Positive Peace Report 2024: Analysing the Factors That Build, Predict and Sustain Peace

TMS PEACE JOURNALISM, 13 May 2024

Institute for Economics and Peace - TRANSCEND Media Service

Executive Summary

10 Apr 2024 – Peace is more than the absence of violence. Positive Peace describes the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. It is conceptually related to many aspects of social development and can be used in multiple contexts. In addition to being a transformative concept, it is also a social good. When combined with systems thinking Positive Peace is a transformational concept as it envisages new ways of understanding how societies operate and how to develop thriving communities.

Toward this end, the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) developed the Positive Peace Index (PPI), a statistically derived measure of the factors that create flourishing societies, which is based on eight Pillars of Positive Peace. The concept of Positive Peace as well as general PPI results, including rankings and changes over time, are the focus of this report.

The same factors that create lasting peace also lead to many other positive outcomes to which societies aspire. Therefore, Positive Peace describes an optimal environment for human potential to flourish. For example, countries with higher levels of Positive Peace:

  • are more resilient,
  • are associated with robust and thriving economies,
  • have better performance on ecological measures,
  • higher levels of wellbeing and happiness,
  • stronger measures of social cohesion,
  • greater satisfaction with living standards and more.

All these qualities are systemically linked and are a byproduct of the quality of the system. Such societies are less encumbered by the costs and wastage of violence or political instability, have higher productivity, better access to information and are not heavily weighed down by corruption or ineffective governments, to name some.

Social systems that operate with higher degrees of Positive Peace are more resilient and capable of offering more effective protection to their citizens against adverse shocks, whether political, environmental or economic, they recover faster and are more likely to put in place coping strategies to be better prepared for future shocks. High-resilience societies are also more likely to take advantage of positive disruptions or opportunities arising from the creation of new economic paradigms and technological innovation.

Positive Peace can be used as a predictor of future substantial falls in peace many years in advance, thereby giving the international community forewarnings and time to act. Through the modelling of the relationship between the PPI and the actual peace of a country, as measured through the Global Peace Index (GPI), it is possible to predict large falls in peace. IEP’s Positive Peace deficit model shows that 90 per cent of the countries predicted to fall substantially in peace did so.

Additionally, countries with a surplus of Positive Peace generally record substantial improvements in peace in the subsequent decade. This underscores the importance of Positive Peace as a gauge of societal resilience and the predictive role it plays in assessing future societal development. It is also important for business, as countries with higher Positive Peace have superior economic performance than ones with lower Positive Peace. GDP per capita in countries that improved in the PPI outgrew that of their peers by 34 per cent over the past decade.

Other measures of economic prosperity are also higher among countries that are improving their Positive Peace scores. Household consumption grew more than twice as fast as elsewhere, inflation was twice less volatile, and foreign direct investment and international trade growth was substantially higher. For the industrial, service and agricultural sectors, economic value-added growth among PPI improvers outgrew that of deteriorators by one percentage point per year on average or higher since 2009.

Globally, Positive Peace has strengthened over the past decade, with the PPI score improving by one per cent since 2013. However, the decade-long trend in Positive Peace was not marked by consistent improvement, but rather by two distinct periods, one prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and one following it. From 2013 to 2019, Positive Peace improved by 1.5 per cent, but between 2019 and 2022 it fell by more than 0.5 percent.

Improvements in Positive Peace generally happen gradually due to the system-wide nature of change. A total of 108 countries – or 66 per cent of the 163 countries assessed in the PPI – improved their scores over the past decade.

Much of this improvement came in the form of greater access to technologies, especially in the information and communication areas. There has been an increase in equitable life expectancy, and a substantial rise in the number of people accessing information technologies. These developments are captured in the Structures domain of Positive Peace, which improved by five per cent since 2013.

However, these advancements have been partially offset by a deterioration in social attitudes, captured by the Attitudes domain, which deteriorated by 1.3 per cent over the last decade. Fifty-five per cent of countries have deteriorated in this domain since 2013. There have been deteriorations in the level of trust in governments, grievances between groups, press freedoms, conflict between elites, and misinformation. Some of the countries in which this domain deteriorated most in the past decade are Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, Yemen, Poland and Türkiye.

