The Most (and Least) Peaceful Countries in the World

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5) Democratic Republic of the Congo
> GPI: 3.073
> Political terror scale: 5
> Access to small arms: 5
> Relations with neighboring countries: 3
> Likelihood of violent demonstrations: 5

The GPI score for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has increased each year since 2008. The deterioration of this peacefulness was due to an increasingly high likelihood of violent demonstrations preceding the presidential election and an unsuccessful coup attempt in Kinshasa, the DRC’s largest city. Human Rights Watch has accused the national military of committing atrocities against citizens, including the murder of more than 100 civilians in 2009. The military also has engaged in conflict with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the LRA, rebel groups known for their violence and human rights violations that have sought refuge in the DRC. Perhaps most tragically, the country has the world’s second-highest infant mortality rate, with 111.7 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births.

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4) Iraq
> GPI: 3.192
> Political terror scale: 4.5
> Access to small arms: 5
> Relations with neighboring countries: 2
> Likelihood of violent demonstrations: 4

In 2012, Iraq became the least peaceful country in the Middle East, the IEP’s least peaceful region. With the body count at 4,087 civilian deaths this past year, the Iraqi people are subject to high levels of political terror and atrocities from organized internal conflict. Iraq also has one of the most dysfunctional governments in the world and has a high level of perceived corruption. Last December, Tariq al-Hashemi, Iraq’s vice president and most senior Sunni Arab politician, was arrested for allegedly funding attacks against the government. Opponents of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused him of using the judicial process against al-Hashemi to consolidate power. As a positive, many Iraqis were able to return home in 2011, reducing the number of refugees and internally displaced people to 9.4% of the population.

3) Sudan
> GPI: 3.193
> Political terror scale: 5
> Access to small arms: 5
> Relations with neighboring countries: 4
> Likelihood of violent demonstrations: 4

According to the IEP, refugees and internally displaced persons accounted for 10.5% of the population of Sudan, worse than all countries except Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cyprus, Iraq and Somalia. The Sudanese government has been accused of assisting janjawid militants and several other groups in Darfur, while simultaneously combating the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-North in the country’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions. Further violent disputes have arisen with the new nation of South Sudan over the Abeyi province. Additionally, the country was given the worst possible score by the IEP for ease of access to small arms and light weapons. In 2009, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir, alleging war crimes.

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2) Afghanistan
> GPI: 3.252
> Political terror scale: 4.5
> Access to small arms: 5
> Relations with neighboring countries: 3
> Likelihood of violent demonstrations: 4

In 2011, according to the United Nations, 3,021 Afghani civilians were killed as a Taliban-led insurgency has grown more active and violent. The high level of domestic conflict in Afghanistan has turned 3 million people into either refugees or internally displaced people. Ongoing domestic conflicts likely have done considerable damage to Afghanistan’s economy as well. At $506 per person per year, the country’s GDP per capita is lower than all but five of the 158 countries studied by the IEP. On June 14th, the 2,000th death in the U.S.’s Operation Enduring Freedom was recorded.

1) Somalia
> GPI: 3.392
> Political terror scale: 4.5
> Access to small arms: 5
> Relations with neighboring countries: 5
> Likelihood of violent demonstrations: 5

The war-torn nation of Somalia has been dubbed “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster” by the UN. The country has “not had a nationally functioning state government since its descent into civil war in 1991,” according to the IEP. And there has been violent confrontation between Islamist rebel groups in an effort to gain power. The power struggle between the warlords, specifically the Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabaab, as well as the counterinsurgency by the Transitional Federal Government, have led to the death, displacement and human rights violations of millions of Somali citizens. Because of the constant warfare, an average of 3.25% of the population left the country each year between 2000 and 2005.

Read: The World’s Most Peaceful Countries

Michael B. Sauter, Lisa A. Nelson and Alexander E. M. Hess