Measuring Positive and Negative Peace with the Global Peace Index

Sep 21, 2016

If you're running a business you need metrics to succeed, and it's the same with peace, says Steve Killelea, founder of the Global Peace Index. The Index provides empirical ways to measure both "negative peace"--the absence of violence and fear of violence--and "positive peace"-- attitudes, institutions, and structures which create and sustain peace.

Carnegie's Roundtable Series consists of invitation-only events featuring some of the world’s leading policymakers, academic experts, and activists. These private sessions are a rare opportunity for frank discussion about the most pressing issues facing the global community today. The Roundtables, which include a catered meal, are held in the Council’s historic Executive Board Room. This event was held in the run-up to International Peace Day, which takes place on September 21.


STEVE KILLELEA: It's really very, very pleasant to be here.

I'm just going to hit you with a philosophical question I've been thinking about, which I haven't got an answer to; a little bit of my journey to peace, because I'm an accidental man of peace—I just really arrived there by accident. Then I'll move into the work we've done and just give a quick thumbnail sketch of the work, how we actually arrive at this concept "positive peace," which I think is absolutely transformational for the age we're in; and then, maybe, if we've got enough time, just on systems thinking, because it's a different way of being able to view the way the nation-state operates, and we need different views.

The philosophical question which has been going through my mind lately is: Look at the universe today. There's, at a minimum, 600 sextillion solar systems—that's six with 23 zeroes past it—and we're sitting in one. In fact, the solar system we are sitting in is a third-generation sun, so that has come about through the explosion and destruction of two solar systems prior to it. In fact, if we look at ourselves, we're all actually comprised of stardust, dust which has originated in the explosion of other universes.

You can't think of anything more violent than the destruction of our solar system. If we look at the water which has arrived on this Earth, it has all come through meteorites crashing into it over millions and millions of years. And if we look at life on this world, to live, all living creatures can only live through eating other living creatures. What is more violent than that?

So the profound question is: Why do we have peace? Why does it exist? There are many answers which one can come up with, but I actually haven't got the answer. But that's the philosophical question I have been playing through my head over the past few months. I'll leave you with that.

Now, for me—I have been involved in developmental aid now for probably about 27 years, and I've done an awful lot of projects around the world. It would have been probably 12 years ago, when I was in Northeast Kivu in the Congo, which is one of the more violent places in the world, and I'm walking through there, and I suddenly started to wonder: What are the most peaceful nations in the world and what do we know about them?

I did some searching on the Internet. Couldn't find a thing. That's how the Global Peace Index was born.

That creates a really profound question, because if a simple businessman like myself can be walking through Africa and wonder what are the most peaceful nations in the world and no one has ever ranked them before, how much do we know about peace?

Look at a business. If you have a business and you're running a business, can you run a business without the metrics to be able to measure and understand it? So for peace, if you can't measure it, how do you know whether your actions are helping or hindering you in achieving your goals? You can't if you can't measure. And similarly, without measures of peace, how can you actually do any really rigorous analysis using empiric techniques to understand what creates peace? So that's how the Global Peace Index was born.

As we looked at constructing what was peace, we used a definition of what's termed "negative peace," which is the absence of violence or fear of violence. Although this sounds very, very simple and trivial, it's quite profound in the view of peace. Most people see it as the absence of conflict or the absence of war. But for us to measure peace at the national level, we wanted to take in as much as we could within society. So we have three different domains which we measure:

    • The first is internal, safety and security. That measures things like homicide rates, level of violent crime, number of people in jail, number of police per 100,000 population, level of terrorism, and also state-sponsored terror on its citizens. Those would be some of the indicators there.

  • Measures of ongoing conflict: the number of conflicts countries are engaged in, battlefield deaths, etc.
  • And also the militarization. That's the third element. Now, some people can argue that the military creates peace, and in some ways they're right. The index itself doesn't make any moral judgments on any of these things, but saying the definition is the absence of violence or fear of violence. Nations have armies for two reasons: (1) because they want to use it to extend their territorial controls; or (2) they are afraid of some other nation doing something to them. That's why the military is in there.

