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If you don't measure peace, how can you understand it? Reflections on the Global Peace Index

Craig Zelizer

June 15, 2016


Today I am pleased to be attending the Future of Peace Summit. The event is convened by the Diplomatic Courier and the Institute for Economics for Peace (IEP). Both institutions are celebrating a decade of contributing to critical reflection, research, journalism and engagement on global issues.

PCDN is proud to be one of the organizations that has helped promote the event, along with nearly 20 others (see globapeacesplashthat.com). The event is also being livestreamed all day today.

For those who may not know the Institute for Economics & Peace Global was launched by entrepreneur and founder Steve Killelea. He launched the Institute to change the paradigm of only focusing on violence and conflict in the world, to begin and advance understanding what are the most peaceful places in the world. As Chic Dambach, former CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, said in introducing the morning, if you want to win an a gold medal in the Olympics would you study the top performer or the person come in last? The same applies to understanding peace, how can we identify the most peaceful countries in the world and learn from them rather than  focusing on the most conflicted countries. IEP launched the Global Peace Index a decade ago to begin exploring this issue.

In his opening remarks, Killelea reflected about 11 years ago being in the Democratic Republic of The Congo in the conflict affected area of Kivu wondering what is the most peaceful world in the nation and realizing that no one was doing this. As he explained if we cannot measure peace, how can we understand it?

One of the achievements of the work of IEP and launching the Global Peace Index a decade ago to make peace a more evidence based concept based on real data.  IEP through creating a measurement of peace and the economic costs of conflict and benefits of peace, has helped to elevate the concept and practice of peace.

Killelea stressed in trying to facilitate and advance positive peace one of the most important factors is to use a system approach and not simply look at cause and effect.

Unfortunately this year global peace has dropped 2.4 % this year. But Killelea stressed despite the horrific numbers frequently cited in the press such as 80% increase in terrorism, a historic number of displaced people, there are also many positive things about a more peaceful world that aren't being reported. While he acknowledged the suffering taking place particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, in many other regions peace is increasing. For every country that has declined in peace over the past decade in the Global Peace Index, three have improved their ranking. While still much too small, funding for peacekeeping and peacebuilding is increasing. The media missing out on these positive stories.

Congressman John Garamendi, during his comments in the morning, talked about the wonderful impact of the Global Peace Index. How the project has helped to influence policy debate around the world and raise the concept and importance of peace. However, he  also cautioned that the world still faces many challenges. For example he stressed the health of the planet will have an increasingly negative impact and generate more conflict (unless we take action). He also warned that the US is in the process of spending a trillion dollars on advancing its nuclear capabilities and this will likely lead to a new and dangerous arms race. Each country working on modernizing their nuclear weapons says we need to advance our nuclear capacity because other countries are doing this. He urged the US and the world to work more on negotiation and engagement and be careful of entering another endless arms spiral.

In ending his talk, the Congressman thanked Steve and the IEP team for developing indicators to help the world measure peace. To aid the world in understanding how we live peacefully together or not. The Congressman asked the audience to do one thing beyond listening and learning and take a determination to go out into your life to work for peace, wherever it may be, whatever you may be doing. He urged us to say today I can do.......encourage the university of XYZ to establish a working relationship with another country, or to understand what is potentially being spent on weapons, to find the right action for you.


What are you doing to advance peace today?



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