Global Peace Index: Yemen ranked least peaceful nation due to Houthi attacks in 2024

Rebel groups' missile and drone assaults in the Red Sea have 'intensified instability in the region' but UAE makes big strides

Attacks by the Houthis in the Red Sea have led to Yemen being named the least peaceful country in the latest Global Peace Index. EPA
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Yemen has been ranked the least peaceful country in the world for the first time because of Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

The 2024 Global Peace Index (GPI), published on Monday by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) think tank, reveals the Houthis' missile and drone assaults on ships linked to Israel using maritime routes through the Red Sea has intensified instability in the region.

Meanwhile, the UAE has made the biggest rise towards the definition of peace of any nation in this year’s GPI, moving 31 places thanks to its diplomatic relations with its neighbours and substantial increase in UN peacekeeping funding.

It is now ranked 53rd out of 163 countries.

“The primary driver of the improvement in peacefulness was a move towards better neighbouring countries relations,” it says.

“The UAE improved its diplomatic relations and commercial ties with Iran and Turkey and has strengthened diplomatic relations more broadly across the region and into South Asia.”

The report indicated the conflict in Gaza could spread to involve Yemen and other countries, Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the IEP, told The National.

He said the world was at a crossroads and without concerted effort, there is a risk of a surge in major conflicts.

“What is most concerning is if the Gaza conflict spreads into the region then it could engulf countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran and possibly Jordan and that would have a substantial impact on the region, and from there could propagate further on,” he said.

“What truly strikes me is that the world is at a confliction point and without concerted effort it could get much worse. For example, there are more countries in conflicts than at any stage since the Second World War, 56 countries. We have seen that 97 countries have deteriorated on the GPI, the most since its inception in 2008.”

Yemen has replaced Afghanistan as the world's least peaceful country. It is followed by Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Ukraine.

This is the first year Yemen has been in the number one position, with the country having moved up 24 places since 2008.

“Peacefulness in Yemen fell over the past year, owing to deteriorations on the violent demonstrations, political instability and neighbouring countries relations indicators,” the GPI report said.

“Yemen's internal political instability has worsened in the past year due to deteriorating living conditions and rising social unrest. The internal strife in Yemen has been further exacerbated by regional tensions stemming from the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

“The Houthis' missile and drone assaults against Israeli targets intensified instability in the region by threatening critical maritime routes through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

“In response to these attacks the US and UK have intensified their military involvement in Yemen by launching missile, drone and air strikes against the group's sites in northern Yemen since January 2024. This escalation represents a significant externalisation of Yemen's civil conflict.”

The report shows there were 160,000 conflict deaths this year, the second highest since the Rwanda genocide in 1994, and three quarters have come from Ukraine and Gaza.

“We are finding that conflicts are becoming more internationalised, with more countries becoming involved. There are 92 involved in conflicts beyond their borders. This also makes conflicts harder to solve,” Mr Killelea told The National.

“It’s been 80 years since the end of the Second World War and the current crises underscore the urgency for world leaders to commit to investing in resolving these conflicts.”

Mr Killelea said with conflicts getting worse, refugee numbers would continue to rise and affect the global economy.

“I think what is needed is for governments to try to proactively solve many of the smaller conflicts before they erupt into bigger conflicts,” he said.

“As an offshoot we can see the number of refugees are climbing. They are now up 110 million. We now have 16 countries hosting more than half a million refugees each.

“Along with this comes an economic impact. As conflicts flow further, there will be further flows of refugees which will impact a whole range of other countries. There will be lot more refugees in the Middle East.”

The global economic impact of violence increased to $19.1 trillion last year, representing 13.5 per cent of worldwide GDP.

The report warns a further broadening of the conflict would severely impact the global economy, potentially triggering a global recession.

Iceland remains the most peaceful country, a position it has held since 2008, followed by Ireland, Austria, New Zealand, and Singapore – a new entrant in the top five.

Updated: June 11, 2024, 7:29 AM