ABU DHABI // The UAE has dropped in rank for the third year running in an annual peace index amid increased violence in the Middle East and North Africa.
This year, the country ranked 65th of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a New York think tank.
Ninety-three countries improved in peace levels last year, while 68 deteriorated, leading to a 0.28 per cent increase in the overall average of peacefulness per country.
The Mena region was least peaceful for the fifth year in a row, with Saudi Arabia recording the largest fall in the ranking, followed by Libya, according to the report.
“Saudi Arabia fell because of its involvement in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts and increased terrorist activity, mainly conducted by ISIL and its affiliates, while the fall for Libya was due to its increased level of internal conflict,” the report said.
The UAE ranked third in the region, behind Qatar and Kuwait, at 30th and 58th places worldwide, respectively.
Syria was bottom of the list for the fifth consecutive year, with Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen the others in the bottom five.
The Mena region dominated the global trend, the report said.
“The violence and conflict has been so intense that if the region were excluded from the rest of the world, the average levels of peacefulness would not have changed significantly over the last decade,” it said.
The UAE ranked 40th in 2014, dropping to 49th in 2015 and 61st last year.
“The biggest area of deterioration is in the commitment to UN peacekeeping funding,” said Steve Killelea, the organisation’s chairman.
“There’s been a substantial drop in the level of funding from 2013 to 2016 from the UAE.”
Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the UAE’s participation in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen affected its ranking, which is still positive overall, and that the index should involve more context on security environments.
Dr Albadr Al Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College, agreed.
“The measurement usually used by such rankings is crude data without contextualising them,” he said.
“The region is undergoing major upheavals.
“The UAE is engaged in what it sees as a defensive war in Yemen to preclude a complete Iran encroachment and encirclement of the Gulf states from Iraq in the north to Syria in the north-west to Yemen in the south.
“To expect countries will wait until hordes of extremists occupy their capitals is to be simply unrealistic.”
The UAE improved in some areas, such as the level of external conflict, because of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, said Mr Killelea.
“The UAE’s effect of terrorism score has reasonably improved as well and if we ignore the UN peacekeeping funding, there would have been a net positive increase in peace in the UAE,” he said.