Peace. When are we at peace? When there is no war, no treason, no terrorism and no political unrest? Or is it when there is no fear, no suspicion, no suppression and no latent anxiety? The Global Peace Index (GPI) defines a nation at “peace” as being one “not involved in violent conflicts with neighboring states or suffering internal wars”. The same index for 2012 ranks India at 142 among 158 countries – a deplorable rating to begin the year with.
It has been less than six months into 2013 and yet we have seen terror attacks, escalation of tension with neighboring nations, a rapid spurt in crimes especially against women, scams, demonstrations and political mudslinging which hit us with full force the moment we pick up the newspaper in the morning or switch on the television news in the evening. We are not in a state of war, but our country is definitely not at peace either.
Take a look at this list of the top ten most peaceful countries in 2013 which have succeeded in minimizing upheaval and unrest to attain steady progress and advancement in the world today:
The cool temperate climate, the heavenly Alpine landscape and sparse population are not the only things that make Switzerland a peace-lover’s paradise. The country has a notably long history of armed neutrality – it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815. Being a landlocked nation bordered by Germany, Austria, Italy and France, one would have expected Switzerland to be automatically sucked into the two World Wars. Yet, it has tactfully and continuously succeeded in remaining out of war zones and invasion plans, pledging allegiance to neither side and keeping out of military pacts. It follows an active foreign policy of conflict transformation and peace-building, houses the second largest UN office and is also home to the Red Cross. It is one of the richest nations in the world and provides one of the highest standards of living to its citizens. The only blot to its image as a promoter of peace is its large-scale weapon export trade which has turned into an important revenue source for the country.
The Republic of Finland, bordered by Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Russia is situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. Its population of 5.4 million is mostly concentrated in the Southern region and makes it the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. After a tumultuous war of Independence against Russians, Finland won its freedom in December 1917. Following the end of World War II, Finland joined the United Nations and has since succeeded in building a Nordic style welfare state. The administration spends a lot of money on the well-being, health and education of its citizens, as well as training and research. Despite being a latecomer to industrialization, Finland’s economic development has been rapid and it ranks today as having the best educational system in Europe and one of the highest qualities of life in the world, adding to its image as one of the leaders in the list of the mos peaceful countries. According to Newsweek magazine Finland is “the best country in the world”.
Despite being surrounded by volatile neighbours, the Slovenians who split from Yugoslavia in June 1991 have quietly put together a charmingly peaceful independent nation with no apparent quarrel with any state or ethnic groups. A former communist country with a population of 2.05 million, Slovenia is a diverse nation characterized by a high social and economic development. Numerous rivers criss-cross the territory, half of which is under forest cover. Slovenia stands at the crossroad of the main European cultural and trade routes and is a member of NATO as well as the European Union. Its diplomatic foreign policy enables it to avoid international scuffles and ensure a high standard of internal peace for its citizens
Ireland is the third largest island in Europe situated to the north west of the continent. Approximately 6.4 million people live in the country, which has a lush vegetation on account of its mild oceanic climate which rules out any temperature extremes. With growing prosperity since the last decade of the 20th century, Ireland became a top destination for immigrants and has since developed into a tourism hotspot because of the serene locales of its peaceful countryside and the relaxed, contented lifestyle of its inhabitants.
The Republic of Austria is a landlocked country of nearly 8.47 million people in central Europe. The country’s highly mountainous terrain is complemented by a temperate and alpine climate and rich vegetation. Following the disintegration of the Habsburg Empire, Austria evolved into an independent nation and today is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. The Austria of the present is nothing like the war-ridden aggressive fighter nation is was during its World War days. Today it has achieved a high level of peace through careful foreign relations and sound internal administration, thereby attracting hordes of tourists who visit it to glimpse its scenic beauty and cultural heritage as well as those who wish to live and work in a secure environment.
Notwithstanding its imperialist and colonialist tendencies before World War II, present day Japan, or The Land of the Rising Sun is an abode of peace and security. Situated just off the Chinese coastline, in the Pacific Ocean, Japan is an archipelago of 6852 islands with over 127 million inhabitants and is the only industrialized country in Asia. In spite of its rising space crunch due to the very high population, Japan has managed to remain relatively peaceful post the Second World War, except for natural calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis which frequently hit the islands on account of their geographical location. However the country possesses the technology to minimize damage to its industries, cities and citizens, with speedy relief measures and rehabilitation so as to not suffer any great losses from such natural disasters. Japan maintains one of the largest military budgets among countries. However, in spite of it’s own territorial disputes, it is the world’s third largest donor of official developmental assistance after the United States and France.
After breaking free of several years of European colonization, Canada’s post-war economic growth, combined with the policies of successive Liberal governments, have led to the emergence of a new Canadian identity, marked by the adoption of the current Maple Leaf Flag in 1965. Canada employs a large volunteer military force as part of its strong defence mechanisms. Simultaneously it has been an advocate for multilateralism, making efforts to resolve global issues in collaboration with other nations. Canada and USA share the world’s longest undefended border, co-operate on military campaigns and are each other’s largest trading partners.
3. New Zealand
This exquisitely beautiful island nation just off the Australian Coast houses a population of merely four million people. Despite being involved in a number of international conflicts including both the World Wars and the Vietnam War, Its sound administration, internal social security, dedication to policies that benefit poorer nations, and peacekeeping efforts have earned New Zealand the notable identity of being one of the most peaceful countries on earth today. Living in New Zealand would be a dream come true for any foreign citizen interested in settling abroad to a relaxed life of peace, serenity and contentment as it is considered one of the safest countries for migrants by various international surveys.
The Kingdom of Denmark in Scandinavian Europe includes two autonomous countries in the North Atlantic Ocean – Greenland and the Faroe Islands. The country has a unitary constitutional monarchy organized in a parliamentary democracy. Danish foreign policy is based on its identity as a sovereign state in Europe. Post the Second World War, Denmark ended its two-hundred-year policy of neutrality and has been an active member of NATO since its inception in 1949. However, the country maintains long-standing peaceful relations with its neighbours and other nations. It pursues an active foreign policy to defend human rights, democracy and national independence throughout the world, is a strong supporter of international peacekeeping and boasts of a low level of crime as well as organized conflict within and outside its borders. If peace and security are what you’re looking for – look no further than Denmark!
This Nordic European island country holds the top spot on the list of most peaceful countries despite being an active volcanic island owing to a combination of several favorable factors and progressive national as well as foreign policies. Iceland, with a population of about 320,000 within an area of 103,000 square km, which makes it the most sparsely populated nation in Europe. Until the 20th Century, Iceland suffered from an extremely poor underdeveloped economy. However, mechanization of its fisheries and the Marshall Aid brought about a radical transformation and turned the it into one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world. Today, with its free market economy, Nordic welfare measures, strong security systems and laws based on gender equality, Iceland stands tall as the epitome of peace and prosperity. It maintains diplomatic and commercial relations with practically all nations and is the only NATO member without a standing army.