This week saw the launch of the 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI) report, which made difficult reading for anyone in our sector working to build peace around the world. According to the report the world became less peaceful and more unequal in 2015, with the world’s least peaceful countries seeing further conflict and violence.
The headline figures are stark. In 2015, terrorism was at an all-time high and the number of refugees and displaced people at a level not seen in 60 years. 79 countries became less peaceful.
The report also records a worrying ten year trend of declining peace, raising concerns as to whether the world is sliding into a longer term pattern of conflict and violence. Unsurprisingly, Syria is rated as the least peaceful country, followed by South Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. And what of the global cost of violence? A startling $13.6 trillion in 2015 alone. As the GPI report notes, this represents 13.3% of world economic activity, equivalent to $1,876 per person.
The report also provides further evidence that the battlefield is increasingly shifting towards the town and village. The last 60 years has seen the number of internal conflicts overtake the number of external conflicts. The consequences are devastating: the number of deaths from internal conflicts rose to over 305,000 in 2014-2015.
But, equally, as conflict increasing goes local, these internal conflicts are having powerful regional and even global implications. As the report notes: As internal conflict became more prominent, external parties are now more likely to become involved, or to suffer the consequences of violence as local conflicts turn into regional or even continental crises.
As the complexity of conflicts increases, and multiple global and local issues interact and intertwine, so must efforts to build peace. The new Sustainable Development Goal 16, which focuses on building just and peaceful societies, is an important step highlighting peace as an essential pre-requisite to the attainment of the other global goals.
The recent pledges made at the World Humanitarian Summit are also important, particularly the commitment to channel 25% of all humanitarian funding to local organisations who are the unsung heroes and first responders in the majority of humanitarian crises.
We know this all too well, as local peacebuilders are often sidelined even though they are preventing violence and building peace at a local level – often without any external support. Our mapping research has found that local action to build peace exists even in the most remote, conflict affected areas and that knowledge of the local context is inseparable to long term and sustainable solutions to peace.
Without this knowledge and without local people at the forefront of the issues of conflict and violence that affect their communities, peace is at risk of remaining a declining world trend.
Peacebuilding and conflict prevention remains woefully underfunded, and yet investing in local peacebuilding ensures a little goes a long way. At Peace Direct, we hope that the 2016 GPI report will draw attention to the urgent need to invest in peace – and stop the suffering for the thousands living and dying in violent conflict every year.