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4 Jul, 2013

Global Peace Index 2013: An Alternative Means of Tracking Tourism Competitiveness

Another Ground-breaking Travel Impact Newswire exclusive

The publication of the latest 2013 Global Peace Index (GPI) in June 2013 offers the travel & tourism industry an opportunity to develop a new set of competitiveness indicators that go beyond jobs and economic growth and focus on the wider goal of building peace and stability. Travel & tourism is inextricably linked to conflict & violence. By measuring and quantifying the economic value of peace and the economic downside of violence, the impact and importance of travel & tourism as a conduit FOR peace and stability takes on a whole new dimension.

Published on June 11, the GPI says that the world has become 5% less peaceful since 2008, thanks mainly to rising number of homicides, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP and political instability. Because violence exacts a high economic cost, and its cessation a high economic payback, the GPI offers an interesting assessment: If global violence can be contained, it would generate a total economic impact equivalent to 11% of global GDP, or US$9.46 trillion. That, the report says, would be nearly five times the total output of the tourism industry to the world GDP and almost thirteen times the annual output of the global airlines industry. Even if the costs of violence containment could be halved, the report says, it could repay the debt of the developing world ($4,076bn), provide enough money for the European stability mechanism ($900bn) and fund the additional amount required to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ($60bn).

It adds, “If the world had been 25% more peaceful over the past year, the global economy would have reaped an additional economic benefit of just over US$2 trillion.

Those astounding figures are generated by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), founded by Australian entrepreneur and philanthropist Steve Killelea “to promote a better understanding of the social and economic factors that develop a more peaceful society.” The IEP strives to develop new conceptual frameworks to define peace; provide metrics for measuring peace; and, prove the linkages between peace, business and prosperity. “IEP believes the economic benefits of peace can and should be quantified, and that the policy impetus for peaceful societies will be advanced if civil society, governments, and business leaders understand the significant economic benefits associated with peace,” the website says.

The IEP website insists it makes no moral or value judgments, merely reports its conclusions based on the most authoritative evidence available. Precisely because of that the IEP’s work is backed by an impressive list of endorsers, including Nobel laureates, statesmen and women, former world leaders, diplomats, ministers, business and religious leaders, academics, journalists and more. They are all united in their belief “that without a world that is basically peaceful, it will be exceedingly difficult to solve many of the intractable problems facing humanity today.”

The sole travel industry personality on the list of endorsers is Tony Wheeler, Founder, Lonely Planet Publications. This editor emailed Mr. Wheeler to ask about the background of his involvement. Mr Wheeler replied: “I’ve been aware of the Global Peace Index right from the start. I met Clyde McConagh, who worked on developing the algorithms and figures for the index as he was putting it together. The actual research that produces the data which then gets used in their formulas is provided by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Then I met Steve Killilea who funds Vision of Humanity, the foundation which produces the GPI. He’s the one who dreamed it up, funds it and promotes it. And as a result of knowing them, I’ve been to several of their report launches. And I’ve done what I can to help it along. I think it’s a thoroughly good idea. My new book “Dark Lands” features Congo DRC, Colombia, Israel-Palestine, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, all countries which could do with some more peace.”

This year’s GPI report gives tourism a higher degree of importance than other economic sectors in assessing its impact both as a casualty of violence as well as a beneficiary of peace. Vietnam and Sri Lanka are two countries cited. That clearly establishes a strong link between politics/geopolitics, peace, stability and tourism, and paves the way for a new way of measuring it. The IEP backs the GPI with a training course called the “Building Blocks of Peace”, including lesson plans and activities designed for 14 -16 year olds. One of the four modules is specifically on peace and tourism. (Click here to see the story on this course).

The IEP website rues that in spite of the evident importance of peace, “it remains a poorly understood and nascent area of study in the social sciences. While there is a burgeoning literature on conflict and war, there is in fact comparatively little research on peace. IEP’s ambition is to go beyond crude measures of war and to systematically explore the drivers, determinants, and texture of peace.” It adds, “IEP aims to facilitate future research to better understand the mechanisms that nurture and sustain peace. By doing so, we can help inspire and influence citizens and governments to positive action.”

