War-torn, impoverished and politically unstable, the least peaceful nation in the world can be found in Central Asia, according to a well-respected global study of how people feel about their own countries. The survey measured how safe and secure people feel in the countries where they live, the level of military presence (which the researchers call militarization) and ongoing conflict within their borders. The study measured data from 2018.
The nation with the lowest “state of peace” according to the new “2019 Peace Index: A Snapshot of Global State of Peace” was Afghanistan, ranking at the bottom of all 163 nations. It dropped one position to move to the cellar, replacing Syria from last year’s study. Almost all the nations at the bottom of the list were in northern and central Africa or in Central Asia. On a scale that listed Iceland as the most “peaceful” nation with a score of 1.072, Afghanistan’s score was 3.574. The United States had a score of 2.401, which put it 128th on the list, just behind South Africa and ahead of Saudi Arabia.
The study showed a very small improvement worldwide: “The average country score improved by -0.09 per cent from last year, with 86 countries improving, and 76 recording deteriorations.” The study also showed that the state of peace in the world has financial ramifications. The global impact of violence was $475 billion last year.
Afghanistan has had an internal military conflict for years, with a civil war between several governments and anti-government factions that have included the Taliban and the Islamic State. The United States has a major military presence in the country. According to a Brown University study, 147,000 people died in these conflicts between 2001 and 2016. The nation is also extremely poor. On a gross domestic product per capita basis, it ranks 209th out of 228 nations, according to data kept by the CIA. In fact, Afghanistan is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world.
Afghanistan is joined at the bottom of the “peaceful” list by Syria, South Sudan, Yemen and Iraq. At the top of the list, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark follow Iceland. Looking at the world in general, the study posted some negative news. “The gap between the least and most peaceful countries continues to grow. Since 2008, the 25 least peaceful countries declined in peacefulness on average by 11.8 per cent, while the 25 most peaceful countries improved by 1.7 per cent on average.” On balance, the study did not have good news, particularly its picture of Afghanistan, which suffers from such extreme violence that it is one of the 14 countries the U.S. government doesn’t want Americans to visit.