The most peaceful countries in the world

"Чтобы жить счастливо, я должен быть в согласии с миром. А это ведь и значит «быть счастливым»." Людвиг Витгенштейн ZMEY
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Steve Killelea’s new book, Peace in the Age of Chaos — The Best Solution for a Sustainable Future (Hardie Grant), is a thought-provoking look at what makes some societies so much, well, healthier. We spoke to the big thinker, philanthropist and founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) about why he created the Global Peace Index in which Iceland has held the top position for the past 12 years and the UK ranked 45th in 2019. Tuning into the virtues of those topping the leaderboard could help with the endeavour to pursue peace with a little more conviction than simply dreaming of it wistfully, Miss-World-contestant style. It’s worth a shot. In a year that’s left us pining for stability, spotlighting the places that rank highest on the Global Peace Index feels like a welcome reflection on good news.

They are free of corruption, have a functioning government, a robust economy, fair distribution of resources, free flow of information and good neighbourly relations. The hero countries also all have systems where citizens flourish due to a lack of violence and are able to reach their full potential, content to chip into their nation’s coffers by way of taxes since they trust those in charge to use the money wisely.

Killelea makes the distinction that peace and happiness aren’t always in parallel – how we interpret happiness is subjective and culturally different. From Killelea’s youth, an insatiable curiosity about what makes the world tick has fuelled his journey to open-sourcing what might help make it better.


Why the planet’s most peaceful countries are especially enriching, according to the founder of the Global Peace Index.

  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    Iceland

    ‘With a spectacular volcanic landscape, it’s one of the most stunning countries in the world, like a moonscape covered in snow. It also hasn’t had an internal conflict since 1008 AD when no more than 100 people died. It had the first parliament in the world and it’s where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet, which is visible.’

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  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    New Zealand

    ‘Because of the way it has honoured indigenous rights, the peace treaty with the Māoris when the British arrived is held to this day.’

  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    Portugal

    ‘With people living off the ocean for thousands of years, it’s a place of abundance and good planning, where a relaxed coastal lifestyle prevails. It also has some of the best surfing waves.’

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  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    Denmark

    ‘A great example of Scandinavian culture and one of the most socially progressive countries in the world, with the mechanisms for looking after the less well-off, it’s an exemplar of equality.’

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  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    Switzerland

    ‘With four official languages coexisting, it takes a remarkable political system to hold that together. By its very nature, it shows us how different cultures can live harmoniously and respectfully within one system.’

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  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    Japan

    ‘A quality shared by a few of the most peaceful countries is that of a long, rich history. This culture, which shows a deep reverence for good health, is linked with the longest life expectancy in the world.’

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  • The most peaceful countries in the world

    After trekking Everest and surfing Bali’s shores in his younger years, Steve Killelea went on to found think-tank the Institute for Economics and Peace. It was in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, that the Australian aid worker started to wonder what might define the most peaceful nations. A question which, at that point, he considered too hard to answer. Killelea later developed his methodology to interpret empirical data to form a meaningful index, and in his new book he unpacks the idea of positive peace as being made up of the attitudes, institutes and structures that sustain peaceful societies. Taking the concept of peace and simplifying it into a definable metric feels like a constructive celebration of the causes of good health in the world, rather than simply lamenting symptoms of ill health.

    Peace in the Age of Chaos isn’t your typical holiday page-turner, but if you’re someone who wants to see change for the better, spending time reading it (whether supine on a sun lounger or from a sofa, fireside) will boost your awareness of the possible paths for humankind to strive for a world with less conflict and more consideration for one another. Western Europe might be the most peaceful region on the planet, but it would be possible to take a round-the-world trip and stop off along the way.

    Steve Killelea’s Peace in the Age of Chaos — The Best Solution for a Sustainable Future is out now.

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