The Global Peace Index (GPI) is a groundbreaking study that ranks the nations of the world by how peaceful each is.
To calculate how peaceful nations are, the GPI identifies 23 “peace indicators” ranging from the number of homicides, violent demonstrations, and police officers, to weapons imports and potential for terrorist acts.
These “peace indicators” are measured against 32 drivers of peace, such as freedom of the press, gender ratio and equality, infant mortality, and adult literacy rates. The GPI then calculates ratings for each indicator from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most peaceful.
Here are the six least violent nations according to the study.
The GPI puts Ireland at number six among the world’s most peaceful countries. With a low rate of homicides and incarcerations, limited access to weapons, and high rankings for positive factors such as civil liberties and political stability, Ireland falls high on the list. A relatively small standing army and low military expenditures also contribute. Safety rankings fall slightly in areas such as the perception of crime in society and the likelihood of violent demonstrations.
Norway scored ranked highly on nearly every measurement of peace and safety, such as a homicide rate below one per 100,000 people. (The U.S., by comparison, averaged 5 per 100,000 in 2009). One of the world’s highest life expectancies, reduced military involvement in international conflicts, and an effective network of social welfare programs make Norway an extremely safe and peaceful place to live.
In addition to Von Trapps and cinematic Nazis, Austria can now boast standing as one of the world’s least violent nations. The country has taken an officially neutral stance since 1955, limiting its military power and involvement in international conflicts. In addition, Austria has the lowest incidence of violent crime of the 149 countries evaluated by the GPI,
Military expenditures in Japan are capped at less than one percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), due to a provision in the 1946 constitution that bans the maintenance of armed forces aside from a nominal self-defense force. Violent crime, civil unrest, and homicide are rare, access to weapons is limited, and respect for human rights ranked high. Negative factors considered included strained relations with several neighbors, including North Korea and China.
Iceland comes in at number two on the list for 2010, due to increased political stability and low instance of violent crime. Iceland’s ratio of incarcerated citizens to total population is consistently one of the world’s lowest, at 29 per 100,000. In addition, the country does not maintain a standing army and spends the lowest proportion of its GDP on military of any European nation.
1. New Zealand
For the second year in a row New Zealand ranked as the world’s most peaceful nation. Confidence in the nation’s government and prime minister is strong among New Zealanders. While it has a higher ratio of incarcerated persons to the general population than several other countries on the list, at 169 per 100,000, violent crime remains relatively rare in New Zealand. Its score for international relations was the highest possible, reflecting harmonious relationships with neighboring countries and a low level of involvement in international conflicts. Low unemployment, a high life expectancy, and a relatively educated population also contribute to New Zealand’s top spot.
Where Does the U.S. Rank?
Due to the world’s highest ratio of prisoners to the general population, large military capacity, crime rate, and ease of access to weapons, the U.S. comes in at 85 of 149, right between Brazil and Angola on the list.