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Top 10 Safest and Most Dangerous Countries in the World

The Global Peace Index was released for 2012 recently, and it’s surprising in some ways, and totally expected in others. Nations were rated for safety, based on a wide range of factors, including: homicides, violent crimes, violent demonstrations, police activity, perceived criminality in society, political instability, weapons importing/exporting and access, terrorist activity, neihgbouring country relations, and deaths from conflicts. Those were just some of the major indicates, but there were even more minor indicators that were also considered, such as freedom of press, gender inequality, adult literacy rate, hostility to foreigners, unemployment, life expectancy, and infant mortality.

The index was produced by the Australia and U.S.-based Institute for Economics and Peace. And it looks like, for the first time, sub-Saharan Africa isn’t the world’s least peaceful region at the moment. Now North Africa and the Middle East are, thanks to the Arab Spring.

The full list is here, but I have a shortened list below. The countries also have their 2011 ranking in parentheses.


Top 10 Peaceful Nations

1) Iceland (Same as 2011)

2) New Zealand (Same as 2011; now tied with Denmark)

2) Denmark (↑ from 4)

4) Canada (↑ from 8)

5) Japan (↓ from 3)

6) Austria (Same as 2011; now tied with Ireland)

6) Ireland (↑ from 11)

8) Slovenia (↑ from 10)

9) Finland (↓ from 7)

10) Switzerland (↑ from 16)


Other Notable Countries

12) Qatar (Same as 2011)

14) Sweden (↓ from 13)

18) Norway (↓ from 9)

22) Australia (↓ from 18)

25) Spain (↑ from 28)

29) UK (↓ from 26)

42) South Korea (↑ from 50)

83) Brazil (↓ from 74)

88) U.S. (↓ from 82)

89) China (↓ from 80)

135) Mexico (↓ from 121)

142) India (↓ from 135)


Bottom 10

149) Pakistan  (↓ from 146)

150) Israel (↓ from 145)

151) Central African Republic (↓ from 144)

152) North Korea (↓ from 149)

153) Russia (↓ from 147)

154) Democratic Republic of Congo (↓ from 148)

155) Iraq (↓ from 152)

156) Sudan (↓ from 151)

157) Afghanistan (↓ from 150)

158) Somalia (↓ from 153)


What the Rankings Mean

It’s no surprise that Iceland and New Zealand ranked high (1st and 2nd, respectively). Both countries have good education; Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world, and New Zealand is the friendliest and least-corrupt country in the world, not to mention one of the most generous and prosperous. Obviously these kinds of distinctions correlate with some seriously good living conditions.

Canada also ranked very high (#4) with a big leap from 8th place in 2011, because of the reduction in casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan. And perhaps Japan’s rank fell from #3 last year to #5 because of an impending sense of death that looms over Tokyo, as a massive quake is slated to hit within the next few years. Scientists don’t know where or when, but they know what places are at the greatest risk, and that there’s a 70% chance that it’ll occur by 2016.

Last year’s “Arab Spring” brought the global peace numbers down, and the year before was plagued by economic issues that made the world more tumultuous. Syria has gotten progressively more dangerous every year since the index was started, ranking #77 in 2007 to 147 this year. However, according to Steve Killelea – the Australian entrepreneur who created the first index six years ago – this is the first in three years that the world  as a whole has become more peaceful.

The improvement in relation with the states and a greater reluctance to resort to war is very profound, particularly in Africa. You’ve seen a very significant reduction in conflict [. . .] When I first went to Uganda 15 years or so ago, for example, they were fighting four wars. Now they are fighting none.

International relations are, on average, more diplomatic now and less martial. Military spending is also falling, though the global economic crisis probably has something to do with that.

So perhaps we should say that this index indicates that the world is gradually changing for the better; but we still have a long way to go before we can claim to realize the perhaps naive dream of world peace.

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