The typical headlines of the 24-hour news cycle might have you believe peace is impossible to come by. From international wars and humanitarian disasters to fights for independence and authoritarian regimes, it appears there’s no shortage of countries experiencing hostility and violence. In America, we’ve encountered hundreds of mass shootings in 2019 alone, an increasingly powerful prison system, and a rapidly worsening immigration debate and refugee crisis, the tumult of which has pulled hundreds of migrant children from their families.
Despite global headlines filled with dire depictions of war, heated conflicts, and terror threats, the bigger international picture is more complex when viewed through the lens of year-over-year analysis, which shows that many countries have seen improvements in recent years.
While marking only a slight change, the annual Global Peace Index (GPI)—the leading measure of peacefulness around the globe—rose for the first time in five years. Each year, the Institute for Economics & Peace’s GPI uses 23 qualitative and quantitative factors to come up with an index score for 163 countries around the world, covering 99.7% of the global population. Three factors have the biggest impact on each country’s score: societal safety and security, ongoing domestic and international conflict, and militarization. This year, the GPI found that peaceful conditions improved in 86 countries and deteriorated in 76 others.
A higher number of people around the world said they have more freedom and are more satisfied with their quality of life, and a higher number of people also reported that their countries have become better places to live for ethnic and religious minorities. But while the conflicts and crises of the past decade may have eased a bit, new tensions have arisen in their place. In areas where there were declines in the overall peace, one can find evidence of terrorism, conflict, regional and political tensions, and growing numbers of refugees.
In the 2019 GPI, Europe remained the most peaceful region in the world and showed a slight improvement after several years of decline. Nearly two-thirds of the 36 European countries bettered their records. The biggest increases for peace took place in the Russian and Eurasian region—thanks to a decline in the number of deaths from conflict and terrorism—while Afghanistan was ranked least peaceful, replacing Syria, which sat at the bottom of the list in 2018.
Stacker mined data from the GPI to inspect the 50 most peaceful countries in the world. What follows are 50 nations that serve as shining examples of nonviolence and relative tranquility. Absent from this list is the United States, which fell four spots from 2018 to take 128th place on the rankings, behind South Africa (127) and Niger (126).
Keep reading to find out where the 50 most peaceful countries in the world rank.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.812
Serbia rose five places to make this year’s top-50 most peaceful list. Propelling its climb was a decline in the number of refugees and asylum seekers. However, the Balkan nation did record an increase in terrorism.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.805
This year marked the first time Timor-Leste made the top 50 countries in the index, after rising 12 places. Independent for under two decades, it has steadily climbed the ranks of the index in recent years. By comparison, the other four most peaceful Southeast Asia nations—Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Laos—have enjoyed many more decades of stability.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.805
Zambia ranked as the fifth most peaceful nation in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its overall ranking remained unchanged this year. It was the scene of civil unrest, street protests, violence, and looting, as well as home invasions and sexual assaults. Along its borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola lay the danger of undetected landmines and unexploded ordnance.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.804
Panama, which edged up two places, has seen an improvement in its socio-economic system including a construction boom and a government capital investment program that included a public metro system in Panama City. However, political stability in the country has been deteriorating.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.801
The United Kingdom returned to the top 50 list, rising five places after dropping off in 2018 due to rising nationalism. It had been on the list for the previous decade. However, the U.K. ranked 13th from the bottom among world nations in terms of militarization.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.801
Laos rose two places from last year and came in at ninth in the Asia-Pacific region. Still, the nation had civil unrest and crime in some areas, particularly in remote areas along its border with Myanmar.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.796
Ghana ranked as the fourth most peaceful nation in Africa, after Botswana, Malawi, and Mauritius. The biggest factor in the West African nation's ranking was its substantial gains in political stability.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.794
Kuwait ranked as the second most peaceful country in the Middle East and North Africa––which ranks as the least peaceful region in the world––after Qatar. Kuwait placed fifth in the world in terms of per capita military expenditure, after Saudi Arabia, the United States, Israel, and Singapore.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.792
A former satellite state of the Soviet Union, Mongolia has had peaceful elections in recent years. With the government’s emphasis on mining, however, there have been some anti-mining and environmental protests. Also, the country had a problem with street crime, unprovoked xenophobic attacks against foreigners, and sexual harassment of women. Ulaanbaatar had the highest homicide rate of any Asian city.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.785
While Indonesia was among the most peaceful nations in the Asia-Pacific (rising 14 places in the index), it is vulnerable to rising seas and carried a high risk of climate hazard, which could mean breakdowns in peace in the future. Some 2,000 of its islands are expected to be submerged by mid-century.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.779
Malawi rose four spots this year and was among the most peaceful nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, its peace is fragile. Dissatisfaction with poverty, unemployment, and inequality has sparked violence.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.754
Italy stayed in nearly the same spot on the list as in 2018, although it has seen a deterioration of confidence in the honesty of its elections. While it was among the most peaceful nations in Europe in terms of domestic and international conflict, it scored much lower for its comparative militarization, and its military budget was among the world’s largest.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.728
