The Netherlands strong and steady in 2015 Global Peace Index
For the second year in a row, the Netherlands has placed 20th worldwide in the Global Peace Index, an annual report by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). The Dutch also placed 14th in the separate ranking for Europe.
This Dutch score shows some improvement, both in global and regional terms, since the period 2008 - 2013, when it lingered in the high 20s.
The Global Peace Index
Since 2007, the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global non-profit research organisation based in Sydney, Australia, partners annually with the Economic Intelligence Unit, think tanks and experts from around the world to compile the Global Peace Index.
The index gauges relative levels of peacefulness on a national and regional basis. This year, it ranked a total of 162 countries.
The report not only examines how peaceful conditions are within a country, but also how that country contributes to peace or conflict beyond its own borders.
Three main categories - societal safety and security, militarization, and domestic and external conflict - comprise 23 indicators, which expert panels weigh according to importance.
Indicators cover such issues as perceptions of criminality, political instability, terrorism impact, weapons imports/exports, UN peacekeeping funding and relations with neighbouring countries.
Peace in Europe
The index consistently shows Europe to be the world’s most peaceful region. This year, the overall "winner" nation was Iceland, in a pattern that has only been broken once - when Iceland lost the top spot to Switzerland in 2012.
The withdrawal of NATO-led troops from Afghanistan improved the scores of several European countries, such as the UK, in the "external conflicts fought" indicator and bolstered their rankings.
France, Denmark and Belgium, however, fell in the index this year due to lower scores in the "terrorism impact" indicator. This was the result of incidents like the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris and the Copenhagen shootings.
Other countries saw improved scores. Greece jumped 22 places due to a reduction in violent crime and political terror. Several Balkan nations, experiencing improved political stability and a reduction in military spending, also moved up on the index.
The Netherlands’ strengths and weaknesses
For its part, the Netherlands received strong scores across a number of indicators.
It pulled in relatively high marks for "political stability", "terrorism impact", "homicide" and "relations with neighbouring countries".
Its performance in categories like "violent crime" and "security officers and police" were average among similar countries in the region.
The most problematic indicator for the Netherlands was "weapons exports". A known transit trade in arms through the country, with weapons ending up in conflict zones like Israel, has come under fire from Amnesty International and other concerned groups.
Peace scores in other regions
After Europe, North America is the world’s most peaceful region, but the disparity in scores between Canada (7) and the United States (94) is striking. This year, the US improved its score slightly thanks to a lower level of military engagement abroad.
Countries in the Asian-Pacific area showed a range of scores, with the region faring well overall despite territorial disputes, ongoing conflict in Myanmar and a poor performance by North Korea.
Chile achieved the highest marks in South America, while many of its neighbours saw reduced scores thanks to political instability and increased crime.
Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Russia/Eurasia and the Middle East/North Africa, in that order, were the worst-performing regions due to violent conflicts, instability and unrest. Within those regions, however, some individual countries demonstrated improvement.
For example, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast improved their scores more than any other countries worldwide, with peaceful elections and reduced violent rebel activity.
The Global Peace Index top 10