressively improved. If we see things like structures, which are things that are embedded in societies, so specifically things like poverty, GDP, for example, and measures of a GDP, we see a significant improvement, largely a reflection of high levels of equality in society. But what we have seen over the last decade is a significant decrease in the attitude’s domain, which runs very counterintuitively to the improvements in structures. What does this look like in an individual country? I’ve pulled out the United States because this is where a lot of us are today, but this could apply to many other countries around the world. So, on the left-hand side, you see the positive indicators and you see that the largest deteriorations have been quality of information that people have access to. A term commonly used, for example, is “fake news”, factionalized elites, which is the reality or the impression that the government does not represent the people or is controlled by a very small group of people and group grievances, as well as restrictions on freedom of the press as well. These are all also generally considered characteristics of authoritarian regimes. This is contributing to running parallel to correlates with some of the global trends in civil unrest. We have been seeing there’s been a sharp rise in the level of civil unrest over the last decade. The number of riots, general strikes and anti-government protests has more than doubled.
Europe has had the largest number of protests, riots and strikes, although the majority of those have been peaceful and civil unrest in sub-Saharan Africa has risen more than 800 percent. This is a breakout, sort of based on types of governance in which we do see a general increase in civil unrest and all of this, but especially in what was deemed to be slowed democracies. The general impression that there are a measure of inequality and people protesting those measures.