No Justice, No Peace
A new Global Peace Index places the United States as the most "unpeaceful" of the developed nations. From a list of 121 countries, the U.S. ranks 96, inbetween Yemen and Iran. The most peaceful nation is Norway; Canada ranks 8th, Ireland 4th, Germany 12th, Mexico 79th, and Iraq is dead last at 121.
The GPI was created by Australian philanthropist Steve Killelea who is interested in providing measurment tools to assist in the fight against global poverty.
The GPI measures a nation's peacefulness according to 24 indicators, including the size of the nation's military budget, the availability of weapons, incarceration rates, respect for human rights, gender equality in politics, involvement in military inteventions, and the level of domestic homicide and violent crime. These factors are weighed against levels of education, unemployment and democratic political culture.
The Economist raises some questions about the index, especially whether some nations get to freeload their security from other nations. Isn't Europe safer as a result of NATO militarization and the expenditures of the United States?, the Economist asks.
What seems promising about this index is that it takes seriously the idea that peace means something more than just the absence of war, or even just the absence of violence. As Martin Luther King, Jr. used to say, the absence of tension is not the same thing as the presence of justice. This index points out that peace is a complicated concept that involves understanding how a society organizes its social, political, and economic institutions in order to provide a rich and fulfilling life for its people. Such efforts include not just reducing access to the means to engage in violence, but also providing opportunities for employment, political involvement, and cultural expression. It means taking seriously the idea that gender equality is a prerequisite for peace. So perhaps the old movement slogan "No justice, no peace" can now find a way into serious public policy discussions about what it will take to bring about a world dedicated to human rights and equity.
(The GPI website also has a wealth of information on peace and peace work, including an entire page on the philosophy and religions of peace! Its worth a look)