Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

U.S. Biggest Decliner in World Peace Study, Asia Advances

  • American political divide cited in institute’s annual survey
  • South America, Asia showed peace gains last year in study

The U.S. 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 minorities.

The U.S. dropped 11 places to the 114th most-peaceful country out of 161 in the index published by The Institute of Economics and Peace, which has offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, and Mexico City. The index uses 23 criteria to cover conflicts, domestic violence, crime, human rights, and economic stability.

“We’ve seen a political fracture in the U.S. 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,” Steve Killelea, the institute’s founder, said in an interview.

Despite the declining U.S. 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 isn’t reflected in this year’s index.

Iceland remained the most peaceful country in the world, with New Zealand and Portugal replacing Denmark and Austria in second and third place. Syria was the least peaceful country for the fifth consecutive year, with Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen rounding out the bottom five. Saudi Arabia declined because of its involvement in regional conflicts.

The global economic impact of violence totaled $14.3 trillion, or 12.6 percent of world gross domestic product, a per-capita decline of 3 percent compared with 2016, according to the report. Killelea said the cost is 100 times what the world’s countries spend on peacekeeping operations.

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