Country close-up: Syria on the Global Peace Index
This year, Syria’s position on the Global Peace Index shifted.
The Syrian war is in its ninth year, displacing more than 13 million people internally and abroad.
Yet in 2019, the Global Peace Index shows that Syria is no longer the least peaceful country in the world. Syria is now the second least peaceful nation, in front of Afghanistan, which slipped one ranking to take last place.
The 2019 GPI measurement year ended strongly with the military defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Coalition forces retook the town of al-Baghuz Fawqani in Syria on 23 March 2019, after six weeks of fighting, officially recapturing all territory held by ISIL after five years of war. Around 900 ISIL fighters will face trial in Iraq and sporadic confrontations continue in Syria.
Consolidating the conditions for peace in the region will prove critical to preventing the reorganisation and resurgence of ISIL, but at the time of writing the GPI, at least one front in the complicated Syrian civil war had been formally closed.
The economic cost of violence hits Syria the hardest, amounting to 67 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Afghanistan follows in second place, with an economic cost equivalent to 47 per cent of its GDP. These countries have high levels of armed conflict, large amounts of internally displaced persons, high levels of interpersonal violence, or large militaries.
However, the declining conflict in Syria has contributed to a broader drop in the economic impact of violence on the global economy. In 2018, the economic impact of violence improved for the first time since 2012, decreasing by 3.3 per cent or $475 billion. The reduction was primarily due to a decline in the costs associated with armed conflict, and improvement that was mainly due to lower levels of armed conflict in Syria, but also Colombia and Ukraine.
Syria has shown the largest deterioration in Positive Peace of any country in the index. Fifteen out of 24 indicators have deteriorated to below pre-war levels. War has devastated much of the previous development and diminished social and economic capital, all of which will impact post-war recovery.
On a more positive note, Syria’s mobile phone subscription rate has increased the most of any of the country’s indicators, increasing the Free Flow of Information Positive Peace pillar. Eighty-one per cent of Syrians own a cell phone, and at least two thirds have mobile internet access. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, refugees say mobile phones and internet access are as important to their security as food, shelter and water. Mobile internet access among Syrian refugees also helps them connect with aid organisations.