Despite global and national indicators, those in the most conflict-affected countries were often more optimistic when asked whether peace would get better or worse in the next five years. People in Syria, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo topped the list of those who thought things would get better.
By contrast, it was the relatively peaceful, stable, middle- and high-income countries that were the most pessimistic about their prospects for peace. The UK topped the list, with more people thinking things would get worse than those who thought peace and security would get better, followed by Brazil, the US and Hungary.
Each of these countries has been experiencing their own incarnations of political and security stresses, whether it be the recent terror attacks combined with the political uncertainty following the Brexit referendum in the UK, an erosion of the rule of law in Hungary, a more virulent and unpredictable brand of politics in the US, or the political turmoil in Brazil in the wake of the impeachment of its president for corruption.
This might come down to historically more stable countries being less attuned to dealing with political shocks and instability, whereas people in consistently less stable states have normalised and become more resilient to a certain amount of conflict and violence. For those most affected by conflict, the sad reality is it may be difficult to see how things could get worse.
Regional differences of opinion
Yet, national statistics often mask the highly differentiated experiences of people within different parts of a country.
For example, while a majority of people in Colombia thought things would get better, those living in rural areas were more pessimistic about the prospects for peace, reflecting the concentration of violent conflict in rural and regional areas outside major population centres.
For example, in Nariño, a region in the west of the country bordering Ecuador that has seen significant violence between the government and armed groups over the years (see Colombia snapshot for further detail), people were less confident about their future than their urban counterparts.
Similarly, in Baalbek-Hermel and North Lebanon, border communities that have borne the brunt of the Syria crisis felt peace and security would get worse. There were also variations in Ukraine between regions experiencing the impact of conflict in the east and other more peaceful parts.
Similarly, in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines and Tunisia, people living in rural areas were more likely than those in urban areas to think that peace and security would either get worse in the next five years or remain unchanged.
This again reflects where conflict has been present and the territorial inequalities, vulnerabilities and conditions that mark communities’ perceptions of their security. Given this, it is what people in these regions think that could be a better indicator of a country’s peace and security, as it is there where conflict often originates or manifests.
Differences by age and gender
There were not significant variations by sex or age at the global level, but individual countries did record variations.
For example, women were more likely to think peace and security would get worse in the US, and more men were likely to think things would get better in Democratic Republic of Congo. And in a number of countries, people over the age of 55 were more pessimistic about the future.
Thus, overall, there is a need for geographically tailored solutions to conflict that reflect challenges at a sub-national and local level, not just the national level. It also highlights the need for specific actions to ensure that peace and security dividends are felt outside major cities or wealthier regions.