Each year, the Global Peace Index (GPI) ranks nations according to their level of peace. Although we currently live in the most globally peaceful time in history, for the past eight years there has been a decline in peace around the world.
Three overarching themes by the GPI to gauge peace within a country are: the level of safety and security in society; the extent of domestic or international conflict; and the degree of militarization used by the country.
In the latest assessment, the most peaceful regions were again found in Europe, while several Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq were the least peaceful countries in the world. The influx in violence in these areas affected not only the safety of their citizens, but the financial stability of the entire world. With yet another year of declining world peace, the cost of combating and containing violence rose to a massive $9.8 trillion. Of the $9.8 trillion, a staggering $2,535,000,000 was spent on military.
The United States didn’t rank anywhere near the most peaceful country in the world. In fact, the U.S.A. ranked 101st out of 162 countries. In the last year it was the following 15 countries that kept their noses clean, ranking as the least violent countries in the world.
Australia tops world rankings not only for its total land mass – it is the world’s sixth largest country – but also for its high quality of life, health, education, economic freedom, and the protection of civil liberties and political rights.
It is also the world’s 12th largest economy with the world’s fifth highest per capita income. The land down under has a population of over 23 million people.
Australia has the 13th largest defense budget and its military is involved in peacekeeping, disaster relief and armed conflict. It also maintains an international aid program in which 60 countries receive assistance.
Slovenia is a country of just 7,827 square miles and is located on the Adriatic Sea. Over half of the country is covered with forests, but there’s more than adequate room for the 2,061,085 people who reside in Slovenia.
Slovenia is renowned for its education system, which ranks as the 12th best in the world and the 4th best in the European Union. The country’s military is used mostly for support in peacekeeping and has been deployed to Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia.
To the west of Great Britain in the North Atlantic, Ireland is the twentieth-largest island on earth. Over 6 million people inhabit the Emerald Isle, with over 1 million of the nation’s population living in the capital city of Dublin.
Ireland’s military is used primarily in peacekeeping missions in support of the United Nations and in defense of the country against an attack.
The Germanic country of Sweden forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Over 65% of its land area is covered with forests, leaving the majority of 9 million Swedes to live in southern Sweden. Though mainly agricultural, Sweden is the seventh-richest country in the world. It is home to companies such as IKEA and Volvo. Its foreign policy allows it to remain neutral in times of war, though it remains active in peace keeping missions.
11. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Poland. Though small in terms of geography, it has a comparatively large population of over 10 million people, with over 1 million of the population living in Prague.
Since recovering as a post-Communist country, the Czech Republic continues to develop as a high-income economy.
With the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world, Norway is by far one of the best countries to live in.
Norway is ranked as the second wealthiest country in the world and its standard of living is among the highest in the world. Overall, it’s both economically and socially one of the world’s most stable countries. Norway was one of the founding nations of NATO in 1949 and contributes regularly to UN and NATO missions.
Northeast of France sits Belgium; a geographically small country with a fairly large population. Belgium is home to over 11 million people, most of whom live in urban areas. Belgium is primarily divided into two large regions; Flanders in the north and Wallonia in the south. It is the 15th largest trading nation and is known for its highly productive workforce. Its military participates in UN missions and has since the Korean War been a member of NATO.
“The Land of the Rising Sun” is home to a staggering 126,434,964 people. Japan’s population has the highest life expectancy of any country in the world and it is also one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and produces motor vehicles, electronics, machine tools, chemical substances, and processed foods. It has the world’s third-largest economy and is the world’s fifth-largest exporter.
Japan’s military force, the Japan Self-Defense Forces, is funded by 1% of the country’s GDP and is targeted at peacekeeping and internal defense, the latter particularly in relation to China.
As the world’s second-largest country by total area, Canada shares a border with the United States. Canada is known for its wealth, earning the spot as the eighth highest per capita income globally. It is also a high-ranking country in terms of civil liberties, quality of life, economic freedom, and education. Canada maintains a high level of economic growth through its manufacturing, mining, and service sectors. It is also a large exporter of natural gas and agricultural products.
The Canadian Armed Forces utilise 1.15% of the country’s GDP and are largely a peacekeeping force. The CAF, however, has recently been attracting international attention after forces were deployed to Iraq, and in January 2015 it was first reported that Canadian soldiers had returned ISIS fire.
Geographically, Finland is the eighth largest country in Europe but it’s still the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. The Finnish speaking country maintains a population of around 5.5 million people, with over 1.4 million people living in the Greater Helsinki metropolitan area.
Finland has a history of being ahead of other countries in term of civil rights; in 1908 Finland was the first nation to give all adult citizens the right to vote. The country’s outstanding quality of life and human development has only continued to grow, giving way to the 2010 Newsweek naming of Finland as the best country in the world.
The Finnish Defence Forces utilise about 1.47% of the country’s GDP in defence of the country’s border and on peacekeeping missions abroad with the UN, EU and NATO. The country enforces conscription laws – all adult Finnish males are required to serve a minimum of 165 days with their nation’s military.
Everyone has heard of Swiss chocolate and Swiss banks, but the country of Switzerland is also known for being a very peaceful country. It boasts a population of over 8 million people, the majority of which are located in Swiss Plateau rather than the rocky peaks of the Alps.
Switzerland maintains a neutrality policy on the international stage, which serves to keep its military out of armed conflicts in other countries. Switzerland continues to be a prosperous economy and is ranked as the wealthiest country in the world per capita. At well over $4 billion, their defence budget represents only around 0.8% of the country’s GDP.
4. New Zealand
Located in the South Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is comprised of two large islands and several smaller islands. The South Island hosts over a quarter of New Zealand’s 4,537,081 strong population.
The majority of the population is well educated due to the country’s highly developed education system. The defence forces of New Zealand focus on internal defence – an easy task, given the country’s expediently defensive geography – and contribute the majority of their force on overseas peacekeeping missions with the UN, particularly in Asia. With only just over 8,000 active personnel, the New Zealand Defence Force spends around 1.13% of the country’s GDP.
Sitting between the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Italy is Austria. It is largely mountainous because of its position in the Alps. With a population of over 8.5 million people, Austria is one of the richest countries in the world with a very high standard of living as well as a high standard of education.
The Austrian Armed Forces do not currently operate a Naval squadron, and the forces are focused on protecting the country. Austria does not generally become involved in international missions; Austrian forces are currently only present in very small numbers in Kosovo, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While Denmark may not quite boast the most peaceful national military in the world, it does hold the title for the happiest country in the world with one of the overall highest levels of well-being.
Nearly all of Denmark’s 5,580,516 people are literate thanks to an outstanding education system and health care system. Denmark’s position as the country with the world’s highest minimum wage, best workers’ rights, and lowest level of income inequality make it a great country to be employed.
Denmark’s military forces, known as The Defence, have a hefty budget of over $22 billion, but they are entirely focused on peacekeeping; The Defence is in place to defend Denmark’s sovereignty and help the development of international human rights. Danish forces work with NATO in their international aims, and are currently present in Kosovo.
With a population of just a little over 325,000, Iceland once again maintained their position as the most peaceful country in the world. The military, which includes no standing army, comprises just over 200 active personnel at a time, and is in place to control Icelandic airspace and waters.
Iceland is a member of NATO but is the only member state with no standing army. The country has a small Crisis Response Unit, a peacekeeping force in place to respond to international conflict. The Unit is typically unarmed.