Middle East Violence Mars Improving World Peace Outlook

  • Syria and region the nexus for terrorism, war and refugees
  • Iceland stays most peaceful place on earth; U.S. ranks at 103

Syrians gather at the site of a double car bomb attack in the Al-Zahraa neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs on February 21, 2016.

Photographer: Stringer/AFP via Getty Images

Violence in the Middle East increased last year, while the rest of the world largely got safer, underscoring a “global inequality in peace,” according to an annual study.

The economic cost of violence in 2015 was $13.6 trillion, or 13.3 percent of world gross domestic product, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index. That’s 11 times the size of global foreign investment.

“If you take the Middle East out of the equation, the world has become more peaceful,” Steve Killelea, the institute’s founder, said in an interview. “Whether it’s terrorism, war casualties or refugees, the nexus is in the Middle East.”

Iceland was again the safest country in the world, followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand and Portugal. Syria was the least peaceful, followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. The five countries whose scores worsened the most last year were Yemen, Ukraine, Turkey, Libya and Bahrain. The five that improved the most were Panama, Thailand, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Mauritania.

Among large countries, the U.S. was the 103rd-most peaceful out of 163. Japan was ninth, Germany was 16th and Britain was 47th. In spite of last year’s terror attacks, France dropped only one place to 46th.

The index is based on 23 indicators that cover the level of safety in society, the extent of involvement in conflict and the degree of militarization.

“Terrorism is also at an all-time high, battle deaths from conflict are at a 25-year high, and the number of refugees and displaced people are at a level not seen in 60 years,” according to the report. “Notably, the sources for these three dynamics are intertwined and driven by a small number of countries.”