If we look at it today, The Institute for Economics and Peace's work has really established itself globally. We are ranked the 15th most impactful think-tank in the world, $5 million in revenue. The work we do is used by many of the major organizations around the world. So we do contract research, for example, for people like the UN, OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), World Bank, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and many, many, many more. We are seen as the world's leading body in actually measuring peace or conflict. And also, the work is now taught in thousands of universities in different parts of the world.

But we get a decade on from doing it, everyone would think the world has become much, much more violent. So I'll just give you a couple of little stats to tease that out.

You're right, the world has become more violent, but on country average by only 2.3 percent. That's not a lot, is it? In fact, over that period of time, 85 countries have decreased in peace but 79 countries have actually increased. What's more, if you took the Middle East and took it out of the world, the world has actually become more peaceful. Totally counterintuitive, isn't it, to what we read in the newspapers?

But also, what we've got when we look at it over a decade is this growing concept of inequality in peace. The most peaceful nations are becoming far more peaceful. And, surprisingly, even in America it's happening—even less police are getting shot; homicide rates are way down. If you go to Europe, you'll find that the expense on the military as a percentage of GDP is maybe 40 percent of what they were spending in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s, and you'll find the homicide rates are far, far lower than what they were 50 years ago, or even 100 years ago, in many of these countries.

So as we've got part of the world becoming much more peaceful, we've now got the bottom end, which is becoming far, far less peaceful. We can see as year after year goes by these bottom nations, the bottom 10 let's say, are just becoming less peaceful. But they're sticky; we're not seeing them actually come out of conflict. These are countries you all know well—your Iraqs, your Afghanistans, and such.

So from actually having the study and the statistics, you can see some of the different aspects and flavors which you can pull out of what's happening globally. You've also got the ability to compare countries. So if you've got the ability to compare countries, you can look at the movement of countries over time and what areas—were they peaceful or unpeaceful?—that can help guide business investment as well. So it does give you insight.

But probably the most profound thing which has come out of the work we've done over this time is positive peace. Positive peace is the attitude, institutions, and structures which create and sustain peaceful societies as well.

What we've done to arrive at positive peace is to use statistical analysis against the Global Peace Index. It covers 162 countries but 99.7 percent of the population of the world. We've developed in our research center over 10,000 harmonized different data sets, indexes, and attitudinal surveys at the national level. This is one of the largest data sets of its type in the world. What we've done then is run a whole lot of statistical analysis to find out what are those factors which are most closely associated with peaceful societies. From there we've been able to break it up into a topology of eight different parts.

Those eight parts are things like:

    • Well-functioning government.

    • Strong business environment.

    • Equitable distribution of resources—and that's the social contract in many ways; it's not equality.

    • Acceptance of the rights of others.

    • High levels of human capital, which can be epitomized by education if you like, but it's more.

    • Good relationships with neighboring states.

    • Free flow of information, which again you could see epitomized by a free press but which is something which is more.

  • Low levels of corruption.

Now, all these factors come together. You can't actually pull them apart. That was something we realized very, very early. They interact with each other. Think about the relationship between a free press, corruption, and well-functioning government. Which drives which? What is the causal relationship? You're not going to be able to pull it apart because the causality will be related to the individual circumstances in whatever country you're looking at and to the epoch and the time which it's in, in different ages. It can even vary by a decade.

Now, what was really profound, what we realized, is not only do the structures of positive peace create peaceful societies; it's also the same topology to create a whole lot of other things which we think are really important.

Countries which are high in positive peace—this even holds true after the global financial crisis—have since 1992 had 2 percent per annum better GDP growth rates than low-positive-peace countries. Low-positive-peace countries tend to be much, much lower in per capita income. They're much worse on measures of inclusion, including gender equality. They perform worse on measures of ecological protection.

