The five most improved countries on the Positive Peace Index 2019
The greatest shifts in Positive Peace were in countries from various regions.
5. Saudi Arabia
Gains in gender equality pushed Saudi Arabia’s Positive Peace score to improve by 11.4 per cent since 2009. In 2009, the country was ranked 145th out of 163 countries in terms of gender inequality. However, over the course of the last decade, Saudi Arabia has seen many positive reforms in this area and is now ranked 61st.
This improvement in gender equality is marked by many recent milestones. In 2013, 30 women were named to the previously all-male Shura Consultative Council, and in 2015, 20 women were elected to municipal positions in local elections. The ban on women driving unaccompanied was lifted in 2018. In August 2019, new laws allowed any citizen to apply for a passport and travel freely, including women.
Despite efforts to invite visitors, encourage foreign investment and increase tourism, Saudi Arabia’s level of hostility towards foreigners remains high by global standards. The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in October of 2018 also demonstrates that violence against journalists remains an issue.
Armenia has enjoyed a 26-place jump from 96th on the Positive Peace Index to 64th. The largest improvement was seen in the Free Flow of Information pillar, specifically in a 53.7 per cent rise in people using the internet since 2009, and a 17.5 per cent improvement in the quality of information. Freedom House reports that “there were no major restrictions on press freedom during the 2018 parliamentary election campaign,” and that independent media outlets provide a diversity of perspectives.
Tourism in Armenia is increasing, with a 39 per cent improvement between 2009 and 2018. While the regional integration indicator remains weak, the country has been strengthening its ties with the European Union (EU). The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership signed between Armenia and the EU, provides financial assistance and trade opportunities for the country, and represents a positive step towards integration.
3. Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire has improved its Positive Peace score by 10.6 per cent since 2009, despite a slowdown in improvements since 2015.
The country has endured two ethnic and racially charged civil wars in 2002 and 2011. The second civil war broke out in 2011 following a disputed election between long-standing Ivorian President Gbagbo and newly elected President Alassane Ouattara, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. Since 2011, the political situation in Côte d’Ivoire has become more stable, though violent protests and strikes still arise occasionally.
Côte d’Ivoire is significantly investing in its Positive Peace, having adopted a National Develop Plan in December 2015 – with aims to enhance government and institutions, develop human capital and social welfare and raise the standard of living. The plan is expected to improve public administration, social services and access for businesses to infrastructure projects.
However, the country’s civil wars have led to setbacks for education and an increase in poverty. Côte d’Ivoire also has one of the world’s highest levels of gender inequality, ranked 171st on the United Nations Gender Equality Index in 2018.
Belarus jumped 18 ranks on the Positive Peace Index between 2009 and 2018, a 13.5 per cent improvement. The main driver for this was improvements in foreign relations. While the country borders the European Union, it is not a member, and they have a history of political and economic tensions. However, with tensions increasing in neighbouring Ukraine, Belarus has sought closer relations with its European neighbours.
In 2016, the EU and the United States lifted all economic sanctions against Belarus on the condition of continuing human rights improvements. After the lifting of economic sanctions, Belarus initiated the Strengthening Private Initiative Growth program, which aims to develop the Belarussian private sector through economic stimulus. Low economic inequality and poverty have also strengthened the country’s business environment.
Free Flow of Information has also improved, with mobile phone subscriptions increasing from 4.1 million to 11.4 million between 2005 and 2016.
Georgia is biggest riser on the Positive Peace Index for the second year in a row, improving 16.4 per cent between 2009 and 2018.
Despite a history of regional tensions, Georgia has boosted its Positive Peace rankings by substantially improving in the Good Relations with Neighbours pillar. Tourism has grown, and 2017 reported a record 7.9 million international travellers.
Regional integration has also improved. Over the past decade, the former Soviet nation has cultivated a strong trade relationship with China, established the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, joined the EU’s Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and committed itself to the NATO Response Force. However, Georgia’s relations with neighbouring Russia remain complicated in the aftermath of the armed conflict in 2008, partly due to Russia’s continued occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia’s internet use has also improved its Positive Peace score. Internet freedom and access in the country has steadily improved. The country’s third largest indicator improvement was in individuals using the Internet (% of population).