There are few reasons for optimism. The war in Ukraine, provoked by the imperialist ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has irreversibly altered the geopolitical chessboard and has embroiled several powers in a new arms race, coinciding with the onset of a major economic recession, while the world is once again fracturing into blocs. Peace is a pipe dream and the short, medium and long term outlook is bleak. The world is much more insecure today than it was yesterday.
In this convulsive context, the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has published the Global Peace Index 2022, a report that gauges the outlook for peace around the world and measures the impact of the war in Ukraine, a conflict on European soil. The INCIPE (Institute of International Affairs and Foreign Policy) has been in charge of presenting the report in Spain, led by the director of the IEP, the Belgian Serge Stroobants.
The Secretary General, Manuel Alabart, and the Director of INCIPE, Vicente Garrido, were in charge of introducing and conducting, respectively, the presentation of the 16th edition of the report by the Director of the IEP, Serge Stroobants, trained at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels and with more than three years of experience in the position.
Stroobants began the presentation by explaining the method used by the think tank to measure peace around the world, which consists of 23 indicators and ranks 163 states and independent territories according to their degree of pacifism. Thanks to its method and reliability, the Global Peace Index (GPI) has become the main reference for measuring the degree of pacifism at the global level and the evolution of security threats.
The drafting of the report has been conditioned by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Until the fateful 24 February 2022, the country's security indicators had evolved positively after Putin's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the outbreak of war in the Donbas in 2014. War was no longer the main concern for Ukrainian society, according to data collected in 2021.
Issues such as health or the economy, crime or transport-related risks, beyond COVID-19, became the security threats most perceived by Ukrainians in 2021. They felt even safer and were even more optimistic than five years earlier. But then the Kremlin-engineered full-scale invasion began.
The Ukrainian people are undoubtedly bearing the brunt of the war. However, in a globalised world, the consequences have not been slow to spread. "The conflict has exacerbated the food crisis, shortages in supply chains and rising inflation," said Stroobants, referring to the blocking of logistical lines for exporting grain from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. The IEP director highlighted the consequences of the war on regions such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, which are dependent on imports from Russia and Ukraine.
Other tangible consequences of the war in Ukraine, according to Stroobants, include the increase in military spending within NATO, with the commitment made at the Madrid Summit by all NATO partners to increase defence funding to 2% of GDP, thus boosting the arms race, and ultimately the spread of intelligence information "in its raw form, without being processed through analysis".
"The result is the lowest level of peace in the last 14 years," said the EIP director. Some indicators are at their lowest level in decades". 90 countries have improved, although 71 have moved towards a more insecure scenario than a year ago as a result of "political terror, relations with neighbouring countries, intensity of internal conflict, number of refugees and internally displaced persons, and political instability", according to the report.
Iceland and Afghanistan are two sides of the same coin. While Reykjavik retains the top position as the world's most peaceful state, Kabul has descended into hell after the Taliban returned to power two decades later. "Although they have created some internal stability, there has been a significant increase in terrorist attacks," Stroobants said, referring to the activities of the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K).
The report notes that "Europe remains the most peaceful region in the world. The region is home to four of the top five most peaceful countries, and only one country in Europe falls outside the top half of the index". In this respect, the IEP director points out that the European continent is "the most resilient area in the world": "We need to put things in perspective. But, of course, there can be signs of instability, in the heat of the economic crisis. There can be protests and violence like we saw in the yellow waistcoats revolt in 2018 in France."
On the publication of the Madrid Strategic Concept, Stroobants makes it clear that the diagnosis drawn up by the Atlantic Alliance partners agrees on several points, especially the threats coming from the Southern Flank. "The Sahel is the engine of instability in sub-Saharan Africa. Terrorism is proliferating, there are conflicts generated by climate change and access to resources... NATO could absorb the consequences," said the IEP director.
Against this backdrop, Stroobants admits that he struggles to find indicators that invite optmism: "When you look at the transformation of international relations, it's hard to be optimistic. I don't think it will be better next year. For the Belgian, it is crucial to invest in "positive peace": "We know what the problems are, now the effort has to be made".