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Glaring regional gap between violence and peace

The world has turned increasingly into adjacent regions of conflict and peace, according to a new study. The Institute of Economics and Peace lists Syria and Iraq as the worst off. Europe ranks as the most peaceful.

The Australia-based institute on Wednesday published its Global Peace Index for 2014, saying Iceland topped 20 most peaceful European countries. Worst off was a mix of Middle East and northern African nations.

The index, based on 23 factors including terrorism, crime, and military spending, ranked Syria bottom as having the lowest level of peace, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Violence was costing the world 13 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the think tank concluded, with the death toll up from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 last year.

The number of uprooted people topped 50 million - the highest since World War II - while the cost of supporting refugees and those displaced inside their home countries had risen since 2008 more than twofold to 128 billion (88 billion euros).

Contradictory trends

Two stark contradictory trends had emerged, the study says, with "historic levels of peace" benefiting rich nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) while violence had escalated, especially in the Middle East.

The index shows Europe with 20 of the world's most peaceful countries, despite the lingering conflict in Ukraine.

The institute said its assessments of 162 nations showed that violence had become more prevalent in Iraq, Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

South Asia overtaken

South Asia, which ranked worst in 2013, had been overtaken by northern Africa and the Middle East. Syria alone had recorded 70,000 deaths last year.

"This is of real concern," said the think tank's founder Steve Killelea, who added that intractable conflicts bred terrorism that spread to other nations.

The biggest improvements in peace were recorded in nations such as Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast and Benin.

ipj/ng (Reuters, dpa)

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