The other thing is these societies are far, far more resilient and adaptable. We've just finished a study on resilience. Societies which are high in positive peace recover from shocks much more quickly, whether it's a natural disaster or whether it's some sort of a violent political event. In fact, in high-positive-peace countries you don't actually get violent political events; they're exceptionally rare. Also, they recover from natural disasters better as well. Societies in positive peace also have less civil resistance movements; they last for a lesser amount of time; they're more moderate in their aims; more likely to achieve their aims; and are far, far less violent.

Therefore, as we start to take positive peace and we look at the richness of it, we now have a mechanism for being actually able to describe an optimal environment in which human potential can flourish.

But if we step back up and we look at the challenges facing humanity today that are global in nature—things like climate change, ever-decreasing biodiversity, full use of the fresh water on the planet; and underpinning all of that, overpopulation—unless we have a world which is basically peaceful, we'll never get the levels of trust, cooperation, or inclusiveness necessary to solve these problems. Therefore, I would argue, and I would argue vigorously, that peace is a prerequisite for the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century. That, my friends, is different than any other epoch in human history. In the past, it may have been the domain of the altruistic, but in the 21st century it's in everyone's self-interest.

But as we step back and look at it further and we realize the systemic nature of positive peace, we then start to look at the function of the nation-state. This is slightly complex, but I'm going to share it anyway. This is where the next thrust of our research is going.

There is a concept of causality, which we all know, and there is a concept of systemics. Causality we all think and know it. I can pick that fork up and I can eat my dessert simply because of the laws of physics, of cause and effect. And if I pick this fork up and I throw it against the wall, the cause lies in the motion, the effect in the way it hits the wall, and the cause creates the effect. Modern empiric science is based on that, and there have been massive breakthroughs. Because of that relationship to physics, built into our psychics at a very, very deep level is the ability to work that way.

But systems are different; they operate differently, a whole different set of principles. So as we start to apply causality to the operation of the nation-state and the creation of peace, we get imperfect outcomes.

Now, empiric science in the physical world is based on going down, taking things down to smaller and smaller effects, to understand the cause and effect. But no one in this room would think that they are the sum of their parts. We all know through our consciousness that we're something much more.

So a system is much more than the sum of its parts. Systems have intent. Systems have what's termed encoded norms with which which they operate. No one can tell you what these are for the nation-state. And if we can't understand these simple concepts and things, how can we understand the relationships in the way a nation-state operates?

But to drive it home simply—and this is where I'm going to stop—I'm talking here now in cause and effect, so the effect can never influence the cause in a physical world. But in a systemic world that's not true. Everything operates in a mutual feedback loop. So as I'm talking to everyone here, I'm altering your consciousness and your knowledge. But similarly, if you look back at me, you're altering actually the way I deliver what I'm saying. We are in a mutual feedback loop. That is the way societies work and that is the essence of positive peace—systemic.

And things work differently. Cause and effect are in a linear sequence. In systems effect, you have tipping points, and we can see them with per capita income and peace, corruption and peace. They're also nonlinear and they lag, such as in education. Try in a generation, they get into work, they'll have some influence. Twenty years later, when they're in leadership, they'll have a lot of influence.

At this point now I'll stop.


QUESTION: I'm Andrea Bartoli from Seton Hall University and the Community of Sant'Egidio, an old friend of Steve's.

STEVE KILLELEA: Yes, we've had many discussions.

QUESTIONER: He came to Columbia University years ago when he was thinking about this.

What comes to mind immediately, obviously, when you speak about consciousness is that consciousness can be understood by us only through our experience of humanity. There is no other way. We are human beings, and in that sense we are who we are. We are just persons. We are bound to our subjectivity. We cannot be but who we are. And at the same time, we have clearly a universal relevance.

So the first couple of words—just to stress the work that you did, because you transformed a question in the middle of Africa into something that everybody can see, and it takes an interesting leap to transform a question into something very relevant. This is interesting because the world is clearly in the making. It is not already made. It is clearly happening as we speak. So there is a very interesting iterative effect in systems that we are discovering more and more, that the world is just not something that determines us, but we are actually determining the world.

Reorienting the question towards the question of peace enormously helped a lot of people, including the United Nations. We have here Angela Kane. That clearly represented the efforts of the United Nations to speak about the human family. But it's good for you to look at the human family on this only planet that we have through the lens of peace.

