ABU DHABI // Although dropping in rank, an annual global index continues to hail the UAE as one of the most peaceful nations in the region and within the top third globally.
The Global Peace Index (GPI), compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace, places the UAE at 49th out of 162 countries in its latest rankings, and 3rd out of 19 countries in the Mena region behind Qatar and Kuwait, which are ranked 30th and 33rd respectively.
Although existing in a region plagued by conflict, the UAE and Gulf neighbours Qatar and Kuwait sit in the top 30 per cent of the rankings.
“I would say these countries, such as Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE, are ranked as some of the most peaceful because there are no internal threats and low levels of crime,” said Mario Chacon, assistant professor of political science at New York University Abu Dhabi.
The countries also benefit from an absence of the kind of sectarian violence that is affecting nations such as Iraq and Syria, he said.
“These ethnic and sectarian grievances just don’t exist here. This is the mix that is crucial,” he said.
In the latest ranking, the country drops nine places after being ranked 40th in 2014.
“That’s mainly on the back of the increasing number of armed personnel and a slight increase in military expenditure and a slight increase in external conflicts,” said Steve Killelea, the institute’s founder and executive chairman.
He said indirect involvement in ongoing regional conflicts affected the UAE’s ranking.
The recent drop also follows a longer trend of decreasing peace over eight years since the index was first launched, the institute reports.
Violence affected the UAE’s economy by US$26.8 billion in 2014, estimated to be 4.4 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to the institute’s research.
The cost of violence to the country’s economy is the 36th highest total in the world and the 12th highest per capita.
In compiling the index, which is described as a “leading measure of global peacefulness”, the institute said it looks at 23 indicators in categories such as safety, security, involvement in conflicts, and the degree of militarisation.
Despite the positive outlook for the country, Mr Chacon said the overall regional outlook is one that raises concerns.
As reported in the findings, peace in the MENA region plummeted to its lowest level since 2008, falling to the bottom of the index for the first time, behind South Asia.
The change was pinned to an “upsurge in violence related to sectarian strife and civil conflicts,” with a deterioration in indicators measuring the number of refugees and the effects of terrorism.
“More than half of the countries in the region have deteriorated their situations, things are getting worse,” Mr Chacon said.
Libya saw the most severe deterioration in peace this year – falling from 133rd to 149th place.
Europe was reported to be the most peaceful region, with 15 of the 20 most peaceful nations, including Iceland, Denmark, and Austria, which topped the rankings.
“Reducing conflict is a crucial plank in ensuring continued world economic recovery,” Mr Killelea said.
“If global violence were to decrease by 10 per cent uniformly, an additional US$1.43 trillion would effectively be added to the world economy,” he said. “To put this in perspective, this is more than six times the total value of Greece’s bailout and loans from the IMF, ECB and other eurozone countries combined.”
The effect of violence on the global economy reached US$14.3 trillion or 13.4 per cent of global GDP in the last year, the institute said, adding the number of people killed in conflicts globally has risen over 3.5 times, from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 last year.