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Buddhist countries not so peaceful after all

The Buddhist Channel, May 31, 2007

Major Buddhist countries such as Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka fare poorly in Global Peace Index

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia –The first study to rank countries around the world according to their peacefulness and the drivers that create and sustain their peace was launched today.

The Global Peace Index studied 121 countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe and its publication comes one week before the leaders of the world's richest countries gather for the G8 summit in Germany to discuss issues of global concern.

Leading the pack as the most peaceful nation on earth is Norway, followed by New Zealand and Denmark.

The index indicated that Buddhist countries, or countries which have a significant Buddhist population, have fared rather poorly in the overall standings. Of the so called “Buddhist” countries surveyed, Japan led the pack with a fifth overall standing followed by Bhutan at 19.

Surprisingly, countries with Buddhist majorities such as Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia were ranked amongst the bottom half. Significantly perhaps due to the on-going civil war, Sri Lanka fared the worst (at least amongst the Buddhist lot) at 111.

Despite being a religion which emphasizes core teachings that goes into building peace such as love, compassion and generosity, the overall sub-standard positions achieved by the Buddhist countries say much about the discrepancies between Dharma values and government policies.

The Economist Intelligence Unit measured countries' peacefulness based on wide range of indicators - 24 in all - including ease of access to "weapons of minor destruction" (guns, small explosives), military expenditure, local corruption, and the level of respect for human rights.

After compiling the Index, the researchers examined it for patterns in order to identify the "drivers" that make for peaceful societies. They found that peaceful countries often shared high levels of democracy and transparency of government, education and material well-being.

The rankings show that even among the G8 countries there are significant differences in peacefulness: While Japan was the most peaceful of the G8 countries, at a rank of five in the Index, Russia neared the bottom at number 118. The Global Peace Index also reveals that countries which had a turbulent time for parts of the twentieth century, such as Ireland and Germany, have emerged as peace leaders in the 21st century.

While the U.S. possesses many of these characteristics, its ranking was brought down by its engagement in warfare and external conflict, as well as high levels of incarceration and homicide. The U.S.'s rank also suffered due to the large share of military expenditure from its GDP, attributed to its status as one of the world's military-diplomatic powers.

The main findings of the Global Peace Index are:

  • Peace is correlated to indicators such as income, schooling and the level of regional integration
  • Peaceful countries often shared high levels of transparency of government and low corruption
  • Small, stable countries which are part of regional blocs are most likely to get a higher ranking

The Index has already won the support of an influential and distinguished group of supporters, many of whom are dedicated to promoting global peace, including former U.S. President James Carter, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Richard Branson and Harriet Fulbright of the Fulbright Centre.

"This Index stands to broaden our very definition of what peace is, as well as how to achieve it," said Fulbright. "Peace isn't just the absence of war; it's the absence of violence."

"Countries need to become more peaceful to solve the major challenges that the world faces - from climate change to overpopulation and sustainability," said Global Peace Index President, Mr. Clyde McConaghy.

"We hope that the findings of the Global Peace Index will act as a catalyst for increased funding to study peace and for governments and industry to take policy action," he added.

Buddhist countries (or countries with a significant Buddhist population) most at peace (GPI rankings in bracket):

1. Japan (5) *
2. Bhutan (19)
3. Hong Kong (23) *
4. Singapore (29) *
5. South Korea (32)
6. Vietnam (35) *
7. Taiwan  (36)
8. Malaysia (37) *
9. China (60) *
10. Cambodia (85)
11. Thailand (105)
12. Myanmar (108)
13. India (109) *
14. Sri Lanka (111)

* Countries with a significant Buddhist minority

To view the full list of coutries ranked in the Global Peace Index, please goto: http://www.visionofhumanity.com/rankings/

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