A dramatic increase in deaths caused by acts defined as terrorism and internal conflicts has driven the world to one of its most unstable states since World War Two, an annual report on peace has said.
The Institute for Economics and Peace, a non-profit independent think-tank, said on Wednesday that events such as the Syrian civil war and internal conflicts in Africa have made 12-month period to March 2014 the seventh consecutive year to show a deterioration in world peace.
Those seven years defy a trend of increasing stability stretching back to the end of World War Two, it says.
The GPI studies 22 categories, or "pillars of peace" which can be summarised in under three sections:
Ongoing conflict, including:
External and internal conflicts fought
Deaths from organised conflict
Safety and security, including:
Number of homicides per 100,000 people
Number of security and police officers per 100,000 people
Nuclear and heavy weapons capability
Ease of access to light weapons
Imports of conventional weapons per 100,000 people
Iceland, the most peaceful country, scored 1.19 on the index while Syria, the least peaceful, got 3.65.
The institute's Global Peace Index of 2014 states that a steep rise in attacks defined as terrorism, an increase in the number of civil wars and the number of refugees were key contributors to the continued deterioration.
Syria for the first time anchored the table of 162 nations, replacing Afghanistan as the worst in the world. Major deteriorations were recorded in South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Egypt and Ukraine.
The institute uses this definition of "terrorism": violent action by a non-state actor with a social, political or religious goal.
"Terrorism is where we have seen the most dramatic change. Prior to September 11, there were only 38 countries that had deaths from terrorism. Today that is 58," said Daniel Hyslop, the vice-president of research at the institute.
"If you look at the number of deaths, prior to September 11 we had about 2,500 deaths from terrorism a year - in 2013, there were 17,000."
Hyslop said that wars in Africa, including in CAR, South Sudan and Mali, were contributing to the deterioration.
"The conflicts have been quite specific to those nations. They are a consequence of a lack of governance and a lack of the pillars of peace - such as social inclusion, transparency and distribution of resources. Those are the underlying drivers," he said.
The recent violence in Iraq and Ukraine were not included in the calculations for 2014 - conflicts that Hyslop said made it hard to imagine any short-term improvement in the global outlook.
"But there is a positive side," he said. "There are fewer inter-state counflicts and we have certainly seen that trend over the last seven years."
"If you look at a lot of the post-conflict states of the last 20 years it is a pretty positive story. Liberia has improved dramatically. Countries can bounce back. It is not all doom an gloom."
The Institute for Economics and Peace is an independent non-profit organisation which has offices in Sydney, Oxford and New York. It studies the social and economic factors that contribute to a peaceful society.
The Global Peace Index has been produced since 2007 and is created in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the Economit magazine group.
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