Friday, 4 March 2011

The Structures of Peace: translating measurement to progress

Today's Prog Blog post is from guest blogger Camilla Schippa, Director of the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Why are some countries more peaceful than others? How can readily available empirical data inform us of the key economic, social, political and cultural factors which underpin peace? Can the identification of social, political, economic, governance and cultural ‘structures’ inform policymakers in government, business and civil society on how to build a more peaceful society?

Using data from the Global Peace Index (GPI), an index that ranks the nations of the world by their peacefulness, the team at Institute for Economics and Peace has developed a fact-based approach to determining key factors which foster the creation of a more peaceful society. The outcome of this approach is the identification of a new conceptual framework for understanding peace that revolves around eight ‘Structures of Peace’ which relate to economic circumstances, to standards of governance, and to social and cultural attitudes.

Based on statistical analysis between the Global Peace Index and other indexes, data sets and attitudinal surveys, the eight ’Structures of Peace’ that we have identified are: well-functioning government, sound business environment, equitable sharing of resources, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighboring states, free flow of information, high levels of education, and low levels of corruption.
These ‘Structures of Peace’ are interdependent and positively reinforce each other – in other words, the absence of any one imperils the creation of a more peaceful society.
The study reveals the virtuous nature of peace – showing that greater peace fosters greater societal resilience to external shocks, whether they be economic, cultural, environmental or political.

Yemen – A Country in the News
Let’s have a look at how the Structures of Peace come into play in Yemen, the site of much recent political turmoil and instability.
Yemen ranked 129th out of 149 countries on the 2010 GPI.
Well-functioning government: Yemen ranked between the 11th and 29th percentile on each of the five Worldwide Governance Indicators provided by the World Bank. These rankings indicate high levels of political instability and corruption that make it difficult to provide essential government services or regulate an economy effectively. In the news: The Atlantic discusses the government reforms that Yemeni protesters are demanding.
Sound business environment: With a GDP per capita of US$2,500 in 2009, Yemen is the 169th poorest country in the world. The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) found that for each 10 places a country rises on the GPI, income increases by US$3,100 per capita. In the news: The LA Times reports that “Yemenis are angry at the state of their country, where 35% unemployment, high prices and a nearly stagnant economy make life extremely difficult.”
Equitable Sharing of Resources: Yemen is the 76th most unequal country in the world on the Gini income coefficient, and in general, violence has been shown to be greater in societies with greater income inequality.
Acceptance of the rights of others: In 2009, Yemen was listed as one of the “worst offenders” on the Political Terror Scale an index measuring respect for human rights. Peaceful countries tend not to use violence to achieve political goals, thus reinforcing peaceful behavior. In the news: Amnesty International reports two people were reported to be killed by security forces during anti-government protests on February 23.
Good relations with neighboring states: IEP research notes that violent countries tend to spread these effects onto their neighbors, decreasing overall peacefulness as well as economic integration in the area. Yemen has a score of 3 out of 5, (1 = most peaceful), on the “relations with neighboring countries” GPI indicator.
Free flow of information: Yemen is ranked a low 170th out of 178 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. Countries tighten their control of information in order to maintain power, but better flows of information can help citizens respond to crises and grow economically. In the news: The Committee to Protect Journalists says that “In Yemen, photographers and camera operators were targeted… by pro-government supporters at anti-government protests. At least four photojournalists were attacked, beaten, and had their cameras confiscated.”
High levels of education: Cycles of violence and crime become significantly less attractive for a society’s youth the more educated they become. However, Yemeni citizens only have an average of 8.65 years of school, placing the country in the bottom 30 on the school life expectancy listing of UNESCO. In the news: The head of the Qatar Foundation says a lack of education, leading to high unemployment, is one of the main reasons for the Middle East protests.
Low levels of corruption: Corruption is intuitively linked to an unpeaceful environment and statistical correlations between the GPI and corruption indices prove it empirically: -0.72 for the World Bank’s Control on Corruption Index and 0.70 for Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Yemen is ranked 146th on the latter, and is an example of how resulting inequalities from corruption can lead to civil unrest, as well as how interrelated these eight structures are. In the news: CNN cites corruption as one of the key complaints of Yemeni protesters.

The “Structures of Peace” help pinpoint specific areas that countries can target to improve peacefulness. Rather than just measuring peace, the GPI research shows that a fact-based approach can also help us come closer to building peace and achieving societal progress.

Camilla Schippa

Institute for Economics & Peace

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