In the past, we could see ourselves only as Americans, only as Italians, only as Israelis, and so on. Now we really need to see ourselves as human beings first. I think that your contribution through this lens of consciousness and humanity is fundamental, is really helping us to see. It is really like seeing the whole planet from a satellite. It is really seeing ourselves from this perspective. In that sense, what I think is going to be good is also not just the fact that the report happens every year, that we have this data, but that the data set keeps tweaking, that we start having these views that will give us trends, that will give us a sense of the moment.

So I would love if you could keep in a way elaborating on this idea of the moments in individual states, on individual polities, and how you see the institute, the report, this knowledge, this consciousness that is emerging, helping states to be better, to get better, to engage more with positive peace, to be more on the right side of history, if you want.

STEVE KILLELEA: Thank you very much. So an interest in a few more teasing out on trends and those kinds of things; is that what you're interested in, Andrea?

As we start to look at the world overall, different regions are moving at different paces. The concept of positive peace when we look at it, this is encouraging, this is really encouraging, but not if it's going to be a little bit depressing for I think everyone other than the Australians in the room. We are looking at two-thirds of the countries we measure for positive peace have actually improved. So that's a very, very good sign moving forward. The areas with the biggest improvements lie in South America and in Africa. But if we look at the United States over the last decade, it's one of the countries with the five largest falls in positive peace; and if you look into your political environment, you can see that getting played out now. I'll leave that part there. If we move to Europe, Europe has actually plateaued in positive peace and is starting to come off.

So positive peace in many ways can be a lens through which we can look at reinvigorating our cultures with the very values which we all ascribe to within these cultures as well. So for me there's something really profound there.

And if we look at those falls in positive peace here in America and in Europe, they come down to two areas. The first is the increases in the perceptions of corruption within society; and it's only perceptions, because you can never really measure it, particularly when in politics and business. And also, within Europe around restrictions on a free press, which might sound contrary to what a lot of people think. But a lot of the laws which are starting to be brought in, particularly around hate speech and things like that, as they bring them in, they restrict other types of freedom of expression as well. And also, the concentration of the press in Europe as well. The broader the press, the more voices which get heard, which more informed is the debate. We can also see in the quality of the press these days there is a change which is brought about by the economics of the press and the rise of the Internet.

Now, as we start to look at individual countries, we can see vast changes in the peace of countries. What we can find is that countries when they've got the right level of brittleness, which goes right back to fragility, can fall off a cliff. They can drop 40 places on the index within a year, sometimes more, which is what we've seen happen, let's say, in Syria. But rises in peace—you get a good bounce when you stop the conflict, but it takes many, many, many, many years to get back.

We're just in the process at the moment of releasing the 2016 Global Terrorism Index. Along with the Global Peace Index, it gets massive global publicity. The Global Peace Index this year when we released it in June got 1.7 billion media impressions. There's no marketing exaggeration in that. It's probably more, because that's what our marketing/PR company could count. We got them down to the point where it was every publication and the media reach for each publication so we could verify it.

Last year, the Global Terrorism Index got 1.5 billion media impressions in over 100 countries. But last year deaths from terrorism increased by 80 percent. The number of countries with more than 250 deaths from terrorism jumped from five to eleven, 120 percent. But as we're doing this year's index there's a change. The number of deaths from terrorism has actually fallen 10 percent. The number of countries suffering greater than 250 deaths is one less.

Where does this improvement come about? The improvement has mainly come out of Iraq and Nigeria. Between those two countries alone there's 5,500 less deaths through terrorism. Quite profound.

So at this point in time, as we're sitting here, I think everyone around this table can see the demise of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). As it demises, so will the impact of terrorism.

But countering the trend I've just told you about this year, there's actually an increase in the number of countries which are suffering more than 25 deaths from terrorism and suffering from more than 100 deaths from terrorism. When we look at that, it's mainly through the expansion of IS and IS affiliates. With the demise of IS, I believe, we will see a turning point in terrorism. These jihadists are not going to go away. More will go into other groups and continue their terror. But without territory and without income, it's very hard for them to stage the kind of attacks we have had in the West, and they will go on for a two or year because there will be remnants. But I believe we may be seeing a turning point in terrorism.

