Sunday, June 19, 2011

Can peace be measured?

For centuries, it has been considered that peace is just the absence of war. In fact, most current dictionaries provide this same definition. But little by little we came to understand that the peacefulness enjoyed in Finland is not the same as the peacefulness in Ethiopia or Haiti, just to set two examples, because there are countries with “more peace” than others. Therefore, peace is not just the absence of conflicts but also the values, attitudes and behaviours by which societies solve problems, renouncing to any kind of violence. 
Since 2007, some peace institutes and think tanks, in collaboration with the University of Sydney and the English weekly newspaper The Economist, draw a list (the Global Peace Index) ranking countries according to their level of peacefulness. This index takes into account 24 factors: the first is the absence of internal or external armed conflicts, but it also includes such issues as its relations with its neighbouring countries, the level of distrust among citizens, its political instability, the number of homicides or jailed persons, its military expenditure in relation to its GDP, or the ease of access to arms, just to name a few. According to this index, in 2011 the most peaceful countries were Iceland, New Zealand, Japan, Denmark and the Czech Republic, and the least peaceful countries were Northern Korea, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq and Somalia. Spain ranks number 28 out of 153 listed countries, after Hungary and Taiwan and before France and the United States, which is ranked as number 82.
Therefore, we can reach three very interesting conclusions:
- Peacefulness is directly linked to income, education and regional integration levels.
- In the most peaceful countries, transparency levels are very high and corruption levels are very low.
- Small, stable countries belonging to regional blocks have higher marks.
We are making good progress towards a new culture of peace, but we are still far from ending up with violent conflicts. And in this enterprise, we should take into account Gandhi’s words: “There is no road towards peace; peace is the road”.


  1. Dictionary definition of “peace":
  2. Global Peace Index web site:
  3. 2011 report:


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