In the final installment in our series on the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index we turn to the concept of Positive Peace. Negative peace is the absence of violence and fear of violence. Positive Peace is the attitudes, institutions, and structures that develop and maintain peaceful communities. Attitudes are the norms, beliefs, and relationships within a society that influences how citizens interact and cooperate. Institutions are formal bodies, including government bodies, corporations, industry associations and labor unions, that may be responsible for or shape society through, for example, education or law. Structures can be formal or informal rules–like tax law or a queuing protocol–that create a code of conduct that a community follows and upon which citizens form views on morality and appropriate behavior. When attitudes make violence less tolerated, when institutions are responsive to society’s needs, and when structures establish nonviolent modes of conflict resolution, a community achieves high levels of Positive Peace. Those high levels of Positive Peace represent a society’s ability to address the needs of its citizens, satisfy their grievances, and resolve conflicts without violence.
The image above shows the eight factors that contribute to the existence of, or lack of, Positive Peace.
There were improvements in the global levels of positive peace from 2005 until 2013, at which point it plateaued before a deterioration began in 2016. The regions that experienced the worst deteriorations were the Middle East and Northern Africa, followed by South America.
Increased social and political tensions have led to an increase in violent incidents. This can be seen in the U.K. which, since the beginning of Brexit, has seen a spike in violent assaults on immigrants. In the United States, the rise of far-right groups and concerns over police brutality have been central in heightening tensions that gave rise to violent clashes in several cities.
Indicators that Peace will Improve or Deteriorate
Increasing Positive Peace scores are a definite indicator of soon to come improvement of GPI scores. The Institute for Economics and Peace discovered a strong connection between past improvements in Positive Peace scores and subsequent improvements in overall peacefulness scores. The countries that had the highest improvements in terms of negative peace scores since 2013 had, for several years prior to their improvement in the GPI, shown sustained improvements in their Positive Peace scores. Of 20 countries that moved up the GPI ranking, 14 of them first showed improvements in terms of Positive Peace factors from 2007 to 2014.
The report shows that there are certain indicators that are more important to watch, as change in that area, more often than in others, precedes an improvement or deterioration. Generally, improvements in peacefulness follow prior economic growth and improvement, while deteriorations in peacefulness are usually foreshadowed by deteriorations of Positive Peace indicators that are political in nature. Sound Business Environment, High Levels of Human Capital, Free Flow of Information, and Well-Functioning Government are the pillars of Positive Peace that are most important to watch for improvements, as they seem to closely predict future improvements in internal peace. Peru experienced one of the highest improvements in Positive Peace since 2013, likely connected to the fact that the state has had one of the fastest growing economies in the region for the past decade. In Peru, the percentage of people living below the poverty line has reduced from 49.9% of the population in 2004 to 26.1% of the population in 2013.
Meanwhile, Low Levels of Corruption, Acceptance of the Rights of Others, and Well Functioning Government are the pillars that usually show deteriorations before the largest deteriorations of internal peace. Warning signs come not only in the shape of deteriorating Positive Peace indicators, but also in uneven improvements in Positive Peace Pillars. Syria, Yemen, and Libya experienced the worst deteriorations in peacefulness following the Arab Spring uprisings. Before these deteriorations in overall peacefulness, these states not only exhibited deteriorations in key Positive Peace pillars, but showed uneven improvements in other pillars. While they improved in the Sound Business Environment Pillar, deteriorations of Low Levels of Corruption and Acceptance of the Rights of Others created a bad combination of increasing individual aspirations and an inability to exercise agency to achieve these aspirations. Furthermore, deterioration in the Good Relations with Neighbors pillar resulted in outside interference compounding the issue.
Applying this Data
This data teaches us what signs of success or failure to look out for when implementing peace building and economic development plans in less peaceful countries. Seeing improvements or deteriorations in key indicators will tell us what kind of programs succeed and which don’t. Furthermore, being informed about which indicators usually deteriorate before a society becomes less peaceful gives us an ability to look out for warning signs before the country becomes more violent. At which point we could attempt to intervene and course correct before the society reverts to violence to resolve its conflicts. By studying peace, we can end violence.
By discovering not only what causes violence, but what leads to conflict resolution and stable peace, we are able to develop tools and strategies for achieving peaceful societies. The more countries that achieve higher positive peace scores, the more trust and cooperation will be possible at the global level–meaning global issues can be dealt with peacefully.
This was WOVEN’s fourth and final blog post on the Global Peace Index. We’re on a mission to end violence in our lifetime. Tools like the GPI are crucial to helping us understand the nature of the violence in our world, as well as the success of various strategies to overcome violence.