The 2024 Global Peace Index

On 13 June 2024, we attended the European launch of the 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI) at the Geneva Centre For Security Policy (GCSP). The GPI is published by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) and offers an insightful analysis of the state of peace across the globe. Now in its 18th edition, the report ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness, covering 99.7 per cent of the world's population. 

The GPI employs a multifaceted methodology, analysing a number of indicators across three broad categories:

  1. Ongoing Domestic And International Conflict
  2. Societal Safety And Security
  3. Militarisation

The report's indicators include, among others, the number of internal and external conflicts fought, the level of perceived criminality in society, political instability, homicides, the potential for terrorism, and military expenditure as a percentage of GDP. In 2024, the GPI introduced a new measure of global military capability that includes military sophistication, technology, and battle readiness.  

Key Findings Of The 2024 Global Peace Index

1. Overall Trends

The GPI indicates that several conditions that precede major conflicts are the highest that they have been since the end of World War 2. There are currently 56 active conflicts with fewer conflicts being resolved.

There is a rise in the internationalisation of conflicts with 92 countries now engaged in a conflict beyond their borders driven by great power competition and the rise of smaller powers engaging within their regions. 

While some regions have seen improvements, others have experienced deterioration due to ongoing conflict, political instability, and economic challenges exacerbated by global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. 

There has been a significant increase in conflicts with conflict-induced deaths reaching a thirty-year high in 2022. Regional conflicts such as the war in Ukraine and the conflict in Gaza, shed light on the devastating loss of human life and the complexity of modern warfare. The war in Ukraine has seen over 2 000 fatalities per month with the conflict in Gaza resulting in over 35 000 deaths and a severe humanitarian crisis. These conflicts are examples of how prolonged violence results in seemingly endless wars without resolution.

Our century has seen the evolution of war due to changes in military technology and increasing geopolitical competition. An increase in smaller conflicts with internal and external actors involved, is contributing to prolonged conflicts that are becoming more difficult to resolve.

Technology and the rise of asymmetric warfare have enabled non-state actors and less powerful states to engage in conflict with larger states or governments. Since 2018, drone attacks by non-state actors have increased by over 1 400%.

Geopolitical shifts further complicate global conflict management. Traditional powers like the U.S. and the EU are showing limited capacity to manage global tensions. U.S. foreign policy has seen a significant shift over the past three decades, with the Biden administration choosing its battles and favouring military assistance over direct involvement. It is becoming more apparent that no single nation is likely to dominate global policy on conflict management.

Emerging powers like China, Russia, and regional powers are competing for influence in conflict-ridden areas around the world. Among the major military powers, China has seen the most significant increase in military capability. However, under the new military capability scoring system, the U.S. has a major strategic advantage with three times the capabilities of China, closely followed by Russia, and France.

On a positive note, there were substantial improvements for various safety and security indicators, such as violent demonstrations, terrorism, and homicide. However, it is important to note that although the impact of terrorism improved there were more terrorism-related deaths overall, suggesting that terrorism is intensifying in a number of hotspots around the globe, such as the Sahel region.

2. Most Peaceful Countries

Iceland remains at the top of the GPI, maintaining its position as the most peaceful country followed by Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, and Singapore. 

3. Least Peaceful Countries

Yemen is the least peaceful country in the world, followed by Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. 

4. Regional Highlights

  • Europe: Europe is the most peaceful region in the world and is home to eight of the ten most peaceful countries. Greece recorded significant improvements in peacefulness.
  • Asia-Pacific: The region shows improvements in countries like Japan and Singapore, while countries like Myanmar face challenges due to internal conflicts and human rights issues.
  • North America: Of all the regions, North America recorded the largest average deterioration. However, despite this deterioration it remains the third most peaceful region globally.
  • Russia And Eurasia: The dominant issue in the region remains the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. 
  • South America: Argentina is the most peaceful country in South America with Colombia remaining the least peaceful country.
  • Central America And The Caribbean: El Salvador and Nicaragua recorded the first and third highest improvements in peacefulness globally. Despite experiencing a slight deterioration in score, Costa Rica remains the most peaceful country in the region.
  • South Asia: Bhutan ranks as the most peaceful country in the region, with Afghanistan as the least peaceful country.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: The region continues to experience both positive and negative trends. Countries like Botswana have made strides in peace, however countries like Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo face significant challenges.
  • Middle East And North Africa (MENA): MENA remains the least peaceful region, dominated by conflict, political turmoil, and economic instability. The conflict in Gaza has resulted in Israel and Palestine having the first and fourth largest deteriorations in peacefulness. 

5. Economic Impact Of Violence

In 2023, the economic impact of violence on the global economy was $19.1 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. Military and internal security expenditure accounts for over 74% of the total economic impact of violence, and in the past year the economic impact of military spending alone accounted for  $8.4 trillion. 

The GPI serves as a crucial tool for policymakers, researchers, and the public, providing a clear picture of the factors influencing peace and conflict. The 2024 report emphasises the need to strengthen governance and institutions. Effective governance and robust institutions are vital for maintaining peace and stability. Economic inequalities need to be addressed to reduce economic disparities, a root cause of conflict. Global cooperation is essential in addressing transnational challenges such as terrorism, climate change, and pandemics. Promoting social cohesion and building inclusive societies that respect diversity and human rights is key to sustaining peace.

The 2024 Global Peace Index offers a sobering yet hopeful view of the world's state of peace. It is important to note that low-profile conflicts (such as those in Ethiopia, Yemen, and Haiti) do not receive the attention or aid that they require resulting in profound conflict-induced deaths and economic turmoil, all with the potential for significant escalation. 

The re-emergence of great power competition, a rise in the internationalisation of conflicts, and the diffusion of power with multiple shifting alliances is exacerbating instability. Instead of addressing underlying issues to foster sustainable peace, there is a growing emphasis on military solutions (with a move towards sophisticated weaponry). 

Nations need to consider balancing defence with investments in social, economic, and political development to create a more peaceful and stable world. While challenges remain, particularly in conflict-ridden regions, we are also witnessing examples of resilience and progress. 

A balanced approach to security recognises that military strength alone cannot guarantee peace. While a certain level of defence capability is necessary, an overemphasis on military solutions can be counterproductive. Sustainable peace requires addressing the root causes of conflict through comprehensive, multi-faceted strategies that promote social, economic, and political stability.