How does Northern Ireland measure up to the Pillars of Positive Peace? #GlobalPeace18

The 2018 Global Peace Index was launched in Queen’s University Belfast’s Riddel Hall with a speech by Steve Killelea, the founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace, and a conversation chaired by QUB’s Enda Young about the relevance of the Positive Peace framework for Northern Ireland.

The Global Peace Index is published annually [PDF] by the Institute which develops metrics to analyse peace and quantify its economic value. This year’s index has already had similar launches at the UN headquarters in New York and The Hague. [Ed – Bet the traybakes were best in Belfast]

According to the 2018 report, the world is less peaceful than at any time in the last decade. As measured by the Global Peace Index (GPI), peace has declined year on year for the last four years (and for eight of the last ten years). 71 countries became more peaceful, while in 92 the measure of peacefulness deteriorated.

The GPI covers 163 countries with 23 different peace indicators across three domains (6 for ongoing conflict, 10 for internal safety and security, and 7 for militarisation). Political terror and the intensity of internal conflict are driving the deterioration. The impact of terrorism peaked in 2014 and has been dropping ever since.

Most recently, the largest most negative changes – while still small – are happening in the most peaceful regions. Syria remains the world’s least peaceful region. Qatar and the Democratic Republic of Congo had the largest deteriorations. Iceland is the most peaceful country (again!) while The Gambia and Liberia had the largest improvements.

Ireland has jumped two places into the top ten most peaceful countries. Spain dropped ten places to be 30th most peaceful on the back of unrest in Catalonia. The United Kingdom dropped six places to 57 in this latest report.

The report suggests a clear link between economic growth (measured through per capita GDP) and the level of peace in a region. The report explains:

“Peacefulness has a considerable impact on macroeconomic performance. In the last 70 years, per capita growth has been three times higher in highly peaceful countries when compared to countries with low levels of peace. The difference is even stronger when looking at changes in peacefulness, with the report finding that per capita GDP growth has been seven times higher over the last decade in countries that improved in peacefulness versus those that deteriorated.”

That was echoed by Belfast’s Lord Mayor in her introductory comments.

“Peace examined through the economic lens provides a broader view,” said Councillor Deirdre Hargey as she described the local link between peace and economic growth. Reminding the audience of the structural containment of The Markets area she grew up in, she also spoke of the City Council priorities that seek to address economic inequalities across the city – as well as the City Deal being developed with the five surrounding councils – to bring broader economic prosperity.

Years of annual analysis has allowed the Institute to build up a Positive Peace framework. Their research suggests that a large number of Positive Peace indicators need to improve before a country will see improvements in its Global Peace Index score. However, only a few key indicators of Positive Peace need to deteriorate in order to trigger increases in violence.

Killelea says that countries should aim to “nudge” up their metrics. “If you try to radically transform society you can break it” – which has been the experience of indigenous communities in the US, Australia and Tibet.

The report and the research behind it backs up the hunches and rhetoric often espoused by local politicians.

“Peacefulness is also correlated with strong performance on a number of macroeconomic variables. Interest rates are lower and more stable in highly peaceful countries, as is the rate of inflation. Foreign direct investment is more than twice as high in highly peaceful countries.”

Northern Ireland has its (nearly) annual Peace Monitoring Report, which takes a qualitative rather than quantitative approach and discusses many of the basic peace indicators that GPI rely on as well as further dimensions of equality, cohesion and sharing, and political progress.

The GPI’s eight Pillars of Positive Peace should give local legislators food for thought [Ed – plenty of time for that at the moment] as well as civil servants and councillors as they try to deliver the prosperity that is at the core of most party election manifestos.

Yet the lesson is that delivering prosperity needs to go hand in hand with a reduction in deprivation and social inequality, improvement in good relations, and a well-functioning government. Is Northern Ireland running in the wrong direction?

The launch was a collaboration between the William J. Clinton Leadership Institute and the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace Security and Justice in partnership with Belfast City Council.