Humanity faces dire future if substantive peace not embraced

Steve Killelea addresses audience in Winnipeg last week. /PHOTO: Shirley Kowalchuk

After building a $600 million publicly traded information technology firm, Mr. Steve Killelea found himself in northeast Kapoor of the Congo, deep within a war ravaged area. He was traveling in war zones with his wife Debra for the purposes of his family’s charity work.

In this place, he experienced a sudden revelation.

He wondered which countries were the most peaceful and what were they doing to be so – and how these things, if known, might help such terribly ravaged countries.

“I searched the internet,” said Killelea, “and couldn’t find anything. That’s how the Global Peace Index was born.”

Recalling his vision, Killelea asked, “How can you run your business without really solving the metrics? And peace is no different. If you can’t measure peace, how do you know whether your interventions are actually helping you or hindering you in achieving your goals?”

A slide of Steve Killelea working in Africa.

From this moment deep in the Congo, Killelea went on to develop a way to measure peace by research and analysis of the societal complexities which combine, seemingly in mysterious ways, to produce peace and conversely, its absence – a state often manifesting in devastating and sometimes cataclysmic ways.

Killelea did this through developing a measure called the Global Peace Index (GPI) along with other associated measures including the Global Terrorism Index.

“If you cannot measure peace, you can not truly understand it,” said Killelea. “For me, that was a profound break through.”

Steve Killelea described this watershed moment in Winnipeg last week as guest lecturer for the 2017 Sol Kanee Lecture on Peace and Justice. His topic — ‘Peace Through Prosperity’.

On Thursday, a large crowd attended the much anticipated lecture that annually brings world class speakers in peace and justice to Winnipeg.

People awaited Killelea in the reverence of the stone and concrete space of the Bonnie & John Buhler Hall at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

“Welcome” in many languages. /PHOTO: Shirley Kowalchuk

As preamble speakers took the stage, an animation upon the room’s northernmost wall projected people in silhouette writing Welcome in many languages upon its elevation.

Dr. La Royce Batchelor, Executive Director of the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship “first and foremost” acknowledged the lecture was held upon Treaty One Territory on the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe people and homeland of the Metis Nation.

She described Killelea as an “entrepreneur, philanthropist, and champion of peace.”

Killelea built his first IT company that today is one of Australia’s largest. It serves more than 125 Fortune 500 companies. Integrated Research Ltd provides PROGNOSIS performance monitoring software for business and IP telephony environments.

In 2001, he started a venture capital firm marketing to early stage Australian technology, biotechnlogy and medical field companies.

By 2001, the family’s Charitable Foundation was started (whose work brought Killelea and his wife to the worst of war ravished countries). In 2007 the identification and tracking of world peace began with the establishment of the Institute for Economics and Peace. (IEP)

Next up, Christopher J. Adams, Rector, St. Paul’s College, described how throughout the week Killelea explored Winnipeg and met with leaders of the Indigenous community, business leaders, non-governmental organizations and graduate students involved in the Peace and Conflict Studies program.

“We have opened the door to greater opportunities to know and understand and walk the path of peace,” said Adams.

Following was Dr. John Young, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. He also acknowledged aboriginal treaty lands and further stated the water feeding the CMHR was sourced from Shoal Lake 40 First Nation.

“To make the case for human rights, you must also make the case for peace,” said Young. He added the connection between peace and human rights is “deeply intertwined” and is, by design, an association made within the Universal Declaration for Human Rights.

Young added, “John Humphrey, the Canadian who helped draft the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, correctly noted that there will be peace on earth when the rights of all are respected.”

Dr. John Young, President, CEO, Canadian Museum for Human Rights, introduces Steve Killelea. /PHOTO: Shirley Kowalchuk

Young said Killelea’s work in peace is important because it reveals that peace is made up of many things. But, soon after Killelea’s epiphany in the Congo and as he began to study peace more greatly, he found areas where peace was not being recorded, measured or analysed in the ways he thought necessary.

Today the Global Peace Index (GPI) is considered the world’s leading measures of peace.

Up next was Robert Puchniak, philanthropist and former Executive Vice President and CFO of James Richardson and Sons, and the founder of Tundra Oil.

“Killilea is a visionary willing to assume risk,” Puchniak said. “Steve is someone who also knows how to execute a plan.”

He listed Killelia’s awards, including the 2010 order of Australia, the 2016 Luxembourg Peace Prize, and two nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

More than two million people have benefited from the Killelea Family Charitable Foundation and the IEP is now seen as an influential and internationally renowned think tank.

“Ladies and gentleman, from Sydney, Australia please welcome Mr. Steve Killelea!”

To copious applause, Killelea crossed the stage. In a starkly amiable and straightforward manner he described that he would use slides “to help bring to you a number of concepts and ideas you probably haven’t come across before.”

So began an amazing statistical story of our world.

“Actually, one of the reasons the GPI is successful,” he said, “it came out of developing an IT (information technology) plan, so it is based around research and development. I brought a lot of the concepts which I had at developing products into what we are doing at IEP”.

