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Positive Peace Report 2019: Analysing the factors that sustain peace

Institute for Economics & Peace. Positive Peace Report 2019: Analysing the Factors that Sustain Peace, Sydney, October 2019. Available from: (accessed Date Month Year).

By The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)

Executive Summary

This report is a continuation of the prior work from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), and includes updated results for the annual Positive Peace Index (PPI). It also provides analysis of countries that are improving or deteriorating in Positive Peace, as well as the developmental factors that improve or deteriorate with changes in Positive Peace. The research incorporates systems thinking to understand how nations operate and societies develop over time. The introductory section of the report describes the fundamental concepts associated with systems thinking. In doing so, IEP provides a new interdependent framework and holistic approach to understanding peace and development.

The 2019 Positive Peace report outlines a new approach to societal development through the application of Positive Peace and systems thinking. Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. The same factors that create peace also lead to many other positive outcomes that societies aspire to, such as thriving economies, better inclusion, high levels of resilience and societies that are more capable of adapting to change. Other factors positively associated with Positive Peace are better performance on handling ecological challenges, wellbeing and happiness. Therefore, Positive Peace creates the optimal environment in which human potential can flourish.

When combined with systems thinking, analysis of Positive Peace also yields a theory of social change. Developments in Positive Peace precede societal changes in peacefulness, for better or worse. Through building Positive Peace, a nation can improve its overall trajectory in social development and peacefulness. Stimuli and shocks have cascading effects, due to the feedback loops contained within national systems pushing societies into virtuous or vicious cycles. However, these cycles can be understood, planned and moulded to produce the best social outcomes. Positive Peace provides a roadmap of the things societies need to change, to either consolidate virtuous cycles or break vicious ones.

Positive Peace is also strongly linked to social resilience. Countries with high Positive Peace are more likely to maintain stability, adapt and recover from both internal and external shocks. Eighty-four per cent of major political shocks occurred in countries with low Positive Peace. Similarly, there are 13 times more lives lost from natural disasters in nations with low Positive Peace, as opposed to those with high Positive Peace.

Countries with stronger Positive Peace have restorative capacities and as such are more resilient in times of civil unrest. Civil resistance movements tend to be smaller, linger for shorter periods, have moderate aims, are more likely to achieve their goals, and be far less violent. The differences between countries can be striking: 91 percent of all violent civil resistance campaigns have been waged in countries with weaker Positive Peace.

In 2018, the economic impact of containing or dealing with the consequences of violence was 11.2 percent of the world gross domestic product (GDP) or approximately $14 trillion, highlighting that improvements in resilience and peace have substantial economic advantages to the global economy.

Analysis finds that Positive Peace is strongly correlated to positive economic outcomes. Countries that develop high levels of Positive Peace display greater degrees of economic strength and resilience. As such, Positive Peace can be used in financial markets helping investors identify reliable and sustainable growth opportunities. Improvements in Positive Peace are statistically associated with better performance in a range of macro-economic indicators, including stronger GDP growth, stronger flows of foreign direct investment, appreciating currencies and lower and more stable interest and inflation rates.

The concept is also closely linked empirically to the notion of ethical investing (ESG). Positive Peace is statistically linked to improvements in ESG measures and as such can be seen as creating the background environments where countries will perform well in ESG measures. Positive Peace can be used as a predictor of superior ESG performance and can be applied in the design of impact-type investment strategies or as a risk assessment and management tool.

Positive Peace has been improving since at least 2009, with 128 of the 163 countries improving on the PPI, or 79 percent, over this period. However, much of this improvement has been due to improvements within the Structures domain of Positive Peace and includes measures related to factors, such as poverty and health, or those that are the result of aggregate activity, such as GDP. They tend to grow almost without interruptions, reflecting the continuous increase in national incomes, the constant development of new technologies and the permanent stream of new discoveries in science and health.

In contrast, factors relating to social attitudes, as measured by the Attitudes domain, have recorded considerable deterioration over the past decade. These factors measure social views, tensions and perceptions and have been negatively affected by the increasing dissemination of false information, a rise in corruption, the greater polarisation of political views and the intensification of tensions between different social groups. Some countries have experienced steep declines in this domain, including well-developed countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, Austria and the UK.

Seven of the eight Pillars of Positive Peace have improved over the last decade. The one Pillar that continues to record a deterioration is Low Levels of Corruption.

The Pillars with the greatest improvements over the past decade have been Free Flow of Information and Sound Business Environment. These developments mostly reflect the dissemination of information technologies and the growth in goods and services consumption.

Each Pillar of Positive Peace represents a complex set of social dynamics. IEP research finds that different Pillars become more important at different stages of development. As countries progress toward higher levels of peacefulness, the eight Pillars build on one another to consolidate mutually reinforcing successes. Breakdowns in peace are preceded by deteriorations in fewer indicators than what is needed to improve peace, highlighting that to improve peace and development a broader set of initiatives are needed.

Additionally, improvements in a single Pillar, without improvements in other Pillars can lead to a higher likelihood of deteriorations in peace. Focusing exclusively on building stronger business environments or higher levels of education, for example, may prove to be problematic. Countries evolve like systems. For interventions to be successful, the unique factors that constitute the make-up of a country need to be understood. Radical change also creates risk. The best approach is many small nudges to improve Positive Peace.

Taken together, the findings in this report have important implications for building and sustaining peace:

  • There is no silver bullet. Building and sustaining peace requires a large number of society-wide improvements progressing in concert with one another over a long period of time.
  • Simply addressing the factors that led to violence in the past will not be enough to sustain peace. Different aspects of the social system push societies toward or away from peace, which means that improvements in peace require broader, systemic strategies than once thought.
  • Prevention should be the priority. Recovery after violence has already occurred is difficult, expensive, and requires widespread effort to rebuild Positive Peace. Through focusing on the factors that are most vulnerable, it is possible to build resilience in the most cost-effective way.
  • Stopping or preventing conflict is not an end in itself. As Positive Peace progresses, it enables an environment where human potential has more avenues to flourish.

Positive Peace can also be applied practically through workshops and development projects, which have been implemented in all major regions of the world, through IEP’s extensive partnership network. The workshops are effective at the national, state or community level. This report includes examples of a series of workshops that IEP has conducted for Libya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Mexico aimed at building Positive Peace in these countries and communities.

Without a better understanding of how societies operate, it will not be possible to solve humanity’s major global challenges. Positive Peace provides a unique framework to better manage human affairs and relate to the broader ecosystems upon which we depend. Positive Peace in many ways is a facilitator, making it easier for workers to produce, businesses to sell, entrepreneurs and scientists to innovate, and governments to serve the interests of their people.

Related: Why positive peace is transformational

The full report – Positive Peace Report 2019: Analysing the factors that sustain peace is available here:



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