September 21st is celebrated around the world as International Peace Day. Amidst a turbulent year of conflict and rising international tensions, today marks a time when people across all nations can come together in support of humanity’s ultimate goal.
Each year, countries are ranked on the Global Peace Index (GPI), a composite measure of peacefulness according to the levels of safety and security in their society, involvement in conflict at home and abroad, and their degree of militarization.
In honor of International Peace Day, here are the top 15 most peaceful countries, according to the GPI.
This central European country climbed five spots since its ranking of number 20 last year. Perhaps best known by its frequently-backpacked capital of Budapest, Hungary can boast that it is one of the safest countries in the region for tourists to visit. Since 2005, the country has seen a sharp rise in their population’s perception of public safety, including an almost 10% rise in public trust towards police.
The Scandinavian nation of epic fiordlands continues to reign as a global leader in peace, rising three spots since it was ranked number 17 in 2016. Norway is the second highest-ranked European country when it comes to safety and security, falling only behind its Nordic neighbor Iceland. Notably, Norwegian acceptance of the rights of others dropped a whopping 43.3% from 2005 to 2015, possibly in response to a 2011 terror attack.
Wedged between neighbors China and India, the mountainous country of Bhutan is as beautiful as it is peaceful. Coming in at number 13 in the last ranking by the GPI, the country’s steadfast dedication to peace seems to be as consistent as its commitment to preserving its ancient culture and traditions.
In addition to Koalas, Steve Irwin, and the Great Barrier Reef, we can add peacefulness to the list of things Aussies are known for. Australia climbed three spots in the GPI since last year, coming third only to Japan and its neighbor New Zealand in the Asia-Pacific region. Perhaps tellingly, the GPI was actually founded by an Australian, as was Global Citizen!
Falling one spot to number 11, Japan still ranks as one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Japan is known as being one of the safest countries in the world, with extremely low rates of crime. Compared to the Unites States, Japan has four times less violent crime per capita. They also have no professional military, only an internal security force.
Rising two spots to a tie with Japan at number 10/11, Ireland falls within the world’s 10 most peaceful countries, and comes in at Europe’s number eight. Ireland is one of the absolute lowest ranked countries in terms of the economic cost of violence in the country as a percent of GDP, spending a meager 3.1%. For a comparison, the number one highest spender in this category is Syria, where violence costs the country a whopping 66.9% of their GDP.
Though it comes in two places lower than the last GPI ranking, Switzerland continues to be consistently ranked in the top 10 of most peaceful countries in the world. Switzerland is notable on this year’s GPI rankings for being the only European country in the top five lowest states when it came to ongoing domestic or international conflict.
Well, that and skiing.
Of course Canada is on the list. Under the leadership of Global Citizen and Star Wars fan Justin Trudeau, Canada retained its position as the 8th most peaceful country on the planet. SInce last ranking, Canada saw marginal improvements in its weapons exports and involvement in international conflict. It seems like the stereotype of the friendly Canadian may have some basis in reality.
The central European country of Slovenia climbed an impressive three spots to number seven in the 2017 GPI rankings. Of countries in Europe, Slovenia comes in a number three when it comes to low levels of militarization, a testament to the country’s focus on sustainable tourism as opposed to armed conflict. Residents of the nation can be proud to boast not only some of the most gorgeous natural beauty in the world, but also some of the most peaceful practices.
6. Czech Republic
In a year when many countries made improvements in their rankings, Czech Republic retained its ranking of number six by showing improvements across a broad swath of peace indicators. Most notably, Czech Republic improved in measures of good relations with neighbors, and the acceptance of the rights of others. This is quite a feat, considering that the about half of all European nations declined in one or both of these measures from 2005-2015.
Though Denmark ranks in the top five of the world's most peaceful countries, Danes will be disappointed that their ranking dropped by three points. Regardless, the Nordic land known for amazing architecture and snowy winters still showed improvement across six out of eight indicators of peacefulness.
Austria comes in at number four, falling a single spot from the coveted top three list. However, this slight fluctuation in their ranking should not take away from the exemplary peacefulness the country continues to exhibit. In Europe, the average free flow of information measure dropped 5%, with each country that got worse in this category deteriorating by an average of 10%. Austria was one of the few countries to buck this trend, improving their score on the measure by 5.6%.
By rising two spots, Portugal cracked the top three to become one of the most peaceful countries on the planet. The same country that gave the world that most exemplary specimen of humanity in Cristiano Ronaldo is now offering their entire nation as an example of the best we can strive for. Less than five years ago, Portugal was ranked number 16, making this year's ranking even more impressive.
2. New Zealand
Despite the hundreds of thousands of orcs and elves who died during the filming of the Lord of The Rings, New Zealand is once again ranked among the world’s most peaceful nations. Rising from number four last year to number two this year, New Zealand saw improvements in almost every category, and ranked in the top ten for almost every single one. The battle for Middle Earth was a long time ago.
Since 2008 the country has been the undisputed, number one ranked most peaceful nation in the world. It ranks at the very top in just about every single measure on the GPI, including being number one in social safety and security and militarization. Contrary to its name, Iceland seems to be a land of warm hearted people.
Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, and fighting for peace, justice, and strong institutions is number. You can take action on this issue here.