Today the Institute is headquartered in Sydney, with offices in New York, Mexico City, The Hague and has an outreach office in Belgium. He says the Institute has a strong digital outreach of direct imprints of about 10 million.

“But then that gets transmitted and carried on by others so the real reach is 10 to 100 times that, so we can’t actually count that.”

He explained how the IEP’s work is used by many major international agencies around the world including the World Bank, LECD (less economically developed countries), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations.

For these groups, Killelea says they do contract research in areas of peace and justice, “to help them better understand how to carry out their programs.”

What Killelea described as a “truly great achievement” is the ranking of the IEP as the 15th most impactful think tank in the world, based on income.

Killelea then demystified the seemingly and profoundly intangible notion called “peace”.

To identify and measure “peace” the GPI collects data and measurements which undergo various analysis. This results in the discovery of relationships between the variables studied. Patterns emerge through statistical analysis.

In this way, social structures and attitudes that are present in peaceful societies are identified. On top of it all, a cost analysis is given to peace and its absence.

Yearly peace index reports for every country in the world are uploaded and accessible to all at the IEP’s website (

Killelea said the Index uses three areas of measurement: domestic and international conflict, societal safety and security (involving measures of policing, level of people in jail, terrorism activities and more) and level of militarization. These three areas then combine in different ways to create 23 indicators for a “holistic view” of national peace which he said can be aggregated up to understand global peace.

At this point in the lecture, a blazing multicoloured slide of a world map suddenly appeared on the screen. It was colour coded according to levels of peace.

Canada coded green along with Australia – indicating very high peace scores in both. (Canada ranks 8th to Australia’s 12th). Blazing bright red to indicate a low peace score were the Mid East, Sub Sahara, and Africa. Iceland holds the world’s top peace score and the most peaceful region was Western Europe.

Global Peace Index slide reveals the state of the world when it comes to peace. /PHOTO: Shirley Kowalchuk

Nine countries headed by Iceland were at the top of the index. “You will note all of these countries without exception are democracies,” said Killelea.

Countries often seen in the news such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Southern Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya – are countries Killelea said were all mired in conflict.

“Conflict is what really kills peace.”

He noted that old, long standing countries like Afghanistan or Iraq are testament to the need for “new ways of envisioning their societies – new ways of figuring out how to create peace.”

Later during question period, a young man wondered if Killelea’s work has the potential to be applied dictatorially if its process is one that tells countries how they ought to impose their peace programs.

Killelea said that because systems analysis is used, it involves a “nudge in the way you want to go” and not radical transformational change. It is therefore less likely to break the system.

Killelea said gradual and incremental changes are best, and said top peace countries are quite different than the bottom indexed countries. When getting to higher levels of peace, countries do become more similar, he said.

“But what is key is that within cultures, people themselves determine what initiatives should be and it is not something which gets imposed by a group of academics or people from outside of the society.” He said it is helpful to look at the eight “pillars of peace” (described later in this article) since they work systemically.

Killelea’s lecture presented comparisons, numbers and trends that seemed to gradually bring into focus a truly enlightening picture of the global condition.

“Peace is a lot more nuanced and balanced than what one may think,” he said.

Killelea was the bearer of some bad news (along with some brightness) and said that the world is a substantially less peaceful place, with a global fall in peace of about 2%. “Quite a big number when you look at the way the index is constructed,” he said.

“Let’s look at the flip side of the coin. This concept called “state sponsored terrorism” – extra judicial killings, torture, imprisonment without a trial – in the last decade 68 countries actually improved compared to only 46 which have deteriorated. Gross human rights abuses in actually many cases lessened”, said Killelea.

But he also said displacement of refugees is now the highest ever since World War II, doubling in the last decade to nearly 65 million people; battlefield deaths were up nearly 700% in last decade (in 2015, they were the highest they have been in 25 years), and terrorism increased by 250% globally (25,000 people died in terrorist attacks in 2016).

At the same time, he said there is globally a 65% reduction in military expenditures as a per cent of GDP. Outside of this, there are much less nuclear weapons as compared to 1987, and the number of troops, heavy weapons and militarized vehicles has dropped.

“In many ways this is contrary to what most people think,” further explaining that in 1987 the average Western country spent 2.5 % of its GDP on the military but by 2016 this was down to 1.2%. “Even homicides have decreased globally by 60 to 70 per cent,” he said.

Over the last decade, 80 countries became more peaceful, “and none of these countries would be at the front of your mind,” he said. On the other hand, 83 countries became less peaceful.

While top countries maintained or slightly grew in peace, those at the bottom of the index became much less peaceful over the decade since the index has been in use. He said a growing inequality of peace was similar to the growing inequality seen between rich and poor in societies.

Killelea said if the Mid East was taken entirely out of the world for the last decade, the world would become substantially more peaceful. “And that’s news that I don’t think anybody in this room actually has.”

