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The fourteenth edition of the annual report on the Global Peace Index, the leading measure of global peace, reveals that in 2020, the average level of world peace has deteriorated for the ninth time in 12 years. A total of 81 countries improved their peace situation in the 2020 report, while it deteriorated for 80 countries. Rising civil unrest appears to be the main risk factor for the future, with riots, general strikes and anti-government demonstrations already doubling since 2011. This year's Covid-19 pandemic could blow on the embers due to the economic downturn, which is expected to be the most severe since the Second World War.
Economic hardship, police brutality, political instability: the Global Peace Index reflects a strong increase in demonstrations. The COVID-19 pandemic could blow over the embers. « The economic crisis caused by the current pandemic will further aggravate the situation and we expect an increase in demonstrations, especially in Europe. "says Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which publishes every year the World Peace Index.
Produced by theInstitute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an international think tank, the IMP report presents the most comprehensive data-based analysis to date on peace, its economic value, trends and how to develop peaceful societies. The report covers 99.7 % of the world's population and uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources to construct the index.
A key trend identified in this year's report is the increasing level of civil unrest around the world. At least 58 % of IMP countries experienced violent demonstrations in 2019, including in Chile and Hong Kong, as citizens protested against a range of issues such as economic inequality, police violence, political leadership and rising prices of key resources. This reflects a longer-term trend, with riots around the world increasing by 282 % over the past decade, while general strikes increased by 821 %. Europe experienced the highest number of demonstrations, riots and strikes, but only 35 % of the approximate total of 1,600 were recorded as violent; the lowest percentage in the world.
The impact of VIDOC-19
A special study conducted by the IEP shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative impact on peace around the world, as nations are expected to focus increasingly on their ability to maintain peace and security. This reflects the potential of the virus to wipe out years of socio-economic development, exacerbate humanitarian crises, and aggravate and encourage unrest and conflict.
The IEP identifies the economic impact of confinement as a major threat to peace. Reductions in international aid are expected as OECD countries see their economies shrink, further destabilizing fragile and conflict-affected countries, including Liberia, Afghanistan and Southern Sudan. Countries with low credit ratings, such as Brazil, Pakistan and Argentina, may also find it difficult to borrow, repay debt and maintain their economies, increasing the risk of political instability, riots and violence.
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" Political instability is expected to increase in Europe, riots and general strikes are set to rise "the researchers point out. The economic impact of containment, they say, is a major threat to peace.
Even economically stable countries are experiencing major disruptions as their leaders come under increasing pressure on their response to the pandemic, with the United States, Germany and France already experiencing protests. Political instability in Europe is expected to worsen, with an increase in riots and general strikes.
" The economic impact of VIDOC-19 is likely to amplify tensions by increasing unemployment, deepening inequalities and deteriorating working conditions. This will result in alienation from political systems and increased social unrest. We are therefore at a critical juncture "says Steve Killelea.
The report states that Italy, Greece, Latvia and Poland are among the countries least able to overcome the COVID-19 test, due to the economic challenges they face and their poor performance in terms of "social resilience". Conversely, Norway, Australia and New Zealand are in the best position to face the future.
Nevertheless, the economic impact of the virus could be more positive on factional warfare, as it becomes more difficult to finance in a context of economic decline and falling oil prices. Saudi Arabia's activity in Yemen, Russian and Turkish intervention in Syria and Iran's support for militias such as Hezbollah will all be important examples to keep in mind in the coming year. In the midst of this emerging turmoil, tensions and friction between the United States and China in multilateral organizations such as the WHO, the WTO and the UN Security Council are also increasing.
Peace, Militarization and Terrorism
Iceland remains the most peaceful country in the world, a position it has held since 2008, alongside New Zealand, Austria, Portugal and Denmark. Afghanistan remains the least peaceful country, followed by Syria, Iraq and Southern Sudan.
Despite a general decline in peace, more than 100 countries have reduced their military spending since 2008. However, a handful of major powers have reorganized their spending, resulting in 2019 in the largest increase in global military spending in a decade, according to the latest survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The report notes a significant increase in the funding of UN peacekeeping operations, but this improvement in contributions is likely to be short-lived as governments prepare to allocate funds to combat the economic crisis caused by the VIDOC pandemic.19 The report also notes that the United Nations has been able to increase its funding for peacekeeping operations. Declining support for UN peacekeeping operations will make peacebuilding more difficult and could result in a return to proxy wars, the report says.
" In addition, tensions between the United States and China will increase as a result of the economic slowdown. This will undermine the proper functioning of the UN Security Council [even] on issues that were agreed upon in the past. "notes Steve Killelea.
The climate also plays a role
While the number of natural disasters has tripled over the past four decades, the IEP's Environmental Threat Register indicates that 27 % of countries will face catastrophic water stress and 22 % will face food insecurity by 2050.
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" Because of the economic impact of the pandemic, we expect that food security problems in the most fragile countries will undermine the system. This will result, in some places, in increased social unrest that will go hand in hand with conflict. "says Steve Killelea.
The report also indicates that in 2019, an estimated 2.26 billion people will be living in areas with high or high exposure to climate risks, including 1.24 billion in countries with low levels of peace. By 2050, climate change is expected to create up to 143 million migrants worldwide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (86 million), South Asia (40 million) and Latin America (17 million).
Sources: IEP, Euractiv