South Africa ranks among the most dangerous countries in the world – and it’s costing us

 ·21 Sep 2017

The 2017 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) shows that levels of peace across the world have improved slightly compared to 2016.

In many cases it does not feel like the world is a more peaceful following terror attacks in countries like France and the UK, while internal conflicts in the US continue to grab headlines.

However, the index shows that, on balance, things across the world have improved, with 93 countries becoming more peaceful by its metrics, and 68 becoming less peaceful.

Over the past 10 years, though, the IEP points out that global peace levels have deteriorated, with a 408% rise in battle deaths, a 247% increase in deaths from terrorism, and the number of refugees doubling in the last decade.

On the positive side, 72% of countries have reduced their armed forces; 67% have seen a drop in their murder rate (including South Africa); and 65% have reduced military spend as a percentage of GDP.

Peace and safety in South Africa

The Global Peace Index measures peacefulness according to three broad categories (militarisation, safety and security, and domestic and international conflict), sub-divided into smaller indicators.

Also factored in is the cost of violence, expressed as a percentage of GDP. Globally, the IEP measured this at 12.6% of GDP, meaning global violence costs $14.3 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms.

According to the report, South Africa ranks as the 123rd most peaceful country in the world, out of 163 countries and districts measured. This puts us on the lower-end of the scale (in the lowest quartile), but still far from war-torn regions like Iraq and Syria.

While South Africa has improved its placement on the index (126th in 2016), the country still remains one of the most dangerous and unsafe countries in the world.

Across all indicators, the country performs very poorly in six, with a perception of high levels of criminality; easy access to weapons; relatively high levels of political terror and high levels of violent demonstrations.

The two stand-out marks against SA, however, are in terms of violent crime and homicide, which are among the worst in the world.

This is apparent in the societal safety and security category, where South Africa ranks within the bottom 20 in the world – 18th – while the murder rate makes South Africa the 8th most violent with a rate of 33 per 100,000 people.

Iraq is seen as the least safe country (just below Syria), while Iceland is ranked as the most safe.

These levels of violence and insecurity also have a massive impact on the economy, with the IEP measuring the cost of violence in South Africa at 22.3% of GDP, or $144.2 billion (R1.92 trillion) – roughly $2,582 (R34,500) per person.

This is the 16th highest cost out of all countries in the world. Switzerland has the lowest cost of violence (1.5% of GDP), while Syria carries the highest cost (66.9% of GDP).

The table below shows the 10 most and least peaceful countries in the world.

Top 10 most peaceful countries

# Country Index Score
1 Iceland 1.111
2 New Zealand 1.241
3 Portugal 1.258
4 Austria 1.265
5 Denmark 1.337
6 Czech Republic 1.360
7 Slovenia 1.364
8 Canada 1.371
9 Switzerland 1.373
10 Ireland / Japan 1.408

Top 10 least peaceful countries

# Country Index Score
163 Syria 3.814
162 Afghanistan 3.567
161 Iraq 3.556
160 South Sudan 3.524
159 Yemen 3.412
158 Somalia 3.387
157 Libya 3.328
155 Sudan / Central African Republic 3.213
154 Ukraine 3.184
153 Democratic Republic of the Congo 3.061

You can read the full report here.

Read: Cape Town is South Africa’s real crime capital

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