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World peace declined over past year: report

World peace has declined over the past year due to a global increase in homicides and violent crime, according to the Global Peace Index (GPI) [report; materials] published Tuesday. The GPI measures countries' relative peacefulness on a rubric of factors that encompass things such as respect for human rights, perceived criminality in society, potential for terrorist acts, and military expenditure. The GPI cited factors such as the rise in violent demonstrations and the increase in fear of violent crime as factors for the drop in global peace. New Zealand, Iceland, and Japan top the list as the most peaceful, and Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan were the least peaceful. Despite the overall rise in world conflict, exemplified by the rise in domestic violence in Europe and North America, the report pointed to the increased peacefulness of Africa and the Middle East as improvements over the previous report. The report also highlighted the link between world peace and economics. The report noted that the nations with the highest structural deficits were the ones with the greatest slide in peacefulness over the last year. This was exemplified by the Greek debt crisis [BBC backgrounder] and the deficits of Spain, Ireland, and Italy, and these nations' decline in the rankings over the previous year. According to the GPI, nearly USD $30 trillion would have been added to the global economy over the last four years in the absence of the world's conflicts.

The GPI has been published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) [advocacy website] since 2007. The GPI is based on information compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit [official website], and compares the relative peacefulness of 149 countries. The IEP claims that the GPI is currently the only attempt to quantify the world's peacefulness in statistical and monetary terms. The GPI has faced criticism [Economist report] for using military expenditures as a factor, which gives countries that benefit from the US security umbrella an advantage. It has also been criticized for not including factors [report] such as violence specific to women and children, including female genital mutilation [WHO backgrounder] and female infanticide [WCAC backgrounder].

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