The Institutions domain, which gauges the effectiveness, transparency and reliability of the formal and informal organisations that manage societies, recorded a slight deterioration in the decade. There were deteriorations in some key measures including trade freedom and government openness and transparency.

Since 2019, there has been a reversal of the gains in Positive Peace recorded in the 2013-2019 period. Ninety-six countries experienced a decline. Notably, the Americas has seen the greatest backsliding in Positive Peace since 2019. Most of the countries in North, South, and Central America saw their scores deteriorate across a range of indicators, though North America experienced the greatest decline of all.

The pandemic played a role in this global deterioration, affecting all regions. Significant declines occurred in indicators such as life expectancy, as well as reductions in the international exchange and freedom of movement as a result of stricter border controls and other measures taken to slow the spread of the virus.

Five of the eight Pillars of Positive Peace posted improvements since 2013. Free Flow of Information posted the largest improvement – more than 8 per cent – on the back of more widespread access to information technologies. Equitable Distribution of Resources and Acceptance of the Rights of Others also posted large improvements. The improvements in High Levels of Human Capital and Sound Business Environment were relatively marginal, reflecting weak outcomes in youth employment, and regulatory quality.

The three Pillars of Positive Peace to record deteriorations since 2013 were Good Relations with Neighbours, Well Functioning Government and Low Levels of Corruption which deteriorated by 3.3, 1.2 and one per cent respectively.

Despite COVID-19 causing deteriorations in Positive Peace for many countries, this report reveals that countries entering the pandemic with very high and high levels of Positive Peace experienced more rapid recoveries. These countries displayed greater resilience in mitigating the pandemic’s adverse impacts on life expectancy, business prosperity, trade and investment. This finding confirms the predictive strength of Positive Peace as a measure of a country’s overall resilience.

This research also incorporates systems thinking, which provides a more accurate understanding of how societies operate and develop over time. Developments in Positive Peace precede societal changes in peacefulness and human development, either for better or worse. Stimuli and shocks have cascading effects, due to the feedback loops contained within societal systems, pushing them into virtuous or vicious cycles. However, these cycles can be understood, planned and moulded to produce the best social outcomes. Positive Peace provides a roadmap of the things societies need to change, to either consolidate virtuous cycles or break vicious ones and be more resilient to future shocks.

This report also includes a final section outlining practical examples of how IEP’s Positive Peace framework has been operationalised. This work is developed through IEP’s extensive partnership program, its Ambassador Program and workshops.

In 2023 there were Positive Peace activities in over 75 countries.

The section also includes a description of a framework for identifying the key attributes of societal systems and methodically studying their relationships, leading to a better understanding of systems and their dynamics. The Halo framework is at the core of IEP’s process to apply systems thinking to understanding and measuring the interrelated factors that lead to peace, development, and societal resilience.

Taken together, the findings in this report have important implications for building and sustaining peace.

  • There are no quick and easy solutions. Building and sustaining societal development requires a large number of society-wide improvements progressing in concert with one another over long periods of time,
  • Resilience should be the priority. Through focusing on the factors that are most critical, it is possible to build resilience in cost-effective ways,
  • Stopping or averting conflict is not an end in itself. As Positive Peace progresses, it enables an environment where human potential may more easily flourish.

Without a deeper understanding of how societies operate, it will not be possible to solve humanity’s major global challenges. Positive Peace provides a unique framework from which to manage human affairs and relate to the broader ecosystems upon which we depend. Positive Peace in many ways is a facilitator, making it easier for workers to produce, businesses to sell, entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate and governments to serve the interests of the people.

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NOTE FROM TMS EDITOR:

Peace – Introduced into academic literature by the Norwegian pioneer of peace research Johan Galtung, who distinguishes two types of peace:

Negative peace: defined by the absence of war and violence; does not capture a society’s tendencies towards stability and harmony.

Positive peace: defined by a more lasting peace that is built on sustainable investments in economic development and institutions as well as societal attitudes that foster peace; can be used to gauge the resilience of a society, or its ability to absorb shocks without falling or relapsing into conflict.

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