Two visions of humanity

On their website Vision of Humanity, the Institute of Economics and Peace do a great job of making  data on peace and conflict accessible to a wider audience. The website hosts two complex indices – the Global Peace Index (GPI) and the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) – and makes them both easy to understand and explore.

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Each index displays a map of the world, with countries color-coded by their score on the index. At this point, like any other index, the score is somewhat meaningless: a list of indicators that have somehow gone into a social science blackbox and popped out a number. But the site makes it easy to dig down into any score. Clicking on a country displays the indicators that go into any score and the site publishes the methodology for arriving at a GPI or GTI score here and here. Clicking on two or more countries shows their indicator scores next to each other, allowing for easy comparison.

Here are some things I quickly learned from the GPI. Rwanda and Djibuti have the highest jailed populations in Africa, but still fall behind the two top scorers in this category: the USA and North Korea. In 2013, Norway was among the top weapons importers and Sweden was among the top exporters. Syria and Libya had the highest number of deaths from internal conflict, but Mexico scored just as high. Afghanistan and North Korea were top scorers on military expenditure, but Zimbabwe had the same score as both of them. Cyprus scores as badly on displaced people as Sudan and Somalia.

Exploring the GTI is even more revealing of the world we live in. Put the GTI scores of the USA and India next to each other and you get a big surprise. In fact, the GTI shows that North America has been the region to suffer the least from terrorism in the last 10 years. The death toll in Western Europe has been 19 times higher. Even here, there are no countries from Western Europe in the top 10 most affected countries. The four countries to suffer the most from terrorism are Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. 1/3 of all terrorism victims have been Iraqi. Check out this prezi for a detailed walk-through some other surprising results.

Rich data stories that are also accessible to a wide audience are not common. Vision of Humanity manages to share rich information and make nuanced arguments about peace and conflict that are both accessible and do justice to people’s ability to grasp complexity.

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