The GPI 2013 shows that the three least peaceful countries are Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. GPI score for Syria has fallen by 70% since 2008, the biggest ever score deterioration in the history of the GPI. Since the 2008 Index, 110 countries have become less peaceful, while 48 have improved their score. The number of deaths from internal conflicts has risen significantly. In the past year, the drug war in Mexico claimed twice as many lives as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The GPI also shows that the military constitutes 51% of the study’s expenditure on violence containment. The report says the world’s direct expenditure on the military is more than 12 times the amount of expenditure on aid, as measured by Official Development Assistance (ODA). In absolute terms the United States, China and Russia, were found to be accounting for almost half of the world’s violence containment costs, in spite of having only 26% of the world’s population.

In all three cases, the report says, the majority of their costs were from military expenditure. Specifically, in the U.S., approximately 70% was found to be military expenditure followed by the cost of homicides, which were 8% of the total. In China, the military was found to be the major contributor to violence containment expenditure followed by internal security, and private security. For Russia, the biggest contributor to violence costs after military expenditure was the containment relating to internal security and homicides, each accounting for 22%.

Globally, after the military, the economic impact of homicides represents the next most significant cost at $1.43 trillion or 15% of the total impact. The third largest contributor to spending is on internal security officers and police — around 14% of the total, or $1.3 trillion of the economic impact.

The GPI also measures and analyses positive peace, about which readers will find many more fascinating nuggets of data:

<> The 2013 Positive Peace Index ranked 126 countries on 24 indicators and found that the global average of positive peace improved in the period between 2005 and 2010 by 1.7%. This is due to improvements in equitable distribution of resources, levels of human capital, free flow of information, reduced levels of corruption, acceptance of the rights of others and well-functioning governments.

<> Europe is the most peaceful region, with 13 of the top 20 most peaceful countries. The top three most peaceful countries are Iceland, Denmark and New Zealand. Small and stable democracies make up the top ten most peaceful countries.

<> Countries with small and medium populations – one million to twenty five million – consistently score the highest average level of peace. While very large countries, with populations over 100 million, consistently record the lowest levels of peace.

<> A 10% reduction in violence containment would represent approximately $473 billion in savings and an additional $473 billion in additional economic activity. This would have a substantial positive impact on global GDP, allowing for resources to be diverted back to more productive uses such as investments in business, infrastructure, education or healthcare.

A detailed study of the report in travel & tourism institutes and think-tanks will set the stage for some heavy-duty debate about the nexus between travel & tourism, peace and conflict. Such a debate can cover everything from the definitions of “peace” and “violence”, the research methodology, the sources of information, and much more. A new set of parameters can attempt to quantify and measure the linkage between positive and negative peace. For example, if the Peace Index is declining, why is global travel & tourism growing? What are the contributing factors in both good times and bad? When New York City dealt with its street-crime problem, tourism boomed. Ditto when insurgencies and conflict came to an end in Nepal and Sri Lanka. A flip side could also research the damage done by the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine as well as the potential damage of looming ethnic strife in Myanmar or the cost of street demonstrations against the austerity measures in Spain, Italy and Greece, all of which are traditionally popular tourism destinations.

A first-step would be to grow the endorsement list by adding the names of more heads of global and regional travel industry groupings, such as the UNWTO, IATA, PATA and others. That will give them the “switch” to advance the peace agenda and propose policy debates by citing the economic value of peace without facing accusations of getting involved in politics. Whether or not specific initiatives follow the policy debates will be entirely up to the members of the respective groupings.

Simply put, the GPI argues that the manufacturing of both trucks and tanks can drive economic growth, but manufacturing trucks instead of tanks will drive BOTH peace and growth. Indeed, it joins a growing set of new emerging indicators – such as Gross National Happiness – now replacing the long-standing GNP and GDP indicators in the changing world order. If travel & tourism researchers can build on it similarly restructure industry and prove its contribution to global peace, it will go a long way towards rendering obsolete the superficial measurement of jobs and economic growth.

With many of the conventional wisdoms of globalisation under siege, a shifting global balance of power also requires a wholesale shift in mindsets. If peace can be quantified and happiness measured, the attainment of balance cannot be far behind.

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