Syria remains the world’s least peaceful country, followed by Iraq and Afghanistan. The burgeoning regional influence of ISIL, the Sunni jihadist group, was an important factor behind the worsening scores in particular in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and Syria. ISIL made significant territorial gains across western and northern Iraq in 2014, adding to its presence in Syria, which remains locked in a bloody stalemate between government forces loyal to the president, Bashar al-Assad, and numerous rebel groups fighting against it.
At the number 2 position in the world’s most dangerous countries in Iraq with a ranking of 161. Since the start of the Iraq war, the Middle East has been descending into deeper levels of violence. The conflict in Iraq deteriorated significantly in 2014, with the number of fatalities more than doubling from 8,256 in 2013 to 18,489 in 2014 and the indicator for intensity of internal conflict reaching the worst possible score.
ISIL made significant territorial gains across western and northern Iraq in 2014. A third of people displaced by conflict inside their own countries in 2014 are in Iraq and Syria alone. Iraq is among the countries that experienced the most marked increase in death toll in the Middle East.
The most substantial change in the index was recorded for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) which now ranks as the most violent region, overtaking South Asia (which includes Afghanistan) from last year’s GPI.
Against the backdrop of the withdrawal of most international forces from Afghanistan, the number of deaths from internal conflict in the country rose last year in tandem with an increase in political terror.
4. South Sudan
South Sudan’s ranking declined by only three places, but this was on top of by far the sharpest fall in the 2014 GPI. It remains embroiled in the civil conflict that broke out in December 2013, and which has thus far proved immune to numerous peace efforts. South Sudan also fell for its third consecutive year, slipping a further 3 places to 159. The country remains embroiled in a civil conflict between forces loyal to the president, Salva Kiir, and those fighting on behalf of his former deputy, Riek Machar. Faced with a protracted conflict, the government has increased military expenditure, and increased the number of armed service personnel, leading to deteriorations in these scores. At the same time, tensions remain high with Sudan.
5. Central African Republic
In 2008, there were only three countries in the GPI that had a score worse than 3.0 (Somalia, Iraq and Sudan) and no countries had a score worse than 3.5. However, in 2015 there were nine countries with scores greater than 3.0 including Central African Republic. This demonstrates how the least peaceful countries accounted for the majority of the fall in peacefulness.
The Somalian government has been unable to keep control of the entirety of its nation, meaning insurgent groups have been able to travel and trade weaponry. The majority of Somalia’s costs in violence containment stem from IDPs and refugees and homicides. Refugee and IDP populations alone account for 54 per cent of Somalia’s total costs.
People gather to look at vehicles and weapons of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels that were on display, after victory celebrations by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), in Niyala Capital of South Darfur. Photograph: Reuters
Ranking 156 on the Global Peace Index, Sudan faces tensions with its neighbour South Sudan. Although Sudan’s president has expressed qualified support for his South Sudanese counterpart, both sides continue to allege that the other government is offering support to rebel groups, and there are periodic cross-border attacks, contributing to a decline in the score for external conflicts fought. Violence and civil conflict have displaced millions in Sudan. Non-state conflicts also intensified in Sudan with skirmishes between tribesmen, farmers and ethnic clans.
8. DR Congo
Due to their low levels of positive peace, increased urbanisation poses the greatest risk for safety and security in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Haiti and Bolivia.
Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo have very low militarisation, which, combined with poor positive peace, leads to an inability to maintain security in their territory or prevent outbreaks of internal violence.
Deaths caused by terrorism increased by 61 per cent in 2013, which resulted in almost 18,000 people being killed in terrorist attacks. Of those deaths, 82 per cent occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.
Pakistan’s score has similarly deteriorated, on the back of a worsening of its perceptions of criminality; as a result, the country remains second from the bottom in South Asia. The country’s dire domestic security situation continues to be hampered by the presence of Islamist militant groups. Even though the number of deaths from internal conflict did not worsen significantly over the past twelve months, Pakistan suffered a handful of high-profile incidents — most notably the separate attacks on Jinnah International Airport and an army-run school in Peshawar.
10. North Korea
High levels of political terror and militarisation puts the secretive and totalitarian state of North Korea in the list of top 10 least peaceful countries.
The countries that have seen the biggest proportional change in violence containment expenditure have had high levels of internal conflict. North Korea has seen a significant increase in violence containment expenditure as a per cent of their GDP between 2008 and 2014.