The US declined the most in an annual study of global peace that cites political turbulence, deteriorating press freedom, a public perception of increasing crime and corruption, and less acceptance of Muslims and other minorities.
The US dropped 11 places to the 114th most-peaceful country out of 163 in this year’s Global Peace Index published by the Sydney-based Institute of Economics and Peace, which also has offices in New York, The Hague and Mexico City.
“We’ve seen a political fracture in the US that isn’t a reflection of the election of President Donald Trump, but is represented by both sides of the political divide seeing the other as a danger to the nation,” institute founder Steve Killelea said in an interview.
Despite the declining US score, terror attacks in Europe and conflicts in the Middle East, the world is actually becoming more peaceful, according to the study, with 93 countries listed as improving in this year’s study, while 68 deteriorated.
Among the world’s nine regions, six improved, notably South America and Asia.
“Contrary to what it may appear, there has been an increase in peace,” Killelea said. “There are some truly disturbing pockets, but the outlook is not all negative.”
France and Sweden recorded increases in terrorist deaths, with France falling five places in the rankings to 51.
The May 22 Manchester suicide attack was not reflected in this year’s index.
The index uses 23 criteria covering conflicts, domestic violence, violent crime, economic stability, human rights, level of militarization and weapons imports, as well as refugee tallies and the number killed in internal conflict.
The institute uses a 1 to 5 scoring system for each indicator, with a high score indicating a low level of peacefulness.
Iceland remained the most peaceful country in the world, with a total score of 1.111, with New Zealand and Portugal replacing Denmark and Austria in second and third place with 1.241 and 1.258 respectively.
Taiwan moved up one spot in the global rankings to 40 with a score of 1.782, one place ahead of the UK, while China moved up three spots to 116.
In the Asia-Pacific rankings, Taiwan was in sixth place, behind New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. China was ranked in 16th place, while North Korea was in last place at No. 19.
Syria was the least peaceful country overall for the fifth consecutive year, with Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen rounding out the bottom five.
The global economic impact of violence totaled US$14.3 trillion, or 12.6 percent of world GDP, a per-capita decline of 3 percent compared with last year, according to the report.
Killelea said the cost is 100 times what the world’s countries spend on peacekeeping operations.
Additional reporting by staff writer and agencies
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