Despite brutal and protracted conflicts raging in the Middle East, the world has become slightly more peaceful in the past year.

The Global Peace Index ranks 163 countries according to their domestic and international conflicts, safety and security and degree of militarization. It found 93 had improved, while 68 had deteriorated, and overall peace levels had inched up 0.28%.

However, against a backdrop of increased civil unrest and terrorism, the longer-term picture is more gloomy.

The report, produced by Australian think-tank the Institute for Economics and Peace, found a 2.14% decline in peacefulness over the 10-year period since 2008. And the gap between the most and least peaceful countries continues to widen.

The most and least peaceful countries

The most peaceful country in the world is Iceland, which has retained its place at the top of the index since 2008. The other nations in the top five are New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark.

There was little change in the scores of the most war-torn countries, with Syria remaining the least peaceful, followed by Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen.

Six of the index’s nine geographical regions recorded improvements, which led to the first increase in global peace levels since 2014.

The biggest regional deterioration was seen in North America. This was largely as a result of the polarizing US presidential election.

Although the period of the report excludes recent terrorist attacks in Europe, notably in the UK and France, Europe remains the most peaceful region in the world.

Image: GPI

The cost of violence and conflict

The report noted that the economic impact of violence on the global economy was $14.3 trillion in purchasing power parity terms – equivalent to 12.6% of the world’s GDP.

Meanwhile, war cost the global economy $1.04 trillion. The report also points out that peacebuilding expenditure is an estimated $10 billion, or less than 1% of the cost of war.