Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Is Nepal a peaceful and happy nation?

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This is my fourth instalment of the analyses of Nepal’s current situation using global indicators. Earlier, in 2019 elsewhere, I have sought to answer questions like: Are we a happy nation? Or Are we a peaceful country? The analyses were based on World Happiness Index and Global Peace Index. Now, we have an updated information. Since my last writings, we have passed through Covid-19 pandemic and political upheavals. These incidents must have impacted on our peace and happiness.

Before looking into the data we need a bit of primer on happiness and peace indices.

Cantril Ladder

Since 2012, Prof Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University, along with colleagues, has been helping to draft World Happiness Reports. The latest version of the reports (WHR 2023) gives information related to the state of happiness in 137 countries of the world.  

Human happiness and wellbeing are subjective concepts. According to Prof Sachs, there are two kinds of measures—affective and evaluative. Affective measures ask questions like: “Are you happy?” or “how do you feel?” The answers to these questions measure emotional wellbeing. These are very subjective and change with the context.

On the other hand, there are evaluative measures that ask the respondents where they stand on a scale measuring happiness. Developed by psychologist Hadley Cantril (1906-1969), the respondents are asked to place themselves on a Cantril Ladder of Happiness, measuring lowest rung of zero (worst scenario) to a highest rung of 10 (best fulfilment of life). Higher the score better we stand on happiness index.

The Cantril Ladder is composed of six factors. These include: per capita GDP, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perception of corruption. Decomposing happiness index into these fixed factors will inform us about our sources of happiness or unhappiness. Now, let us know about peace index.

Negative vs. positive peace

Since 2007, the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), based in Sydney, Australia has been publishing Global Peace Index (GPI) that measures peace and harmony of the countries, on a scale ranging from 1 (peaceful country) to 5 (less peaceful or violent country). Higher scores imply worsening peacefulness and vice versa. The latest version of Global Peace Index is available for 163 independent states and territories.

The Global Peace Index (GPI) captures negative peace, that is, the absence of violence. There is another index called Positive Peace Index (PPI), also scaled from 1-5, which goes beyond negative peace and measures resilience of a society “to absorb and recover from shocks and it can also be used to measure fragility and help to predict the likelihood of conflict, interpersonal violence, and social instability.” Therefore, positive peace speaks of attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Sustainable peace calls for active presence of both negative and positive peace.

The GPI is composed of three broad components, namely, the extent of domestic and international conflicts, social safety and security and militarization (level of military build-up and access to weapons and its level of peacefulness, both domestically and internationally). These three components are further divided into 23 sub-components. Similarly, Positive Peace Index (PPI) consists of eight factors, namely, sound business environment, well-functioning government, equitable distribution of resources, free flow of information, good relations with neighbors, high level of human capital, acceptance of the rights of the others and low level of corruption. Analysis of these factors will help us to understand the sources of peace and un-peacefulness.

Peace and happiness

A peaceful country must be happy and a happy country must be peaceful. The scatter plot, drawn for 130 countries, clearly reflects this trend. As the countries move from a state of peacefulness to an un-peacefulness state (from left to right), happiness index falls from top (state of happiness) to the bottom (state of unhappiness). However, there are some countries as the exception. These outliers are mentioned in the Chart.

 

We have Afghanistan at the extreme right and at the extreme bottom, meaning a highly unpeaceful and highly unhappy country. Contrast to this we have Iceland – as a highly peaceful and happy country.  Russia looks like unpeaceful but happy country. We have Sierra Leone which is relatively peaceful but unhappy country. Israel and Lebanon are nearly on the same peacefulness page but are at the opposite ends when it comes to happiness scale. Israel is happy compared to Lebanon.

Are we peaceful and happy?  

The following two charts depict a trend in Nepal’s peace index and happiness index. The Global Peace Index (negative peace) is presented along with Positive Peace Index (positive peace). The higher scoring on PPI compared to GPI implies Nepal having worse positive peace than negative peace. Please note, higher scores imply worsening situation. In fact, positive peace worsened over the period from 2013 to 2022. Negative peace (GPI) has hovered around the score of 2 and positive peace around 3.7.

In 2022, out of 163 countries of the world, Nepal’s ranking on GPI was at the 73rd position. In 2021, we were at the 85th position. We have made some gains in achieving negative peace. This gain primarily comes from peace process related to Maoist conflict. The difference between PPI and GPI is assumed as peace deficit or surplus situation.

In terms of happiness index, Nepal is gradually improving, albeit, at a slow pace. Unlike other indicators, happiness index are measured as an average measure covering three years. There is a slump in happiness index 2010-12. This could be due to dissolution of the Constituent Assembly I. Even during a national crisis situations like April Earthquake in 2015 and Covid-19, there is a marginal or no reduction in our happiness index. In 2010-12, we were ranked at 135th position out of 156 countries of the world. The ranking improved in 2020-22 with 78th position out of 137 countries of the world.

Our primary sources of happiness are social support (we have good family support system), per capita GDP (so is our income), freedom to make life choices and our generosity. The least contributing sources of happiness in 2022 is our perception of (less) corruption.

The conclusion that can be made today is not different from what I derived in 2019: Nepal is relatively a peaceful country due to avoidance of violence (negative peace) and also a happy country, primarily, due to social support. However, there is a mile to go in attaining positive peace and reducing dystopia.

Published on 18 April 2024

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