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Australia drops to 27th aided by China relationship woes

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Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman, Institute for Economics and Peace.

Steve Killelea, Founder and Executive Chairman, Institute for Economics and Peace.

Afghanistan, which was retaken by the Taliban last year, remained the world’s least peaceful country, followed by Yemen, Syria, Russia and South Sudan.

In total, peacefulness improved in 90 countries and deteriorated in 71.

Despite thw war in Ukraine, Europe was still the world’s most peaceful region, according to the report, accounting for seven of the top 10 most peaceful nations. Iceland again led the overall index, followed by New Zealand in second place.

Australia dropped nine spots from last year’s ranking to 27th, making it the only country in the top 50 to have recorded a fall that substantial. The decline matched that of Madagascar, Georgia and Djibouti and was worse than Myanmar’s, but peace deteriorated most in Guinea, Ukraine and Haiti, which dropped 26, 17 and 16 places on the index respectively.

Killelea said the slide partly reflected the deterioration of Australia’s China and Pacific relations.

The Royal Australian Navy makes its presence felt during patrols in the South China Sea.

The Royal Australian Navy makes its presence felt during patrols in the South China Sea.Credit:Royal Australian Navy

He said this had led to a boost in Australia’s military capabilities, such as the planned acquisition of nuclear submarines.

He said military acquisitions were also a factor in the overall decrease in global peacefulness and one of the reasons for the large disparity between the New Zealand and Australian rankings.

“What we use as the definition of peace is the absence of violence or fear of violence,” he said.

“So why do you have a strong military? You have two reasons for having a military, one is you fear other countries using their military against you, the second reason is that you want to use your military for your own geopolitical interests.

“Now in Australia’s case, we’re importing the weapons and building up simply because we’re fearful of China,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week welcomed the thawing of diplomatic relations with China after his deputy, Richard Marles, secure the first high-level meeting between the two countries in three years on the weekend. Marles met with Defence Minister Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the Shangri La security conference in Singapore on Sunday.

But Albanese made it clear the relationship cannot get back on track until China takes “concrete steps” such as lifting the $20 billion in trade sanctions on Australia.

Killelea said the institute was not “anti-military by any means” but its results reflected the reality that countries with stronger military capabilities tended to used them.

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The bright spot was the finding that, globally, terrorism is now at the lowest level in the index’s 16-year history.

Killelea said he had founded the index after a trip to Congo where he wondered about the country’s security situation compared to its neighbours and other nations.

“What I realised from that was a really simple question: […] how much do we really know about peace?

“If you can’t measure it, can you understand it? If you can’t measure it, how do you even know if your actions are helping or hindering? You simply don’t,” he said.

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