A study of the world's most peaceful countries released Wednesday ranks Israel as fourth to last among the 144 countries ranked.
According to the Global Peace Index, an annual ranking of the world's nations on the basis of how peaceful they are, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq are the only countries more dangerous than Israel.
Directly more peaceful than Israel on the list are Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Pakistan. Lebanon ranks 132nd, Iran ranks 99th and Syria ranks 92nd.
The index's most peaceful country is New Zealand, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Austria. Iceland was rated most peaceful on last year's index, but was displaced to fourth in 2009.
Steve Killelea, founder of the Global Peace Index, said "now in its third year the causes of peace are becoming apparent and the net economic benefit to humanity is substantial. Peace does have an economic value apart from the very real humanitarian values associated with it. Research has calculated the impact of lost peace to the world economy over a period of ten years is $48 trillion."
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of Anglo American and chairman of the Global UN Compact and one of the GPI's high profile supporters, said "this year's index clearly shows that there are links between economic prosperity and peace. The business community can and does benefit significantly from non violent environments but perhaps business must now consider how sound, transparent and ethical business practices can play a larger role in bringing out about stability and peace."
Small, stable and democratic countries are consistently ranked highest; 14 of the top 20 countries are western or central European democracies. All five Scandinavian countries are in the top ten of this year's GPI.
The U.S. has risen six places from last year to 83rd place with a fall in the indicator registering the potential for terrorist acts. A significant negative for U.S. peace scores is the fact that the country still jails a higher proportion of its population than any other country in the index.
For the third year running, the country ranked least at peace is Iraq. Madagascar is the country that has fallen the most (30 places) amid mounting political instability and violent demonstrations. Bosnia Herzegovina is the biggest riser, up 23 places from 73rd position last year.
This year the Index has been expanded to rank 144 countries and now encompasses almost 99% of the world's population. The Index is constructed from 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators of external and internal measures of peace including levels of democracy and transparency, education and material wellbeing.
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