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Thread: The World’s Most Peaceful Countries

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    Default The World’s Most Peaceful Countries


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    Peace equals prosperity
    In 2005, after traveling through Africa looking for business opportunities, Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea became discouraged. It had become apparent to him that, while there were plenty of ways to measure how violent a country was, there were no such measures of how peaceful a country was. So he decided to create the Global Peace Index.



    Today, the GPI measures 144 nations based on 23 indicators of the existence or absence of peace both within and outside a country’s borders. The indicators use quantitative and qualitative data from the World Bank, various U.N. offices and Peace Institutes, and the Economist Intelligence Unit and are divided into three categories: five measures of ongoing domestic and international conflict, 10 measures of safety and security in society, and eight measures of militarization. Wh


    y is this important? Killelea argues that there is a strong correlation between prosperity and peace. The most peaceful country for 2009? New Zealand. The least? Iraq, not surprisingly.



    Where does the U.S. fit in? Thanks to such factors as its high incarceration and homicide rates, as well as its overseas military operations, it ranks a relatively bellicose 83rd.

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    No. 1
    New Zealand
    GDP per capita: $28,980*
    Life Expectancy: 79.9**
    Mean Years of Schooling: 19.5***
    Unemployment: 4.1%****

    After ranking toward the top in previous surveys by the Global Peace Index, New Zealand earns the title of the most peaceful country in 2009. The small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean is home to only 4 million people, about 80% of whom live in cities. Referring to improved relations between indigenous Maori peoples and European settlers, GPI founder Steve Killelea says New Zealand provides an example of an ability "to bridge an ethnic divide and have a peaceful nation."

    *Nominal gross domestic product (US$) per capita. Source: EIU; Year: 2008
    **Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators; Year: 2006
    *** School life expectancy (years), primary to tertiary. Source: UNESCO; Year: 2005 and earlier years depending on availability
    ****Source: EIU; Year: 2008

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    No. 2 (Tie)
    Denmark
    GDP per capita: $62,140
    Life Expectancy: 78.1
    Mean Years of Schooling: 16.7
    Unemployment: 1.8%

    Denmark is the second-most peaceful nation for the second year in a row, sharing its spot with neighboring Norway. Like all Scandinavian countries, Denmark enjoys good foreign relations and has low levels of crime, weapons possession, and organized conflict within and outside its borders. A member of NATO, Denmark had 500 troops in Iraq from June 2003 until their withdrawal in August 2007.

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    No. 2 (Tie)
    Norway
    GDP per capita: $93,759
    Life Expectancy: 80.3
    Mean Years of Schooling: 17.5
    Unemployment: 2.6%

    Sharing second place with Denmark, Norway’s economy is rich with natural resources; oil and gas reserves discovered in the 1960s make it the third-largest gas exporter and seventh-largest oil exporter, according to the The World Factbook published by the CIA. T


    he Norwegian government provides its citizens with a vast safety net of social welfare programs such as universal health care, and received maximum 10 scores for a highly clean electoral process, political participation, and civil liberties. The country’s participation in external conflict continues to be limited to peacekeeping, and it has been reducing its military resources since 2002.

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    No. 4
    Iceland
    GDP per capita: $52,390
    Life Expectancy: 81.2
    Mean Years of Schooling: 18.2
    Unemployment: 1.6%

    Badly hurt by the global economic downturn in the fall of 2008, Iceland drops three places from its No. 1 spot last year. The investment banking industry, which fueled a ninefold rise in the country's stock market from 2003 to 2007 (U.S. market doubled in the same period), has since collapsed. Although violent demonstrations resulted in some injuries, but no deaths, and the coalition government collapsed in January 2009, GPI’s Killelea says Iceland’s ability to remain at the top of the list shows that it is "a good example of how peaceful nations are more resilient and able to rebound than countries that are more fragile and likely to crack under stress."

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    No. 5
    Austria
    GDP per capita: $49,720
    Life Expectancy: 79.8
    Mean Years of Schooling: 15.3
    Unemployment: 3.8%

    Neutral since 1955, this small mountainous country rose five places this year to claim the top spot for a non-Scandinavian European country. While Austria’s military expenditure as a percentage of GDP is one of the lowest in the world, it has sent troops on peacekeeping missions in Serbia and Afghanistan. Minimal crime and civil unrest complement good relations with neighboring countries. Austria’s score for its respect for human rights, while still good, is the worst of any country in the top 10. In July 2008, its grand coalition government folded after just 18 months in office.

