(STAR) By Jose Katigbak STAR Washington Bureau - With about 300 people reported killed or injured in the run-up to the May 14 elections, it comes as no surprise that the Philippines is rated among the least peaceful countries in the world.

A Global Peace Index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked the Philippines in 100th place out of 121 nations studied according to their peacefulness.

The EIU study, the first of its kind, measured countries’ peacefulness based on 24 indicators including ease of access to “weapons of minor destruction” (guns, small explosives), military expenditure, local corruption and level of respect for human rights.

“This is a wake-up call for leaders around the globe,” said Steve Killelea, who commissioned the study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is linked to the news weekly The Economist.

“Countries like Japan and Germany can give hope and optimism to countries further down the index that there can be light at the end of what may seem at the moment like a very dark tunnel,” he added.

Norway, the peace-promoting Scandinavian country which brokered the 1993 Oslo Mideast accords and has also sought to resolve fighting in Sri Lanka — is followed by New Zealand in second place and neighboring Denmark in third.

Iraq, which has been gripped by growing violence since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, comes in last just after Sudan, with Israel only two places from the bottom in 119th place.

The index is backed by international figures including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and US economist Joseph Stiglitz, all winners of the Nobel peace prize. It is also supported by Queen Noor of Jordan.

Surprisingly, the United States ranked among the least peaceful nations in the world, in 96th place.

EIU said the score of the US was brought down by the wars it is involved in, its big prison population and high levels of homicide. The US also suffered due to large military expenditures attributed to its status as the world’s only superpower.

China was ranked in 60th place and Russia in 118th place.

Among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Singapore was ranked as the most peaceful in 29th place followed by Vietnam (35), Malaysia (37), Indonesia (78), Cambodia (85), Philippines (100), Thailand (105) and Myanmar (108). Brunei and Laos were not included in the study.

“Peace isn’t just the absence of war; it’s the absence of violence,” said Harriet Fulbright of the Fulbright Center.

“Countries need to become more peaceful to solve the major challenges that the world faces, from climate change to overpopulation and sustainability,” said Global Peace Index President Clyde McConaghy in Washington on Wednesday.

Overall, the study found that small, stable countries which are part of regional blocs such as the 27-nation European Union are most likely to be more peaceful.

Income and education are crucial in promoting peace, it said, while also noting that countries which had turbulent times in the 20th century, such as Ireland and Austria, have emerged as “peace leaders” in the 21st century.

“I believe there is a link between the peacefulness and the wealth of nations, and therefore business has a key role to play in peace,” said Killelea.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who fled China after an aborted uprising in 1959, said the launch of the index could be a useful tool for policymakers.

“Compiling and maintaining an index of which countries are the most peaceful and publishing the results will undoubtedly make the factors and qualities that contribute to that status better known, and will encourage people to foster them in their own countries,” he said.

Organizers say the plan is to publish the index annually for the next two years, while after that the frequency with which it is updated will be reviewed.

The ten most peaceful countries are: Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Portugal and Austria.

The ten least peaceful countries are: Angola, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Pakistan, Colombia, Nigeria, Russia, Israel, Sudan and Iraq. —Jose Katigbak of STAR Washington Bureau, AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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