Safety is not a mere luxury or a chance result of geographical advantage. It is a critical asset that attracts investment and economic gain. However, safety is not a cultural monopoly nor a geographical dividend. No culture or region is inherently 'unstable.' The safety or danger within a country's borders is the complex result of intricate factors and histories. However, to assess is another matter; and to do that, the Global Peace Index (GPI) produces yearly rankings that judge each country in a standardized format.
Essentially, the Institute for Economics and Peace produces the GPI, which measures worldwide peace using three overarching categories: the state of societal safety and security; the scope of internal or international disputes; and the level of military involvement. By compiling this data, the GPI provides a comprehensive analysis of the safety of 163 countries worldwide. For reference, the lower the score, the safer the country. However, it is worth noting that exceptions can occur in these annual rankings due to temporary causes of instability.
7 Safest Countries
- Iceland - 1.107
- New Zealand - 1.269
- Ireland - 1.288
- Denmark - 1.296
- Austria - 1.3
- Portugal - 1.301
- Slovenia - 1.316
- Czech Republic - 1.318
Iceland - 1.107
Iceland's status as the world's safest country is attributable to several key factors that collectively create an environment of security and tranquility. To begin with, Iceland boasts a low population of about 394,500 inhabitants, allowing for a close-knit society where community ties are strong. This engenders a sense of belonging and mutual care, reducing the likelihood of conflicts and violent crime.
Secondly, Iceland's political landscape is defined by a high degree of stability, transparency, and democratic governance. The corruption perception index consistently ranks Iceland among the least corrupt countries (#14 in 2023). The strong emphasis on the rule of law, coupled with a well-functioning government, fosters a sense of trust among the citizens and reduces instances of civil unrest or political violence.
Thirdly, the island country benefits from a remarkably low crime rate. The homicide rate in Iceland is one of the lowest globally, with less than one murder per year on average. The country's proactive, community-focused policing, together with effective judicial processes, contribute significantly to this.
Iceland enjoys a high standard of living, with its citizens benefiting from comprehensive social security, universal healthcare, and free education. These factors help mitigate social inequalities, which can often be sources of tension and violence. In addition, the unemployment rate is relatively low, further contributing to social stability.
Lastly, the country's geographical isolation plays a role in its safety. Iceland's remote location, surrounded by the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, limits exposure to external threats and conflicts. In a way, it is a fortress of company, rather than solitude.
New Zealand - 1.269
Political stability in New Zealand stems from its mature democratic system, with low levels of corruption, as reflected in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, where New Zealand regularly tops the list. The system fosters open dialogue, encourages citizen participation, and like Iceland, upholds the rule of law.
Moreover, the country's low crime rate is notable, with homicide rates significantly lower than the global average. New Zealand's approach to public safety focuses on preventative measures, comprehensive rehabilitation, and a justice system that values restorative practices over punitive ones.
The social fabric of New Zealand is characterized by strong levels of societal trust and cohesion, further bolstered by inclusive social policies and the government's commitment to maintaining good social services. It stands as a leading country in terms of gender equality, further demonstrating societal harmony.
In terms of external peace, New Zealand's isolation and neutrality contribute to its safety. It maintains a non-aggressive foreign policy and does not participate in major global conflicts. Furthermore, the country's well-functioning government is highly capable of managing potential internal and external threats, by maintaining robust disaster response protocols. The country's strong education system, access to healthcare, and the general well-being of its citizens, all recognized by high Human Development Index rankings, underline the comprehensive approach to safety that sets New Zealand apart.
Ireland - 1.288
Firstly, Ireland's laudable low crime rates, particularly violent crimes, continually assure its citizens and visitors that they are in good hands. For instance, the country's homicide rate is estimated at less than 1 per 100,000 people annually, significantly below the global average. Moreover, Ireland's stringent gun control laws, yield a firearm possession rate of approximately 5.6 per 100 residents, which contributes significantly to its peaceful atmosphere.
Secondly, Ireland's political stability is another crucial factor. Its Corruption Perception Index, falling below 20, is a testament to its clean, functioning, and stable political system, strengthening societal peace. Additionally, Ireland's Human Rights Index score is also high, reflecting its strong commitment to upholding civil liberties.
Lastly, the country's positive relationships with other countries further bolster its ranking. According to the Global Terrorism Index, Ireland has an impressively low score, indicating an almost non-existent risk of international or domestic terrorism. Similarly, its involvement in international conflicts is extremely minimal.
Denmark - 1.296
Denmark's penchant for safety is thanks to a handful of factors. Low violent crime rates and an advanced justice system contribute significantly; as of 2023, Denmark had a low homicide rate of 0.95 per 100,000 inhabitants. The country's small population size (approximately 5.98 million) lends itself to less social and economic friction. A well-developed welfare state ensures comprehensive social security, bolstered by one of the world's highest GDP per capita figures (over $66,000 in 2022).