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    No. 6
    Sweden
    GDP per capita: $51,943
    Life Expectancy: 80.8
    Mean Years of Schooling: 15.8
    Unemployment: 6.2%

    Sweden boasts one of the lowest levels of incarceration in the world and received perfect scores for a highly clean electoral process, functioning of government, political participation, and civil liberties. Yet its rank was hurt by its role as a heavy supplier of major conventional weapons—it’s one of the highest such suppliers in the world per capita. This European Union-member nation has not engaged in any war in almost two centuries, according to the CIA's World Factbook, but in recent years has committed peacekeeping troops to U.N. efforts in Afghanistan, Chad, the Balkans, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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    No. 7
    Japan
    GDP per capita: 38,580
    Life Expectancy: 82.3
    Mean Years of Schooling: 15
    Unemployment: 4%

    With the third-largest economy after the U.S. and China, Japan is down two places from last year in the Global Peace Index. The California-sized cluster of islands in the North Pacific Ocean is home to about 127 million people, who enjoy some of the world’s lowest crime and homicide rates and are banned from possessing firearms. Japan is a major exporter of fish but has no natural energy resources to speak of, making it the world's largest importer of coal and liquefied natural gas and the second-largest importer of oil, according to the World Factbook.

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    '


    No. 8
    Canada
    GDP per capita: $45,220
    Life Expectancy: 80.4
    Mean Years of Schooling: 16.9
    Unemployment: 6.2%

    Canada’s internal safety and security levels are similar to the Scandinavian countries, and it jumped three spots to No. 8 this year thanks to an improvement in its respect for human rights. Conservative political leaders won approval from Parliament in 2008 to continue the country's mission in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. As of April 2009, 116 troops of Canada's more than 2,500-member force have been killed in Afghanistan.

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    No. 9 (Tie)
    Finland
    GDP per capita: $51,703
    Life Expectancy: 79.2
    Mean Years of Schooling: 17.2
    Unemployment: 6.4%

    Finland enjoys strong political stability and low levels of violent crime, although its homicide rate is slightly higher than its Scandinavian neighbors'. The Finnish government has adopted a policy of strategic nonalignment since the end of the Cold War and has remained neutral to the conflict in Iraq. Finland is not a member of NATO but has sent troops to help peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan, with 80 currently on duty there.

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    No. 9
    Slovenia
    GDP per capita: $27,270
    Life Expectancy: 77.7
    Mean Years of Schooling: 16.7
    Unemployment: 6.7%

    Slovenia is the first Baltic state on the list, thanks to its low levels of violent crime, homicides, and incarcerations. Relations with neighboring states are good, with the exception of an ongoing disagreement with Croatia over maritime borders. Slovenia has 70 soldiers in Afghanistan and 350 in Kosovo as part of NATO and U.N. peacekeeping missions.

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    No. 11
    Czech Republic
    GDP per capita: $21,240
    Life Expectancy: 77.7
    Mean Years of Schooling: 15
    Unemployment: 5.4%

    Deemed "one of the most stable and prosperous of the post-Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe" by the CIA's World Factbook, the Czech Republic joined the European Union in 2004 and is slated to adopt the euro in 2012. It has low levels of organized crime and perceptions of criminality in society. The country has good relations with neighboring states, with the exception of a dispute over a nuclear plant near the Austrian border. Nearly 1 million Austrians signed a petition in January 2008 opposing the plant.

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    No. 12
    Ireland
    GDP per capita: $66,460
    Life Expectancy: 79.4
    Mean Years of Schooling: 17.6
    Unemployment: 6.1%

    Ireland dropped seven places this year to No. 12. While low, levels in the country of organized crime, perceptions of criminality in society, and ease of access to weapons of minor destruction are higher than countries that come before it on the list. Homicide and incarceration rates remain low and the country received the maximum score for civil liberties. Ireland has been hit hard by the global economic downturn, in part because property prices that rose faster there from 1996 to 2006 than in any other developed world economy, according to the World Factbook.

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    No. 13
    Luxembourg
    GDP per capita: $116,810
    Life Expectancy: 79.2
    Mean Years of Schooling: 13.5
    Unemployment: 4.5%

    Sandwiched between France, Germany, and Belgium, this tiny country of less than 500,000 people enjoys one of the highest levels of GDP per capita in the world, with a violent crime rate just slightly higher than its low homicide rate. Despite the global downturn, Luxembourg’s economy, fueled by a financial sector dominated by foreign activity and diversified industrial production, fared better than its European neighbors and is on track toward growth in 2009. Luxembourg was one of the six founding member countries in 1957 of the European Economic Community, which later became the European Union.

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