Positive Peace Report 2017

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The 2017 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. Therefore, Positive Peace can be described as creating an optimum environment in which human potential can flourish.

Through placing the emphasis on the positive, Positive Peace reframes our conceptualisation towards what works. The factors which create resilience are indeed very different to those needed to stop conflict.

Without a better understanding of how societies operate, it will not be possible to solve humanity’s major global challenges. Positive Peace combined with systems thinking provides a unique framework from which to better manage human affairs and to relate to the broader eco-systems upon which we depend. Positive Peace in many ways is a facilitator, allowing societies more avenues for adaptation.

This report is a continuation of the prior work of IEP, and includes an updated Positive Peace Index (PPI). It provides a basis for the application of systems thinking to better understand how nations operate. A section of the report describes the fundamental concepts of national intent, encoded norms, national homeostasis, self-modification, and mutual feedback loops - associated with systems thinking. In doing so IEP provides a new interdependent framework and holistic approach to understanding peace and development.

A major contribution of this report is the development of the concept of National Intent, a research area with direct policy implications. Identifying groups of countries with similar Intent it is possible to determine where the strongest alliances are likely to form. Soft power is also more likely to be successful in countries with similar intent. Policies that have worked in one country are more likely to have comparable outcomes in similar countries. This work is still in its early stages of development and will evolve rapidly in coming years. An interactive tool for National Intent can be found at

Positive Peace is also strongly linked to resilience. Countries with high Positive Peace are more likely to maintain their stability and adapt and recover from both internal and external shocks. Low Positive Peace systems are more likely to generate internal shocks, with 84 per cent of major political shocks occurring in these countries. 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, a disproportionally high number when compared to the distribution of incidents.

Countries with stronger Positive Peace have restorative capacities and as such are more resilient in the face of civil resistance. Movements tend to be smaller, exist for a shorter period, have more moderate aims, be more likely to achieve their goals and are far less violent. The differences between countries can be striking: 91 per cent of all civil resistance campaigns that were primarily violent have been waged in countries with weaker Positive Peace.

In 2016, the economic impact of containing or dealing with the consequences of violence was 12.6 per cent of the world GDP or approximately $14 trillion, highlighting that improvements in resilience and peace have substantial economic advantages to the global economy.

Positive Peace has been improving since 2005, with 109 of the 163 countries ranked in the PPI, or 67 per cent, having improved over this period. Six of the eight Pillars of Positive Peace have also improved. The two Pillars that recorded a deterioration are Acceptance of the Rights of Others and Low Levels of Corruption. To further help in understanding how Positive Peace operates the rise of European populism is explained through the changes in Positive Peace, where 19 out of 36 countries in Europe recorded deteriorations in their Positive Peace levels between 2005 and 2016. The US also recorded a sharp deterioration in Positive Peace.

Positive Peace is systemic and interdependent. As a simple example, High Levels of Human Capital can act as a driver of economic growth, while a Strong Business Environment can be a driver of improved education and both are influenced by Well-Functioning Government. Analysis of corruption demonstrates that 80 per cent of countries scoring poorly in Low Levels of Corruption also score poorly in High Levels of Human Capital, again highlighting the interconnected nature of the Pillars.

The criticality of peace to global development is underscored by the inclusion of Goal 16, the peace, justice and governance goal, in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, there is little prevailing guidance about the type of environments that are conducive to the achievement of the SDGs. Positive Peace describes this and is statistically linked to better outcomes for the Millennium Development Goals.

When comparing the factors of Positive Peace to all the SDGs, it is clear that two Pillars of Positive Peace are underrepresented in the SDG framework: Low Levels of Corruption and Free Flow of Information. These two areas should not be forgotten as they are important to achieving higher levels of peace and better developmental outcomes.

The report offers recommendations for enhancing Positive Peace. A systems view of Positive Peace appropriately recognizes complexity, but that complexity itself can make policy interventions seem difficult. IEP has identified two approaches for catalysing systemic change – one which emphasizes depth and one which emphasizes breadth. The first approach is to focus on society’s weakest Pillar. The second approach involves stimulating the entire system. This approach looks at each of the eight Pillars with actions for each that are substantial, can be achieved in the current political environment, and will have impact within a reasonable amount of time.

IEP has now conducted a number of workshops, including for Libya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Mexico with the aim of helping to build Positive Peace in these countries. The report contains a brief summary of these workshops.

Each Pillar of Positive Peace represents a complex set of social dynamics. Overhauling all aspects of corruption or governance, for example, may prove to be problematic and in fact break the system. Countries, like systems, evolve, therefore the unique factors which constitute the make-up of a country need to be understood and then practical steps taken to continually nudge the system towards its ideal state,
Positive Peace. Once started, improvements in the Pillars make more improvements more likely, thereby starting a virtuous reinforcing cycle.