06/13/2012 05:17 pm ET Updated Jun 13, 2012

Global Peace Index Shows Economic Benefits of Non-Violence

The most peaceful place in the world? It's not a California beach, nor the Scotland Highlands. For the second year in a row, Iceland ranks as the most peaceful nation in the world, according to the annual ranking of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

Drawing from 23 quantitative (“How many homicides per 100,000 people?") and qualitative (“relations with neighboring countries”) indicators that measure the amount of internal and external violence within specific countries, the IEP annually compiles a list of the most -- and least -- peaceful countries in the world.

This year's ranking saw the U.S. drop six spots, from 82nd to 88th. Syria, which has been rocked by 15 months of brutal violence, unsurprisingly dropped 31 spots, to 147th out of 158 nations ranked.

Steve Killelea, founder and Chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace, said there is a strong relationship between improvements in peace and economic prosperity. “I realized that we spend a lot of time studying conflict, and not much time studying peace,” he said. “If you wanted to understand what it takes to have a good marriage, would you hang around a divorce court?

The IEP produces the index as a way of informing governments and nongovernmental organizations of the economic incentives of a world without violence and encourages them to “invest in peace,” Killelea said.

Violence costs money. The U.S., as an example, spends $100 billion in Afghanistan per year, or nearly $2 billion a week.

Although he acknowledges that there needs to be an appropriate amount of investment in security and the prison industry, Killelea suggests that the fortunes spent on "violence" can be directed into more “productive investments.”

“For example, the U.S., rather than building a prison, can use money for water levees or a rapid transit system,” Killelea said.

He cited Sub Saharan Africa as an example of a region in which economic and political integration have created a more peaceful environment.

“Nations have become externally more peaceful as they compete through economic, rather than military means,” Killelea said.

Iceland is this year's most peaceful country, but can you guess the most violent one? Find out in the slideshow below.



The 10 Least Peaceful Nations In The World