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Whither global peace

Published: 04th July 2013 07:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th July 2013 07:21 AM   |  A+A-

In the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2013 released recently by the Australia and US-based Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), India is ranked 141st out of 162 countries. In GPI 2012, India ranked 142nd out of 158 countries. India’s low rank is attributed to the high incidence of violence and crime within the country and several factors in our external relations. According to the IEP report, India’s neighbours like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh are more peaceful than India. Incidentally, Bhutan ranks high in Gross National Happiness (GNH) — an index depicting the holistic development of a country.

The GPI, first computed in 2007, is a yearly exercise to measure the relative position of nations and regions in peacefulness. While measuring the absence of violence in society, the GPI takes into consideration both internal and external factors. Its measurement is based on 23 indicators such as the level of organised internal conflicts, level of respect for human rights, number of homicides and number of jailed persons. The data is sourced from a wide range of respective sources, including the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the World Bank, various UN agencies and peace institutes. The index has been tested against a number of potential “drivers” or determinants of peace including levels of democracy and transparency, education and national well-being. Since 2007, the GPI has contributed significantly to public debates and deliberations on national and international peace. The peace index is now used by many international agencies, outfits and governments.

IEP’s latest report released on June 11th at Washington DC shows that world peace continues to deteriorate. The report included Positive Peace Index (PPI), measuring the strengths of attitudes, institutions and structures of nations to create and maintain a peaceful society. Over a period of six years there has been a 5 per cent decline in global peace.

With its 162nd rank Afghanistan is at the bottom of the global ranking while Iceland is ranked the most peaceful country. In GPI 2012, Somalia was ranked the least peaceful country. Most Western, European countries are within the first 20 ranks with the exceptions of few countries such as the UK, Greece, Spain, Cyprus and France. The impact of the macro-economic challenges being faced by these exceptional countries continues to be a peace-depressing force. In GPI 2013, the UK is ranked 44th. Due to increases in violent demonstrations, terrorism and in military expenditure, the peacefulness in the UK has registered a declining trend.

Most Arab countries are among the least peaceful countries. Their poor ranking is attributed to the turbulence and instability created by the events of the Arab Spring. It is also evidence to the fact that a mere increase in GDP need not necessarily result in peacefulness and well-being. Sustainable peace in these countries could be brought about by inclusive democratic practices and strict adherence to human rights, accountability and rule of law.

In an environment of failing efforts at national and international peace-making processes, it is important to probe into the essential ingredients of peaceful coexistence. Ideal peacemaking exercises should recognise three facts. Firstly, it should be acknowledged that true peace can come only from within. All religions have always emphasised this fact. Peace of heart is a quintessential element in our journey to peace. As the preamble to the constitution of UNESCO says, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. Societal peace can stem only from individual peace. It is very difficult to have inner mental peace in today’s stressful life, continuously affected by contemporary socio-economic and political situations. Inner peace is the happy legacy of those who keep the divine law.

Secondly, the much needed social peace can result only from the mutual and reciprocal respect for the personal dignity of man. As Article 1 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood’’. The peace deficit that many nations face today is due to the treatment of man as a machine — a piece of tradable merchandise. The knowledge that we all belong to a common origin and are called to the same destiny and that we all belong to the same family can usher in peaceful co-existence. Much dissensions and conflicts endangering our quest for peace are deeply rooted in negative sentiments like lust, greed, ego and the instinct to dominate others. Families and communities working against the common good are the biggest threat to societal peace. Societal peace is at risk when families are in conflict and when organisations act with vengeance and stifle the legitimate growth of its employees. Problems like terrorism, unemployment, communal and ethnic riots are all roadblocks in our journey towards societal peace.

Thirdly, the myths of power and nationalism have prevented the integrated life of nations. Examples of false nationalism and the quest for undeserving power and dominance abound in the contemporary global history. The neo-liberal policies of governments with an overemphasis on market culture, ideological differences and ecological crisis leading to unsustainable development are major causes leading to diminishing global peace. Coexistence guided by some core moral principles like justice and equality can guide nations in their efforts at global peace. India, with its abysmally low rank, has to ensure that the right type of attitudes, institutions and structures are inbuilt in its system to march forward as a more peaceful nation.

There will not be real peace among men who are not of goodwill. Peace starts with individuals. Jesus’s life itself is the greatest message for peace for he has demonstrated in his life that we should not only love our neighbours but our enemies too. Inspired by the teachings of Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” Again, as Virchand Gandhi, the 19th century Indian legend, said, “May peace rule in the house of friends and may peace also rule in the house of enemies.”

The writer is professor of economics at Christ University, Bangalore, and can be reached at pmat2012@yahoo.com

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