Crossroads (Toward Philippine economic and social progress)
Philippine Star, 2 August 2017


Since 2007, a “Global Peace Index” has been estimated annually to compare the tendency of nation-states toward peace.

The Global Peace Index, a brainchild of the non-profit private Institute for Economics and Peace, was developed with the help of international experts from peace institutes and other inter-governmental institutions.

By focusing on the study of peace and its metrics, the GPI provides a data-driven effort to analyze developments concerning the trends in peace, to measure the economic dividends derived from having peace, and to suggest ways to improve the institutions and structures that support peace.

Its work in putting out the index has earned the endorsement of prestigious international organizations, including the United Nations, and prominent international persons and leaders who are working for world peace.

The initial GPI annual reports scored 129 countries for the peace index. The coverage of countries today provides scores for 163 countries.

The GPI report explores three broad themes that help to define the peace score: the presence of domestic and external conflicts, the degree of safety and security in society, and, finally, the degree of militarization.

The peace index is, in fact, a composite measurement that includes many more social, economic and political influences. A large data base of over 4,000 variables along these lines was built.

The economic indicators employed in World Bank studies of countries find their use in the preparation of the peace index. So are other indexes widely employed for specific purposes, such as those on human development, on the measurement of corruption perceptions, on doing business.

Yet many aspects of peace variables have been turned into indexes, or quantifiable measures of perceptions and attitudes that are converted into numerical scores.

There is, thus, some warning to the keen consumer of information. Though we get quantified metrics from the conversion of many social and political scores based on the conversion of these social indicators and perception surveys, they are, by and large, based on perceptions. Perceptions are opinions based on impressions of the moment, by those who make the score. They are qualitative and subjective.

When we have measures built on a mountain of perceptions, we also repeat the perceptions that have been made in other studies, which tend to convey less than the full statements of true facts.

The 2017 Peace index. According to the 2017 Peace Index, which was measured across 163 countries, the most peaceful country is Iceland, followed by New Zealand. The most peaceful countries also include, at the top of the rankings, Portugal, Austria and Denmark.

On the other hand, the least peaceful country is Syria, a country devastated by a long and continuing civil war. It is preceded by the following countries, all of which have had long-standing civil wars. Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.

The two most peaceful countries at the top of the list are very isolated island countries and have a relatively homogeneous population. The other countries in the most peaceful list are likewise small states. They are part of continental Europe, a region with high peace scores.

The rankings of countries in their peace scores vary from year to year, although these have not been drastic for most of the countries. Changes in the ranks of countries also have a large impact on the performance of the regions that they come from.

The report also classifies the countries into nine regions of the world, following usual conventions. In each region, the countries are also ranked and their relative change in position also noted.

The Middle East and North Africa region is the region with the least peace. This is not a surprise since the long civil wars in Syria and Iraq and the other least peaceful countries belong to this region. Volatility and instability infects the neighboring countries easily.

North America –composed only of the US and Canada – showed a large drop in its peace rating. The reason for this big change is attributed to the remarkable political division observed during the last presidential elections and to new perceptions on the growth of criminality and lawlessness.

According to the report, violence has hurt the 10 least peaceful countries to the extent of 37 percent of GDP, compared to only three percent in the case of the most peaceful countries. Costs associated with violence in war-driven countries are appallingly high.

The economic cost of violence on the world’s total output is also high, at 12.6 percent of GDP. These are very high losses that could better be used if there were no conflicts.

Philippine rating in the Global Peace Index. Of the 19 countries in the Asia Pacific region, the Philippines has the second lowest rank in peacefulness, below North Korea which is ranked the least peaceful.

Among all the 163 countries, the Philippines is ranked 138. For perspective, India is ranked just one notch above, at 137. Despite this low ranking, however, it has remained relatively stable in this low rank over a long time. Though the raw score has worsened over the previous year, the country’s rank has not been far off from this rank in previous years.

Let me quote the peace report for 2017:  “The Philippines’ overall score has deteriorated since new President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016. A bloody war against drugs and crime has been extended nationwide, and is reflected in a deterioration of the country’s societal safety and security indicators. The Philippine homicide rate, incarceration rate and a number of deaths from internal conflict have all deteriorated. The extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals, drug mules and users has significantly increased security risks, even for ordinary citizens who could potentially get caught in the crossfire.”

The full quote is all that the report makes, while commenting directly on the Philippine situation. When he burst into the scene as president, Duterte opened up with rhetoric so shocking that he gained a strong line of immediate enemies.

Though the point of view of the report deserves respect concerning societal safety, another side of the story needs more hearing internationally.

How do we explain the fact that Duterte’s program against illegal drugs might have led to his high popularity rating in the country based on recent opinion surveys? Some of that is the feeling of greater safety that the people expect from the reduction of crime against person or property that would result from the war on illegal drugs in the street.


Reference: The Global Peace Index 2017, Institute for Economics and Peace