U.S. ranked 83rd most peaceful, out of 144 nations
Americans pining for a peaceful existence might consider moving to New Zealand, the most peaceful nation on Earth, according to the 2009 Global Peace Index released Tuesday by an Australian-based research group that counts former President Jimmy Carter, Ted Turner and the Dalai Lama among its endorsers.
The U.S. is 83rd on the roster, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace that rated the relative tranquility of 144 nations according to 23 "indicators" - including gun sales, the number of homicides, the size of the military, the potential for terrorism and the number of people in jail.
The index defined peace as "the absence of violence," and so far, things are a little dicey. Violence and instability have increased, respect for human rights has decreased. The researchers also calculated that the world's nations have collectively lost close to $8 trillion due to the complications of widespread violence.
After New Zealand, the top 10 most peaceful nations are Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Canada, Finland and Slovenia. In the bottom 10 are Zimbabwe, Russia, Pakistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan and, in last place, Iraq.
Traditional U.S. allies generally fared well on the list: Germany is at 16, Australia at 19, Spain (28), South Korea (33), Britain (35) and Italy (36).
Libya, Nicaragua, Jordan, Cuba, China, Peru and Ukraine all are rated more peaceful than the United States. Rwanda is rated 86, Syria 92, Iran 99 and Mexico 108.
"Because they can work better with others, peaceful countries can constructively work together on solving some of our most pressing economic, social and environmental problems. Indeed, peace is the prerequisite to helping solve today's major challenges, such as food and water scarcity, decreasing biodiversity or climate change," said Clyde McConaghy, a former advertising director and business executive who developed the index with entrepreneur Steve Killelea.
"Peace is a concrete aim that can be measured and valued, not just in social terms but in economic terms. There is a clear correlation between the economic crisis and the decline in peace," Mr. McConaghy continued, adding that peace tends to promote productivity and trade.
America's so-so rating on the Index is better than its grade last year, when the nation was ranked 89th.
The six-point jump is due in part to a lower risk of terrorism, said Leo Abruzzese, director of North American research for the Economist Group, which calculated the data for the index.
The Economist Group also publishes the Economist and Roll Call, among other things.
"Although the United States saw an increase in ranking despite the economic crisis, some factors - such as the ease of access to weapons, a large prison population and ongoing combat deaths - prevented it from ranking higher this year," Mr. Abruzzese said.
The index is primarily based on 2008 data from the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the World Bank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and United Nations sources.