To just give you an idea of how much it has increased, if we look at 2015, the deaths from terrorism were nine times what they were in 2000. In fact, 2002 was the lowest figure we found for terrorism in the length of the time we've been doing this study. It then increased with the Iraq invasion, moving up to 2007 with the surge, and then dropped to 2010—in fact, it was about 40 percent lower. So the surge worked. At that point, then ISIS started to take up, and from 2011 we've had this massive ramp, which looks like it's finished now.

Is that enough facts? [Laughter]

QUESTION: Andrea has given me an opening for the United Nations. I must, of course, take this opportunity to jump in right away.

I find it interesting because you mentioned that you went to the Congo, you had this idea, and you made it happen. Something concrete came out of it. That is impressive.

I had a look at the report that you published last, I think—the last one that was published, I think, the 2016 one. It is 102 or 104 pages of statistics and it's very thorough. So I was very impressed.

But my question is, of course: How can it be from the report, from the statistics—how can you then translate it into action? What can we do with it?

Coming from the United Nations and looking at it from the UN viewpoint, I'm also looking at how can it be fed into the system. We as the UN are never very good at taking a bird's-eye view, or let's say at taking an analytical view. We do it in silos, we do it in certain countries or we do it in specific committees, but we never do it overall. I think what is needed is to have a more global view.

When you look at the specific statistics, you come to, for example, the sanctions committees—I think there are now 18 of them. I mean this is very useful information also for these committees to have. Even though it's an organization that deals with member states, there's more and more of a private involvement that is actually coming into the United Nations, which I think is very positive.

The one idea that I also have—because just last night, watching television, you had this George Clooney finance report filed on the Sudan. Now, Sudan is one of these five bad countries that are at the bottom of the list, so to say.

STEVE KILLELEA: That's true.

QUESTIONER: So I'm just wondering, how can that also be, let's say, harvested in a way to have a synergy between the various efforts that are going on, because all of that is extremely useful?

STEVE KILLELEA: A very eloquent and very good and detailed question.

One, it does inform countries and the trajectory of countries over time, and that does help guide policy for international aid organizations and also for the United Nations. So you've got the ability to be able to sort of understand, if you like, the direction of what's happening with the actual place. That on its own is very helpful, and it gets used by a huge number of the different countries around the world.

In fact, I met with the high commissioner for peace in Colombia. I was down there a couple of days ago and had lunch with him. He said about the Global Peace Index, "Look, when anyone down here says Colombia is doing okay, I just refer them to the Global Peace Index." That would be a very, very small concrete example of how a politician can use it.

But the concepts of positive peace are probably what give you the best insight into the velocity or momentum of where a country is going. They move slowly. Other than in rare circumstances, they move slowly over time. They don't move at vast paces, which the actual peace can do, like when conflict stops or conflict starts. But positive peace, by understanding the momentum, it gives you an idea of where a society is going.

Also, by understanding the strength of the different eight pillars, it also gives you an idea of what might be weak and what might be strong. That gives you another way of being able to actually start to look at addressing and trying to fix imbalances within societies where you are putting developmental aid.

But if all the signs are wrong, the momentum is weak, the philosophical question for you is: Do you put your money there or do you put your money behind a country which is improving? Where do you get the better bang for the buck?

Also, you can use this work to be able to do risks. We've got a new paper we'll be publishing probably in the next month or so. I've been sitting on it now for two months. What we do is we take the concept of positive peace and compare it to the actual peace, and from doing that you get a delta. So where the actual peace is much higher than what the positive peace says it should be, in theory that should drop over time.

If we go back and we look at 2008 and move it forward using different year models and over different periods of time—let's say two to five years—what we find is using these models we can take a basket of 15 to 20 countries and we can accurately predict a substantial fall in peace for about 60 percent of those countries. So now, as a focus area and a target, you do know where you could actually put one's efforts.