Lithuania moved up two spots from 2018. Like other European countries, though, it was considered to be at risk of possible terror. It can also be unsafe for foreigners, ethnic minorities, and LGBT people who can be victims of harassment.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.727
Estonia slipped four places from its position in 2018. One factor that affected the Baltic nation’s change in rank was its marked drop in its acceptance of immigrants.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.725
Taiwan slid two places down on the list but is the sixth most peaceful country in the Asia-Pacific region. The safety and security enjoyed by its residents buoyed the island nation’s score.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.718
Latvia fell five places from its 2018 ranking. The factors most responsible for the Baltic nation’s change in rank were its rise in terrorism and declining acceptance of immigrants.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.711
Uruguay, along with Colombia and Chile, were the only three South American countries where conditions for peace improved. Climbing three places in overall rank, Uruguay had a marked reduction in its homicide rate. However, confidence in the government's integrity deteriorated dramatically, even for South America, where over three-quarters of residents believed their government is corrupt. Confidence in the integrity of its elections also dropped considerably.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.706
Up five places from its previous ranking, Costa Rica was considered the most peaceful country in Central America and the Caribbean region. It earned the highest score possible in terms of reduced political terror.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.699
Of all countries, Spain had the largest deterioration of confidence in its elections, helping fuel its three-spot drop in the ranking. Also, Spain had a rise in the number of people who reported being dissatisfied with their freedom to choose how they lived their lives. Perceptions of the country’s acceptance of immigrants also dropped this year.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.696
Qatar rose 10 places to become the most peaceful country in the Middle East and North Africa region. It had reduced terror and a lower homicide rate, but its scores for political instability and likelihood of violent demonstrations deteriorated because of a boycott by Saudi Arabia and other nations that say Qatar supported Islamic extremism.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.676
Edging up one place in the overall ranking from 2018, Botswana had the best score for a second year running for ongoing conflict in the world. However, it dropped to become the second most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa, pushed out of its 2018 spot in first place by Mauritius. Botswana underwent a significant drop in residents’ confidence in local police and their confidence in the honesty of its elections.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.654
Poland rose three places from 2018 despite experiencing an increase in terrorism. It also had a dramatic decline in perceptions of its acceptance of immigrants.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.645
While Croatia dropped one spot from 2018, it remained among the world’s least militarized countries and scored well for its safety and security.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.634
Chile, which moved up a notch from 2018, enjoyed the ranking as the most peaceful country in South America. In a region with the lowest level of trust in police in the world, Chile ranked highest at 59% (though that rate has fallen five percentage points since 2008). The country has been in turmoil with a series of mass protests seeking the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera over gross inequality. Piñera has already gotten rid of his entire cabinet, which has done nothing to quell the protests. Demonstrations have been so disruptive, Piñera canceled international summits on the environment (Conference of the Parties Dec. 2-13) and the economy (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum Nov. 15-17).
- Global Peace Index score: 1.607
Bulgaria has had improved relations with its neighbors, particularly the newly named Republic of North Macedonia and its current government led by the Social Democratic Alliance. Bulgaria’s ranking was unchanged from the previous year.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.606
Although Romania had one of the largest year-over-year improvements regarding external conflicts and political terror last year, it slipped a spot in 2019. Notably, the nation saw a decline in the number of deaths linked to external conflict.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.562
Mauritius may have dropped four places in the overall ranking, but it was the most peaceful country in Sub-Saharan Africa for a second year. The island nation in the Indian Ocean, known as a global tax haven, has no regular military forces.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.55
Its ranking unchanged from 2018, Slovakia scored well in terms of its safety and security. The mountainous Central European nation was among the least militarized countries in the world.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.547
Although it dropped four spots from 2018, Germany had fewer deaths from external conflict in 2019, and its leadership had high approval from surrounding states, particularly Kosovo, Denmark, the Netherlands, Albania, and Finland. Germany was one of the five countries––along with the United States, Russia, France, and China––that exported over three-fourths of the world’s weapons.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.54
Moving up one slot, Hungary was the second most peaceful nation behind Iceland in terms of militarization, a position it also held in 2018. However, its acceptance of immigrants dropped a dramatic 38 percentage points to 17%, the lowest rate of all the countries surveyed.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.536
Down four spots from last year, Norway has had a rise in terrorism, and it has been among the 10 highest weapons exporters per capita for the past five years. But it had one of the highest levels of perceived community acceptance of immigrants. Along with Canada, it ranked in the top 5% of countries where residents said it was a good place for LGBTQ+ people, as well as racial and ethnic minorities.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.533
