This is the headline in today’s Vision of Humanity e-newsletter. How wonderful. But what does it mean? Or what should it mean to us?
On the face of it, I’m not surprised by this. Europe is a region that is prosperous and comparatively well off; Europe is a region that has invested heavily in being peaceful over the last 50+ years. So the news comes as a welcome support to those who would argue that it has been worth the effort.
But behind the headlines there are some interesting facts. The European countries in the top 10 are: Iceland, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Belgium. The European countries in the next group of 10 (places 11 to 20) are: Norway, Ireland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Portugal. The rest of Europe, on the whole, still does quite well in the 21 to 30 rankings. But the UK (at place 44) and France (at place 53) are lagging behind significantly. For those of us who live in one or the other of these countries, that’s surely food for thought.
Of the countries worst hit by the recession and austerity, Portugal at number 18 and Spain at number 27 do comparatively well; Italy at number 35 not so; and Cyprus (at number 49) and Greece (at number 68) show real signs of stress.
And then there is the other end of the spectrum. Afghanistan is still at the bottom of the league at number 162; but the story that struck me the most was the fall of Syria – the sharpest fall in the 7 year history of the Global Peace Index; in 2009, Syria was ranked 46; in 2013 it is at 160.
Yesterday, I caught a story on Newsnight about Syrian activists who reject violence and arms; who want to work towards a democratic and free Syria developed by Syrian people they way they want their country to be run; they were clear that they did not want arms to be imported to support either the government of the armed rebels. Given the Global Peace Index they have a point. But the world’s governments (and that includes right at the head of the list the UK and France) are not listening to those people; they are not listening to the ordinary people of Syria who want to have a peaceful country.
If Europe has anything to contribute to the discussion about peace and peacebuilding – in Syria and elsewhere – then it is that armed violence does not bring peace. Europe proved that during hundreds of years of bloody wars.
We are about to embark on 4 years of commemorating World War I and the thousands of needless deaths it caused. Let us commemorate this and all other wars by learning the lesson: war does not bring peace; arms to do not solve conflicts.