So there are a couple. But there's a lot more there.

What are we doing to promote it? We're in the process of trying to train a million people on positive peace. The work we've got now is included in thousands of university courses around the world. That's not through us actually doing anything, it's just people picking it up, which is pretty profound.

QUESTION: I want to continue with the concept of evolution in terms of where the research goes. I think what the institute is doing is an interesting evolutionary step.

I don't think a lot of people appreciate that if you look at the history of how we gather data on human rights, you can draw, I think, a pretty straight line on the development of human rights. The more we started asking for data, the more it became easier to have a discussion of what human rights should be, how they should be defined, and how they were being violated. I think there has been a remarkable progression, for example, with the UN conventions in the 1960s and 1970s leading to the United Nations gathering more data, leading to more efficient work in areas of development, because data is powerful.

But as we now try to move more and more from macro to micro, macro human rights down to day-to-day people on the street having more human rights, does the institute see a way of taking its data—maybe using case studies, maybe not—to really see what kind of incremental interventions whether by business, because I think there's a business angle to this that needs to be explored or by governments, as opposed to foot soldiers on streets, which is probably a form of intervention that is going to go down in the next 20 years because I think a lot of countries are not convinced it works—looking at what incremental interventions based on your data move the needle in certain ways over time that go to your "bang for the buck" point? I mean is the Institute beginning to look at those kind of drill-down exercises?

STEVE KILLELA: That's a very good question. Great leading.

We come back to the concept of the systems thinking. There's a concept with it called path dependency. So nations of the world moving down a path—and you can't actually take something and move it 90 degrees.

So if you think of the Australian Aborigines, or of the Indians here, or even of the Tibetans in China at the moment, they're moving down a path. The West has come through with a train at 90 degrees and smashed them trying to take them down their path. That's a graphic image, but I think it's a really important one.

What that now means is all systems are unique. So you have to look at each system, understand its history, which you could say is its path dependency, where it's at, and how to move the needle. So what's important is not so much where it's at; it's the velocity or direction it's moving in. You could describe that as a virtuous cycle or a vicious cycle. Now, what that means is situational intelligence is very, very important. If we come back and start to make gross generalizations, we'll be back to saying, "Ah, here is a cause, here is an effect"—actually breaking it, not working it.

Now, having said that, we do have two approaches which we use. I'm going to describe one which is pretty fascinating. So two approaches:

One is to find the weakest pillar. So if you've got a system and you've got a couple of parts of it that are really weak, stimulate those parts. That will flow into the rest of the system. Where it's sort of like the sand going down a hole, you will have plugged the bottom of the hole and the system will rise.

The other way is looking for something which stimulates each pillar within the system. In doing that, you want to do something which is substantial. You want to do something which is practical, so you've got to work it within the current political environment. So, like getting rid of corruption in diamond mining in Zimbabwe wouldn't be practical, but there are other areas of corruption which you can actually focus on which everyone will agree with. And then, you want something which will happen within a reasonable amount of time. That's so that people can see the effect. And also, if it's within a political cycle, you're a lot more likely to get political buy-in. I've been working in Zimbabwe for a long while. We worked down there with the Midland State University and helped them construct the first course ever in peace, reconciliation, and economics. That turned out to be a thriving success and they've had hundreds of people graduate since then. As an offshoot of that, they then created a thing called the National Peace Trust. We came in and worked with them. What we did was we took 12 months and brought together a number of leaders and academics from Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Botswana to work out what would be an intervention they could do for each of the eight pillars which would be substantial, achievable, politically correct, and would happen within a period of time.

That culminated with a conference we had in Harare, which I went down for. That was a profound insight. What had happened was that they were able to get agreement on what would be these interventions. This was the first time since independence when you've had the government, the opposition, civil society aligned with the government, and civil society aligned with opposition to agree on something. In fact, we even had them in the one room through this conference.

We had the vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, open the conference. He currently heads up the defense forces and most likely will take over from Mugabe. We had a number of ministers there as well, as well as key figures from the Municipal Development Partnership (MDP) and both sides of society.

