In the beginning of June several Sri Lankan news sources proudly reported that Sri Lanka has moved up the Global Peace Index (GPI) by 18 places and ranked 97 out of 163 countries. Yet, what does this really mean? Anyone who has done a bit of statistics would find it hard to accept this figure at face value. This article would thus like to decipher this statement and provide some insights into Sri Lanka’s score on the GPI.
How is Peace measured?
Concepts like human development and corruption are subjective and cannot be measured directly. As a result a compendium of social indicators are used to measure them. Similarly, the Institute for Economics and Peace, which compiles the GPI, uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators to create a composite statistic to measure peace (i.e. Global Peace Index). However, it is vital to keep in mind that the indicators DO NOT have equal weight towards the GPI score (e.g. relationships with neighboring countries has more weight than financial contribution to UN peacekeeping). Similarly, one must be cautious of taking the indicators at face value without scrutinising how they are measured and scored.
The scores for the Global Peace Index and the 23 indicators range from 1 to 5, with a lower score indicating greater peace. The Index also compartmentalised these indicators into three domains: the Militarisation capacity of the country, the level of Society and Security within the country, and the level of Domestic & International Conflict. It is also important to keep in mind that the Global Peace Index 2016 data primarily reflects the global developments in 2015. The measurement period for eight indicators is March 2015-March 2016, for four indicators it is 2015, and for the remainder it is from prior to 2015. Therefore, it is important to analyse a country’s score for each indicator only within the period measured.
In 2015, peace dropped a notch
The overall 2016 GPI results showed that the world of 2015 became slightly less peaceful (by 0.53%) compared to 2014, the primary reason being the ongoing conflicts in the MENA region. The data also shows that while 81 countries improved their GPI scores, the scores of 79 countries deteriorated. Iceland was the most peaceful country while Syria was the least.
But Sri Lanka jumped quite few notches up
Sri Lanka had the second largest rank improvement, after Panama. And had the third best score improvement (2.251 to 2.133), after Panama and Thailand. However, Sri Lanka was in fourth place amongst the SAARC countries. Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh had a better ranking. But it is important to note that while Nepal and Bangladesh were higher up in the rankings, their year-on-year level of peace deteriorated.
The report cited the successful presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, which resulted in reversing the authoritarianism of the Rajapaksa administration. The report also highlighted the steps taken to combat corruption, pursue ethnic reconciliation and improving foreign relations as further reasons for the score’s improvement.
Sri Lanka & the indicators
The following seven indicators on the Global Peace Index showed a year-on-year improvement –
Yet four indicators deteriorated –
The indicator for UN peacekeeping funding showed the most significant drop. Yet, it is important to keep in mind that this indicator reflects a nation’s contribution to external peacekeeping operations. As a result would not affect the domestic level of peace. The remaining 12 indicators showed no change. These areas were: level of political violence (4), access to weapons (4), number of police officers (3.5), perception of criminality (3), intensity of internal conflict (3), homicide level (2.198), level of violent crime (2), No. of nuclear and heavy weapons (1.09), deaths from internal conflict (1), weapons export (1), external conflicts fought (1), deaths from external conflicts (1).
Improving on the backs of other countries?
Sri Lanka’s improvement however, should be analysed in relation the change in the scores/positions of other countries. Firstly, even if Sri Lanka had not improved from its score of 2.251, Sri Lanka would have automatically gone up by six places simply because the situation in six countries – Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Guatemala, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan – went from below 2.251 to above 2.251. However, since Sri Lanka’s score improved to 2.133, the position was also affected by a change in position of Angola, Dominican Republic, and Papua New Guinea that moved from below 2.133 to above 2.133. Thus, one can say that out of the 18 places that Sri Lanka improved by, nine of the changes in position were dependent on the scores of the nine countries stated above.
It is also important to note that the Global Peace Index measures Negative Peace. And does not measure Positive Peace, which uses indicators such as judicial independence and freedom of the press. The Institute for Economics and Peace constructs a separate index for Positive Peace. Thus, we can only say that Sri Lanka has advanced in terms of improving negative peace. A separate analysis needs to be conducted on Sri Lanka’s improvement of positive peace.
In summary, while it is commendable that Sri Lanka climbed 18 notches, the improvement in score is more important. And it is always a good idea to have your indexes analysed (at least a little), before drawing conclusions from raw figures.
To continue improving Sri Lanka’s score further, Sri Lanka must continue on the path it has begun. Sri Lanka should strive for ethnic reconciliation and ensure resettle all displaced persons. The adoption of a new constitution that takes into account the various recommendations could also help. Finally, it is the citizens’ responsibility to do their little part in assisting further improvement. Yet, what ever an Index tells, it is ultimately the people who must be able to perceive and enjoy peace.