“Now just have a quick look at terrorism”

Killelea described a steep increase in terrorism of more than 900% in the last 15 years in OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

In 2016, 2,500 people died from terrorism attacks, compared to about 436,000 people killed in homicides while Killelea estimates more than 1,000,000 people committed suicide around the globe.

“Terrorism is one of those things that actually affects the fabric of society. We don’t get the same reaction to homicides unless they are mass homicides like we saw in Las Vegas,” he said.

“Attacks of terrorism are an attack on the system and we end up with much more robust responses.”

“Violence comes with a cost”

Killelea dissected the economic impact after a terrorist attack in France by comparing France to the economically similar country of Italy. He found that France’s tourism revenues dropped by about $1.7 billion after the attack, while Italy’s tourism revenue in the same year increased by $5 billion.

The GPI estimates the 2016 cost of violence to the global economy at about $14 trillion (12.6% of global GDP). Killelea looked at this number in many different ways in order for the audience to comprehend such a meaninglessly large number. In one example, he said a 1% reduction in violence globally was found to be the equivalent of all global overseas development assistance.

“Where does the cost of violence go?” he asked, citing that some cost proportions could be found in military costs and some within internal security efforts, but said an indeterminate portion was evident which could be 50% or higher.

“Now we will talk about positive peace”

Positive peace are the attitudes, institutions and structures which create and sustain peaceful societies. Killelea says these are identified by the GPI after analysis of what he described as about 10,000 data sets, indices, and attitudinal surveys looking at various factors.

Positive peace contains things like restoration of relationships, the constructive resolution of conflict and the complete absence of violence (intentional use of force or power to cause harm) in all its forms.

“You can measure the potential for peace within societies and you can also measure just what is changing in those areas as well. And that gives you the momentum to society, whether its got the potential for higher levels of peace, or is it moving towards lower levels of peace?”

Killelea said positive peace is statistically associated with many things including stronger resilience and adaptability, capabilities (problem solving), higher GDP growth and more.

“Higher levels of positive peace performed better on all sorts of measures of inclusion, including gender equality,” said Killelea.

The Institute’s research discovered patterns within peaceful societies. They have been called the “Eight pillars of positive peace”:

1. well functioning government
2. equitable distribution of resources
3. free flow of information
4. good relations with neighbours
5. high levels of human capital
6. acceptance of the rights of others (human rights)
7. low levels of corruption
8. sound business environment

“But none of these on their own are more important than the other,” Killelea said.“They all complete each other so they come together as a system.”

He explained this by posing a series of questions: “Does well functioning government create a strong business environment or equitable distribution of resources? Or is it the free flow of information expressed by the press that creates a well functioning government that would lower levels of corruption – and how do low levels of corruption affect a sound business environment and a more well-functioning government?”

He added, “So you can see there is no causality,” only feedbacks and flows.

“One of the illusions we have of society is we think in terms of causality,” said Killelea.

What is striking is that countries that have higher positive peace scores have higher GDP growth rates, which Killelea said can help steer investors.

“We will look at civil resistance movements”

GPI research shows that in highly peaceful societies, civil resistance movements last for a shorter amount of time, are more moderate in their aims, are more likely to achieve their aims, and are far less violent.

“Soon to be published research”

Killelea said an area of research by the Institute includes a system analysis approach. It involves looking at society in terms of systems (many and within each) that feedback upon each other. Systems use “encoded norms” or typical ways of responding when an “input” or effect impacts upon it.

“In physics,” said Killelea, “the effect never influences the cause. In human societies it is different…systems interact and move upon each other. Events aren’t so important. What’s really important are relationships and flows….when we look at the Trump effect in the US, that’s an event, whereas when we look at the system, the U.S. has the 4th largest drop in positive peace globally in the last decade. That is kind of bad for the relations and flows,” he said.

Killelea described soon-to-be published research in which the intent of nations can be determined using a systems perspective in the use of four scales: the political system, the economic system, social policies, and international relations. Although not applicable for an index measure, the scales can be used to compare countries. Killelea said potential for alliances and partnerships can be assessed.

“None of this has been attempted before looking at a systems perspective.”

The 2017 lecture continued in its highly concentrated informational presentation to provide further insights into understanding the world.

The unscripted, quickly moving lecture lasted for 33 minutes before a brief question period. Killelea concluded his lecture with a “heads up” for the audience:

“I just wanted to finish with one thing,” he said. “When you look at the challenges facing the world today, things like climate change…four years left of fresh water on the planet – and unless we have a world that is basically peaceful, we will never get the levels of trust, cooperation and inclusiveness necessary to solve these problems,” Killelea warned.

“Therefore,” he concluded, “peace is a prerequisite to the survival of society as we know it in the 21st century. And that, my friends, is actually different than any other epoch in human history. In past, peace may have been the domain of the altruistic. In the 21st century it is literally in everyone’s self interest.”

Shirley Kowalchuk


Shirley Kowalchuk is a Winnipeg writer.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.