There were a couple of reasons why. One was the skills of a couple of these people in the National Peace Trust, who were very, very skilled and could walk both sides of politics at senior levels.

But the other thing was because you are now looking forward, it creates a different dynamic. So causal, cause and effect—okay, here's the problem; what's the cause? You get to the cause and what's there? A bunch of human beings. What do those human beings say? "Whoa, I'm not the problem"—and you're off into another fight.

So with positive peace, now you're looking at an action which you can take forward to stimulate and change the system. No need for blame. That was one of the reasons why we were able to get agreement.

QUESTION: Just picking up on that last thought, I'm a risk guy by trade. One of the obvious things is people are focusing on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, particularly suppliers and third parties. So the issue is: have you contemplated sort of piggybacking or aligning what you do with CSR initiatives? We do a great deal of work in that area, and there's an obvious synergy there. I was wondering if you could comment on that.

STEVE KILLELEA: For the areas that we're trying to look at, getting better engagement from companies would be good, would be excellent. If you'd like to work on that, we'd be extremely keen to have those kinds of discussions.

We're messing around at the moment in working at concepts for peace points. That wouldn't be a cap-and-trade type bond. It would be more like a social bond, like recidivism bonds.

But what we can do is we can clearly measure peace. I haven't been through it, but we've got a whole methodology for describing an economic value to changes in peace.

One of the beauties of having the Global Peace Index is we've got measures for 23 different dimensions of this. So what we can do is now ascribe an economic value to the change of any unit, so we get a unit cost, and we do that for 162 nations and they scale it up. That gives you a consistent methodology for being able to ascribe a value to changes in peace. We've got the techniques for being able to measure peace.

Now, what you could do then is through governments, the United Nations or other overseas aid organizations, you say: "Okay, here's a certain amount of capital. What we'll do is we'll give you this amount to kick-start and get going and the rest you draw down based on your improvements."

One of the issues which we both know with developmental aid at the moment is a lot of it is not really tied to outcomes. I can always remember a comment of Mugabe at one time—and this is true for a lot of the Africans. The word in Swahili for the country or the state is words like "that what you feed off." Mugabe once was talking about the international aid community. He said to a large group, "I've brought you the fattened cow, I've tied it up; it's now your turn to feast."

And you see it played out all the time. That doesn't mean that you don't have the aid and it doesn't mean—you've just got to accept that there's leakage and that it's not as efficient. If there was no leakage and it was just as efficient, they'd be telling us what to do.

QUESTION: I want to go back with what you started with, the existential question, like "Why?"—not "How much of it?" but "Why in the first place?"

I just presume that the reason that you can't answer that question is that something is missing in the measurement system. Do you have any thoughts about what's missing in the measurement system to keep us from answering the "Why?" question?

STEVE KILLELEA: The "Why?" question is beyond the concept of, I think, measurement. It's something which is transcendental. If we look at all the major religions, in the very heart of them all is the concept of peace. That is really a personal peace more so than a societal peace. We do measure it at the societal level, not at a personal level. They are different things.

But you could argue it comes about from an innate spiritual value of why we are here and what our meaning on Earth is. Or, alternatively, you could take a biologist's perspective, an evolutionary psychologist's perspective, and say that the concept of peace comes from the idea of harmony so that our species can flourish; the less violence we have, the more likely we are to flourish.

That also leads to cooperation. If we look at the cooperations between species, they go right back to the dinosaurs, herds of dinosaurs ruining the planet. So cooperation between species is another mechanism by which the whole unit survives rather than any individual within it.

And also, that brings back a form of harmony, which is peace. That would be another way of looking at it as well.

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CREDIT: <a href="">UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran</a> (<a href="">CC</a>).

OCT 1, 2013 Article

Policy Innovations Digital Magazine (2006-2016): Commentary: Peace Pays for Itself

The global economic impact of violence in 2012 was estimated to be $9.5 trillion. Governments need a way to account for and recuperate these unproductive expenditures.

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