Furthermore, peaceful relations with neighboring countries decrease Denmark's risk of interstate conflicts, while limited involvement in global military operations translates into a low militarization score. Notably, the country also invests significantly in education and healthcare, ranking 2nd globally in social progress in 2022, which invariably influences societal stability. Lastly, high levels of societal trust, reflected by the 2023 World Happiness Report, where Denmark placed 2nd, further underscores its peaceful status.
Austria - 1.3
As a member of the European Union, Austria also benefits from regional peace and security mechanisms. The Austrian government's continued emphasis on political stability and democratic governance further contributes, with Freedom House scoring Austria 93/100 for political rights and civil liberties in 2022. Lastly, military expenditure as a percentage of GDP remains minimal, 0.7% in 2022, in line with Austria's longstanding commitment to non-aggression. Crime rates in Austria, particularly violent crime, are considerably low. In 2022, Austria reported a homicide rate of 0.7 per 100,000 people. Regarding economic strength, it boasts a stable GDP and low unemployment rate, which as of the last quarter of 2022 stood at 7.1%. Ultimately, the cumulative result of these attributes ensures Austria's consistent presence amongst the top 10 safest countries globally.
Portugal - 1.301
Portugal, a maritime nation in southwestern Europe, is well-regarded for its safety, largely due to low crime rates and stable governance. The government places a significant emphasis on social welfare, which helps create a secure environment for both citizens and visitors alike. Community policing models are applied, engaging law enforcement officers directly with communities to address concerns and preemptively resolve issues. Portuguese laws also encourage non-violent conflict resolution and have been effective in minimizing violent crimes. The justice system is well-structured and transparent, providing a solid legal framework that adds to the sense of safety. However, Portugal faces challenges related to drug abuse, even though its drug decriminalization policy has received international acclaim for reducing drug-related deaths.
Slovenia - 1.316
Slovenia is a Central European nation known for its well-preserved natural landscapes and medieval architecture. Among the factors that contribute to its safety is its effective governance, which employs a system of checks and balances that ensures political stability. The Slovenian government prioritizes investments in education and healthcare, fostering a well-educated and healthy populace that is less prone to engage in criminal activity. Additionally, the nation enjoys strong community bonds; people often look out for each other, which discourages antisocial behaviors. Although Slovenia is relatively safe, it does face the issue of occasional political protests, which are generally non-violent but can create temporary disruptions.
Czech Republic - 1.318
Located in Central Europe, the Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy with a high level of safety. One of the pillars of this safety is the low incidence of violent crime, partially attributable to effective law enforcement agencies that are well-coordinated and quick to respond to incidents. Beyond this, the Czech Republic has a robust legal system that maintains law and order while respecting civil liberties. Infrastructure is well-maintained, and there is a general respect for rules and regulations, which contributes to a feeling of safety in public spaces. Community engagement is strong, and there is a general atmosphere of mutual trust among citizens. However, the country does face challenges related to pickpocketing in high-traffic tourist areas, which the government is actively working to address.
Temporary Instability in Countries That Are Typically Safe
Safety perceptions of countries like Syria and Ukraine are often skewed by temporary instabilities, obscuring their inherent security conditions. The volatility of geopolitical conditions often triggers this distortion. Recent conflicts may enhance international scrutiny and media coverage, leading to perceptions of chronic instability, despite these being transient phases in a country's history.
For instance, Syria's safety score in 2023 might be lower because of the civil war that lasted a decade and began to wane around 2022. However, before the conflict, Syria had a higher safety score due to factors such as effective law enforcement, social stability, and a low crime rate. The same applies to Ukraine, which experienced a dip in safety scores following the 2014 annexation of Crimea but had a traditionally stable sense of security beforehand.
Post-conflict, countries usually return to their pre-crisis safety levels, as seen with London after WWII. Hence, conflating temporary instability with a country's overall safety is a common misconception. Future safety predictions should account for a country's historical stability, institutional resilience, and capacity for post-conflict reconstruction.
As illustrated through examples like Iceland and Ireland, security and peace are products of diverse factors, ranging from political stability, low crime rates, social cohesion, economic prosperity, and even geographical isolation. Furthermore, the notion of safety is dynamic, subject to alterations by ongoing geopolitical tensions, as the cases of Syria and Ukraine show. Therefore, while assessing a country's safety, it is imperative not to isolate its present circumstances, but to comprehend broader trends in its historical context. However, by setting a high standard, many of these countries prove to the rest of the world that high stability and security are not the fictitious dreams of utopian novelists, but achievable realities here and now.
The 50 Safest Countries On Earth
*Source: Global Peace Index (2022)