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Institute for Economics & Peace

The State of the Union: How do Obama's comments relate to global peacefulness?

This week, US President Barack Obama gave the annual State of the Union Address, delivering both his outlook on America’s current state and his plan for the rest of his term. Throughout the speech, Obama mentioned a number of countries, both as friends to and competitors of the United States. But while they may be economically competitive, how peaceful are they?

 

Here’s a breakdown of some of the countries Obama mentioned as potential economic competitors and their status on the 2010 Global Peace Index:

 

China: China ranked 80th on the GPI in 2010, with disrespect for human rights, military capability, and perceived criminality in society all  ranking the country as less peaceful. However, it still ranks 5 places higher on the index than the United States.

 

India: India ranks at 128th on the GPI, making it one of the least peaceful countries. They have high levels of on internal and external conflicts fought, potential for terrorist acts, disrespect for human rights, ease of access to small arms, and military capability.

 

South Korea: South Korea comes in at 43 on the list, with high marks for lack of violent crime, organized conflict, and a low jailed population, among others. Obama mentioned it as one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world – how does this relate to its peacefulness? Sweden,  which topped the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2010 Digital Economy rankings, places 10th on the 2010 GPI, and Denmark, which is 2nd on the Digital Economy list, is 7th on the GPI.

 

Brazil: Brazil scores at 83, close to both China and the USA. The country has high levels of homicides, violent crime, and criminality in society, which most likely affects their economy.

 

Russia: Russia is also one of the least peaceful countries on the list, coming in at 143 out of 149. However, some areas of peacefulness include a low number of displaced people, low imports of major conventional weapons, and high funding for UN peacekeeping missions. 

 

The different factors for each country raise important questions: will these countries become more or less peaceful as their economies grow? How might these countries rank differently in 2011?

 

And, back to the State of the Union Speech: Will Obama’s plans for the United States improve the country’s peacefulness? The Institute for Economics and Peace has found that a 25% improvement in US peacefulness would generate approximately $300 billion in the US economy.). How can Obama introduce policies that better contributed to peace?

 

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