Yemen ranks low on Global Peace Index [Archives:2008/1159/Local News]

May 29 2008

By: Sarah Wolff
The Global Peace Index, which records stability, militarization and conflict throughout the world, was released last week, with Yemen scoring in the bottom third of all ranked countries for the second year in a row. It also dropped one place since last year's survey and now is ranked 106 out of 140 countries in terms of peaceful domestic and foreign relations.

Beginning last year, the index ranked 121 countries based on their military spending, their relations with neighboring countries and their respect for human rights, in addition to 21 other qualitative and quantitative criteria. Now in its second year, the index has expanded to include 140 countries, with Iceland topping the list as the most peaceful country.

The brainchild of Australian entrepreneur Steve Killelea, the index is part of an initiative created by a global think tank called the Institute for Economics and Peace, which analyzes the links between economics and peace.

At the release of the index results last week, president and CEO of the Global Peace Index, Clyde McConaghy, noted that the index is designed to make governments look critically at their domestic and foreign policies. He further hoped that the top spots on the index will become a gold standard of sorts for peace, for which all countries should aspire.

Regionally, Yemen was 13th out of 18 countries in the greater Middle East and North Africa, less peaceful than Iran and Syria but more peaceful than Lebanon or Iraq.

Compared to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen had more homicides, poorer relations with other nations and a higher level of domestic instability. However, Saudi Arabia ranked below Yemen at 108 on the index because of its large military budget and the frequent jailing of its own citizens.

Although Yemen has severe problems providing quality education and secondary school enrollment – both of which factored into the peace index ranking – it spends more money on education from its gross domestic product than either of its neighbors.

“Willingness to fight” was another indicator where Yemen scored poorly, with the index showing that Yemenis are far more willing to incite conflict than neighboring Saudi Arabia or Oman. The country also has approximately 330 paramilitary soldiers for every 100,000 citizens, which means that one-third of Yemen's population consider themselves paramilitary soldiers.

Yemen's ongoing war in Sa'ada governorate, political unrest in its southern provinces and its tense border relations with Saudi Arabia all contributed to its low ranking on the index.

The lowest ranked five countries – Israel (including the occupied territories), Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, and in last place, Iraq – were all in the Horn of Africa and the greater Middle East, a poor sign for peace prospects in the region at large.