Belgium moved up in the ranking by three spots, although residents expressed less satisfaction with their freedom to live their lives as they wanted. Satisfaction with Belgium’s standard of living also fell.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.533
With its perceived acceptance of immigrants declining, Sweden dropped three slots from 2018. The Scandinavian nation has also been among the 10 highest weapons exporters per capita every year for the last five years.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.53
The Netherlands edged up two slots despite an increase in terrorism. Over the past decade, it has seen a drop in both confidence in its military and confidence in the honesty of its elections. Like Sweden and Norway, the Netherlands has also been among the 10 highest weapons exporters per capita every year for the last five years.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.529
Climbing nine spots overall, Malaysia ranked among the world’s least militarized nations. It was the fifth most peaceful country in the Asia-Pacific region, where U.N. peacekeeping funding increased and there were fewer violent demonstrations and deaths from internal conflict. However, the region worsened in terms of internal and external conflicts and the impact of terrorism.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.506
Bhutan, known for measuring its Gross National Happiness, kept its reign as the most peaceful country in South Asia. It rose two places from 2018 and has shown the largest improvement of any country in the top 20, climbing 43 places in the last dozen years. Since last year, its scores reflecting refugees and internally displaced people improved, and it had a significant drop in its homicide rate. However, its score dropped for policing and incarceration rates.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.488
Finland was one of the 10 safest and most secure countries in the world. The Scandinavian country’s overall ranking was unchanged from 2018.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.419
Australia slipped one spot in the index because of an increase in its militarization (specifically its weapons imports), its military expenditure, and its nuclear and heavy weapons supplies. Its incarceration rate rose, as well. Also, Australia had one of the world’s highest gaps in the perceptions of men and women who feel safe walking alone.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.39
Ireland dropped one spot this year, as residents reported a decline in their satisfaction with their freedom to live their lives as they choose. Among European countries, Ireland had the biggest drop in satisfaction with its standard of living. The nation did, however, have little militarization.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.383
Switzerland rose two slots from its position in 2018. The famously neutral European nation was the only country in the world where women and men reported feeling equally safe walking alone. It also ranked the highest overall in pursuing policies that preserve environmental health and the vitality of the ecosystem.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.375
Czechia had low levels of militarization and ongoing conflict, both domestic and international. However, the nation still dropped three places, with the threat of terrorism looming here as it did in other nations throughout Europe.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.369
Japan kept its position as the third most peaceful nation in the Asia-Pacific region, although it dropped one slot in the overall index. It had a high disparity in the perceptions of men and women feeling safe walking alone at night, and it was among the 10 most militarized nations globally. Japan also ranked high among countries at high risk of extreme climate hazards, but it was considered having a high coping capacity.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.355
Slovenia ranked among the most peaceful nations in Europe, moving up two slots in the index from 2018. It was the third-least militarized nation in the world, behind Iceland in first place and Hungary in second place.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.347
One of the world’s least affected nations as far as ongoing conflict, Singapore ranked second overall in terms of safety and security, and it was the second most peaceful nation in the Asia-Pacific region, behind New Zealand. It rose two places in the index, although it spent a significant percentage of its per capita gross domestic product on military expenditures.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.327
Canada’s position in the index was unchanged from 2018, although its overall score improved slightly. It reduced its weapons exports, as well as its nuclear and heavy weapons capabilities, but the impact of terrorism grew, as did its homicide rate. Canadians also reported a drop in satisfaction in their standard of living. Still, the country had some of the highest levels of accepting immigration and of residents believing it was a good place for gays, lesbians, and racial and ethnic minorities.
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- Global Peace Index score: 1.316
While Denmark enjoyed a lower impact of terrorism this past year, it dropped a notch in the index from 2018. It experienced a drop in reported satisfaction with freedom to live as people want and a drop in satisfaction with the standard of living.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.291
Austria slipped to fourth place from third in 2018. The European country had little ongoing domestic or international conflict and low militarization along with high rates of safety and security. Like its neighbors, however, it faced a rising threat of terrorism.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.274
Climbing two places from 2018, Portugal was the second most peaceful nation in Europe, which was the world’s most peaceful region. The country had little militarization, and perceptions of its acceptance of immigrants improved dramatically. Nevertheless, Portugal fared poorly by having one of the biggest gaps between men's and women’s views of feeling safe walking alone at night.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.221
New Zealand kept its position as the world’s second most peaceful country, maintaining or improving its scores in nearly all peace-related factors. Though the Pacific country ranked among the highest for its acceptance of immigration, the nation suffered a horrific white nationalist terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019 that left 51 people dead.
- Global Peace Index score: 1.072
Iceland kept its title as the world’s most peaceful nation, a ranking it has held for 11 years running. With little militarization, it enjoys high rates of safety and security. Among all the Nordic countries, Iceland is the only one that is more peaceful now than it was in 2008.
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