Bhutan is the most peaceful country in South Asia according to the latest Global Peace Index report 2017.
Founder and Executive Chairman of the international think-tank Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Steve Killelea, launched the report at the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research in Thimphu yesterday.
Steve Killelea said Bhutan made steady progress to rank 13th out of 163 countries in GPI 2017, jumping 10 places in the past seven years.
The GPI has 23 indicators clubbed under three domains of ongoing conflict both international and local, internal safety and security, and levels of militarisation.
On the GPI, Bhutan is one of the more fascinating countries, he said.
The most interesting factor for Bhutan is although the country has a low or USD 500 per capita income, it has managed to create peace better than the top 20 countries in the GPI that have more than USD 10,000 per capita income per annum.
“There is something about Bhutan, because with small amount of resources it has got it is able to produce peace beyond any other nation in the world,” Steve Killelea said.
In the long term, Bhutan has to focus on the factors that actually create peaceful society like on levels of corruption, functioning of government and equitable distribution of resources so that there is conducive environment for peace.
The GPI report states that Bhutan experienced a slight deterioration in peace, despite improvements in the indicators measuring UN peacekeeping funding and the number of IDPs.
Bhutan’s economic impact of violence was cost equivalent to six per cent of the country’s 2016 GDP. The economic impact of violence decreased by six percent from 2015 to 2016.
South Asia hosts some countries as peaceful as Bhutan yet there are some of the least peaceful countries in the world such as Pakistan (152nd) and Afghanistan (162nd).
Sri Lanka is five places below Bhutan. Pakistan improved this year. Nepal and Afghanistan experience slight deterioration.
In Nepal, a high level of political instability is partly to blame for the slow progress in rebuilding efforts after the devastating earthquake of 2015. Afghanistan’s overall score deteriorated for the sixth successive year as overall hostility continued to increase.
The world became a more peaceful place in 2017 according to figures released yesterday. Since last year, 93 countries recorded higher levels of peace, while 68 deteriorated, resulting in an improvement in world peace.
The improvement was mainly driven by lower levels of state-sponsored terror – extra-judicial killings and torture – and the prior withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan.
The report captures the impact of political polarisation in the US stemming from the divisive 2016 Presidential elections. Despite improvements in Canada, the growing intensity of internal conflict, increase in terrorism and higher perceptions of criminality saw the US fall 11 places to 114th. North America recorded the largest drop of any region.
Steve Killelea said, “While the true extent of the significant political polarity in the US will take years to be fully realised, its disruptive influence is already evident.”
The report also analyses the rise of populism through the lens of Positive Peace – a measure of the attitudes, structures and institutions that sustain peace. The sharp increase in support for populist parties in the past decade closely corresponds with deteriorations in Positive Peace, with some of the largest falls recorded in Italy, France and Spain.
Steve Killelea added: “The increasing role of populist parties in mainstream European politics is reflected against a backdrop of deteriorating Positive Peace, specifically in terms of persistent challenges to the free flow of information, levels of corruption and acceptance of the rights of others. Without addressing these underlying drivers of peace it will not be possible to build more peaceful societies.”
Iceland maintained its position as the world’s most peaceful country, a title it has held onto since 2008. New Zealand and Portugal replace Denmark and Austria in second and third position.
Steve Killelea said: “Although this year’s uptick is reassuring, the world is still mired with conflict in the Middle East, political turmoil in the US, refugee flows and terrorism in Europe. When combined with the increasing level of peace inequality, whereby the least peaceful countries are moving further apart from the most peaceful, the resulting scenario is one in which further improvements in peace are not guaranteed.”