Iceland Ranked No. 1 On Global Peace Index
MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
MARK QUARTERMAN: Hi. Good to be here.
LOUISE KELLY: Good to have you here. So tell me, how do you measure a country's peacefulness? In a nutshell, what are the factors?
QUARTERMAN: There're a range factors from internal peace indictors that then include political stability, democracy, freedom of expression - to external issues as well - relations with neighbors, whether a country is engaged in war. They also include firearms, the percentage of the population incarcerated, GDP, per capita, among a range of other issues. Because they've found that peace is not an easy issue to define. And that it's also not an easy state to achieve.
LOUISE KELLY: All right. So taking all of those factors together, Iceland, as we mentioned, came out number one - volcanic ash notwithstanding, I guess. I was trying to figure out which country might rank last. I was guessing it might be Afghanistan. Turns out this year it's Somalia.
QUARTERMAN: Turns out it's Somalia. And Iraq for the first time has moved from the bottom slot to the second to the bottom slot. And it's not just because the station in Somalia has worsened, but because the situation in Iraq has improved enough to improve its score.
LOUISE KELLY: I gather the biggest changes in the rankings this year came from countries in the Middle East. Also in the Middle East, it got swept up in the Arab Spring. The single biggest fall was Libya.
QUARTERMAN: That's right. And of the top five states that have fallen in the rankings, three are countries that were swept up in the Arab Spring - Libya, Bahrain, and Egypt.
LOUISE KELLY: Single biggest surprise on here, for me, was the U.S. ranking. The United States came in at 83 out of a 153 countries - barely struggling to make it in above Bangladesh, well behind China. Why is it so far down?
QUARTERMAN: But here's the interesting - one of the interesting things about it for me. The U.S. is knocked down in part because of its involvement in wars, but it is involved in those wars in part because of what it perceives to be its responsibility as a global power. And China, while it is certainly less democratic than the U.S. and respects human rights much less, has not been involved in international war.
LOUISE KELLY: One of the criticisms of the index is it does not include, for example, indicators of violence against women and children. Should that be included?
QUARTERMAN: It could well be included. They don't specifically look at questions of violence against women and children. But they do look at gender equality in societies and found a very powerful correlation between societies that support gender equality and degree of peacefulness.
LOUISE KELLY: Mark, thanks very much.
QUARTERMAN: Thank you very much.
LOUISE KELLY: This is NPR News.
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