Saturday, July 21, 2007

Comment on the "Global Peace Index"

by Leif Thomas Olsen, Associate Professor, Rushmore University

Global Peace Index
The Economist Intelligence Unit, in conjunction with an international team of academics and peace experts, has compiled an innovative new Global Peace Index (GPI), which ranks 121 nations according to their relative peacefulness. ...

Leif Thomas Olsen: Reading about an important and probably very serious attempt to establish a Global Peace Index, the article itself sends a strong signal indeed regarding the difficulty in doing this. This signal (divided into two paragraphs as if to divert attention from the link between the two sentences), reads as follows - when put together:

"This project has approached the task on two fronts— the first aim is to produce a scoring model and global peace index that ranks 120 nations by their relative states of peace using 24 indicators. (...) As with all indexes of this type, there are issues of bias and arbitrariness in the factors that are chosen to assess peacefulness and, even more seriously, in assigning weights to the different indicators (measured on a comparable and meaningful scale) to produce a single synthetic measure."

This problem alone makes this a very difficult task - especially if one aspires to be 'global'. However, when looking to the members of the research team who made the choices of indicators and weights, one cannot but get surprised.

Three come from - or are at least based in - Australia, all of whom carry typical western names. Three are Europeans, or at least based in Europe (Spain, Holland and Sweden), all of whom also carry typical western names. Two more participants also carry typical western names, one coming from (and/or based in) Canada, the other with an un-stated origin/domicile. Only one has a non-western name - Associate Professor Mohammed Abu-Nimer. He however represents the School of International Service, American University, Washington DC, USA - hardly a place where you would find a critic of the western way of presenting itself as 'the cradle of all good'.

The article does acknowledge that the indicators and weights "have been made following close and extensive consultation with an international panel of experts." However, who were on this panel is not disclosed, indicating they also typically represent the same type of societies as do the researchers themselves.

Why were not any Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Russian and/or South African professors invited to join the research team? Why were no researchers / co-authors involved who at least may have questioned the very assumptions the group used as research-premises? Are there no suitable academics to invite from the countries ranked low on the list - or was the team really surprised to find that Iraq and Sudan came at the very bottom?

This Index is an echo of the good ol' West and the Rest-approach. It is sad - but not at all surprising for a project sponsored by the Economist. Look at the two very different Happiness Indexes presented last year. One put all western nations at the top, with the relatively speaking fairly racist Denmark as number 1. The second one put all western nations from mid-rank to the very bottom, with the US ranked on par with several former East European dictatorships and a number of African countries in the Sahara-belt.One never stops getting surprised at how narrow the western mind is - not when it comes to measuring things (for which it seems well equipped), but when it comes to 'include'. The ghost of 'deduction' haunts a world that needs 'induction'. The Global Peace Index seems to be yet another example of this.




3 Comments:

Blogger Jessan Dunn Otis said...

Rather than developing a Global Peace Index - with all its' inherent bias, slant, omitted and comitted "issues" - I suggest that the time and effort in _not_ doing the above is better spent creating peace. Because, if peace were the dominant condition, there would be no need to develop indexes to measure it.

November 28, 2007 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Likely yes

December 30, 2009 6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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February 02, 2010 1:44 AM  

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