For many years now, the level of conflict around the globe has been on the decline. This fact, however, often surprises many people used to consuming the endlessly negative news cycle, which seems to indicate that the world is a dangerous and unstable place.
Granted, we still live in a world where conflict flares up from time to time, but the overall trend is one of decline. The world has actually been getting a lot more peaceful according to the raw data.
The Global Peace Index Says That The Middle East Is Getting Safer
If you follow Middle East news, then you’re used to the idea of conflict. In 2003 there was the US invasion of Afghanistan followed two years later by coalition forces invading Iraq because of alleged weapons of mass destruction. Then there was the ongoing civil war in Syria, a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, not to mention unrest in Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen.
All of this together makes the world seem like a dangerous place with constant ongoing wars. But the truth is that there has been a continual war somewhere on Earth and that today’s wars, however horrible, are less widespread than they were in the past.
What’s Driving The Reduction In Global Conflict?
Several factors are driving the trend towards lower conflict. Perhaps the most powerful is the rise of democracy, not just in the West, but all over the world. There are more democracies today than in history, and that number continues to grow with each passing decade. The era of authoritarian governments appears to be coming to an end, and with it, the ability of elites to wage wars.
The renowned development economist Amartya Sen made the observation many years ago that no two democracies have ever gone to war. His view holds to this day, making it much less likely that we’ll see armed conflict in the future. It’s almost impossible today, under the current political setup, to imagine two democratic countries, say New Zealand and Canada, going to war for any reason.
Another factor that’s driving the reduction in military conflict is the fall in population displacement. Despite the news from Sudan and the displacement in Syria, the total number of people worldwide forced to become refugees is on the decline.
What Are The Most Peaceful Countries In The World?
The Institute for Economics and Peace compiles the list of the most peaceful countries in the world, a New York think tank. It ranks countries based on their level of military spending, the number of refugees, the level of internal and eternal conflict, and the export of weapons.
According to their metrics, the most peaceful place in the world is Iceland, an island nation of a little over 300,000 people. The next most peaceful place is New Zealand, followed by Canada, Japan and parts of Western Europe. The least peaceful places are those that you hear about regularly in the news: Sudan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.