Japan, the fifth-most peaceful country in the universe

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Japan retained its position as the fifth-most peaceful nation in the second annual Global Peace Index — a collaboration between international businessman Steve Killelea and the Economist Intelligence Unit — released.

Ranked behind Iceland, Denmark, Norway and New Zealand, Japan is the only Group of Eight member country to fall in the top 10 of the index, boasting high levels of internal peace and lack of civil unrest, despite its “tense relations” with China and North Korea.

“Measures of societal safety and security, such as the level of violent crime, the likelihood of violent demonstrations and the number of homicides in Japan are among the lowest in the world,” the report states, highlighting the reasons, alongside Japan’s low level of military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product, for the positioning of the country.

Meanwhile, the United States is ranked 97th, one place lower than last year and considered a lot more violent than Kuwait, Nicaragua, Libya and Costa Rica.

The United Kingdom is at 49, just below Panama. Unsurprisingly, Sudan, Somalia and Iraq are at the bottom of the list.

The ranking uses 24 indicators, including the number of external and internal wars fought, the level of respect for human rights and trade in major conventional arms, in an attempt to provide a quantitative measure of peace that is comparable over time.

“The U.S. does so badly because it has the highest proportion of jailed people in the world. And it has high levels of homicide and high potential for terrorist attacks,” Killelea said. “Its overall score is a reflection of that. The index is not making any moral statements by the ranking.”

America’s ranking reflects its role as a protector of democracy, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, adding: “A lot of the time, in order to realize a more peaceful, a more stable, a more prosperous world, you have to do hard things. A lot of times people don’t agree with those things.

“Sometimes you fall down these kind of lists, but at the end of the day it is in the defense of democracy and the way of life that we have enjoyed over the past several decades.”

At the launch, report founder Killelea expressed his delight at the extent to which the inaugural index had been used as a tool by both world leaders and academics over the past year and shared his desire for the expanded 2008 version to be used by businesses as well.

“I acknowledge the role of business in creating peace but hope that it will do more. The index should be used by business to make more informed investment decisions,” Killelea said, noting there was no doubt that investment and business benefit from more peaceful environments.

The Global Peace Index — the first study of its kind to rank 140 nations by their peacefulness and to identify the key drivers of peace — concludes that the world appears to be a marginally more peaceful place in 2008, with most countries performing better against key measures of peacefulness compared with the previous year.

“The results are encouraging, but it takes small steps by individual countries for the world to make greater strides on the road to peace,” Killelea said.

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