Global Peace Index: The most and least peaceful nations in the world
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NEW ZEALAND: New Zealand is the most peaceful country in the world, according to the 2010 Global Peace Index (GPI), the fourth edition of an annual attempt to quantify peace in countries across the world. New Zealand topped 149 other countries on the list, based on 23 factors including military expenditures, participation in United Nations peacekeeping, and domestic stability. Here, a Zorb rolls down a slip in Rotorua, New Zealand, in May 2009. Zorbing is where visitors can tumble down a hillside in what looks like a giant beach ball. Kathy Matheson/AP/FILE
ICELAND: Iceland is the second-most peaceful country in the world, according to the GPI. It is a member of NATO, has no standing army, and enjoys relative political stability. Iceland’s proportion of GDP spent on its military is the lowest of any European nation. Iceland's volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier is seen here spewing ash on May 5. Brynjar Gauti/AP
JAPAN: Japan’s rise to the third most peaceful country largely reflects a reduction in its military capability and sophistication from previous years. Japan’s military expenditures also remain below 1 percent of its GDP, but relations with neighbors are poor because of tensions with North Korea and China. Colorful carp streamers fly over the Kanna River in Kanna, Japan, on May 2 to mark International Children's Day. It is traditional in Japan to fly carp streamers to mark the holiday, wishing for children's good health and to be as vigorous as the carp. Itsuo Inouye/AP
AUSTRIA: Neutral since the end of Soviet occupation of part of the country in 1955, Austria, No. 4 on the GPI, remains free of civil unrest and has good relations with neighboring states. Military expenditures remained below 1 percent of GDP in 2008, and although violent crime rose slightly, it remains among the lowest of the 149 countries surveyed. In Vienna, Austria, 100,000 roses are laid out next to the Burgtheater theatre as part of the '100,000 Roses Project.' Volunteers distributed the roses on May 15 to visitors at an open air concert and encourage them to pass their rose to a stranger as a gesture of friendship. Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters
NORWAY: Rounding up the top 5 most peaceful countries is Norway. Although imports of conventional weapons are up sharply, its military expenditures are 1.3 percent of GDP and violent crime is rare. Close cooperation is a cornerstone of Norway’s foreign policy, human rights are accorded respect, and relations with neighboring Scandinavian countries are good. Norwegian cross country skier Marit Bjoergen waves the national flag as she celebrates Norway's victory in the women's 4x5K relay during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, in February. Pawel Kopczynski/Reuters/FILE
IRAQ: Iraq is the least peaceful country in the world, according to the 2010 GPI. Ranked 149 out of 149, the war-torn country struggles with ongoing violent conflict between the government, al-Qaeda in Iraq, and several insurgent groups. Although improved from previous years, civilian deaths are still high, political instability persists, and tension and violence remain widespread. Men are seen at the site of a car bombing in Musayyib, Iraq, on May 20. Ali Atiya/AP
SOMALIA: Ranking 148 out of 149, Somalia is the second-least peaceful country in the world. The country has not had a nationally functioning state government since 1991, and much of Somalia remains mired in conflict. Somalia’s deteriorating security situation has also coincided with a growing number of violent pirate attacks off its shores. Somali militants from the pro-government Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca (ASWJ) group carry their weapons during a military exercise in Mogadishu on May 15. Feisal Omar/Reuters
AFGHANISTAN: Embroiled in conflict and instability for much of the past two decades, Afghanistan is the third-least peaceful country on the GPI. High numbers of civilian deaths, frequent terrorist attacks, high crime and homicide rates, and the ongoing conflict between US-led NATO forces and the Taliban-backed insurgency make this south Asian country one of the least peaceful in the world. Here, Afghan policemen search a passenger in Kabul on May 31 ahead of a three-day conference to discuss peace prospects with the Taliban, know as 'peace jirga.' Ahmad Massoud/AP
SUDAN: Continued conflict and a deepening humanitarian crisis in Darfur make Sudan the fourth-least peaceful country in the world. Terrorist attacks, violent demonstrations, and organized conflict contributed to the deterioration of Sudan’s score. The UN estimates that as many as 300,000 people have died from the combined effects of war, famine, and disease since the conflict in Darfur began in 2003. Southern Sudanese election observers are seen here witnessing the start of ballot counting after Sudan's elections in April. Pete Muller/AP
PAKISTAN: Pakistan is the fifth-least country in the world, a sharp decline from previous years’ rankings. Upward shifts in scores for terrorist attacks, violent demonstrations, and the homicide rate reflect the instability in this south Asian country. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s relations with neighboring India are improving and political stability ticked slightly up. A Pakistani security official stands near a burning vehicle after it was attacked in Chaman, Pakistan, on May 19. Suspected Taliban militants set fire to the truck, which was carrying supplies for Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan, police said. Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters
Though the recent India-Pakistan cross-border killings in Kashmir represent the most serious incursion since the 2003 cease-fire, both countries say they don't want further escalation.
ByAshok Pahalwan, Reuters
India denounced Pakistan on Wednesday over a firefight in the disputed territory of Kashmir in which two Indian soldiers were killed, but the nuclear-armed rivals both appeared determined to prevent the clash escalating into a full diplomatic crisis.