Steve Killelea is the founder of the global think tank, the Institude for Economics and Peace. Having given an inspiring talk at this year’s Forum, he answered some questions from Jim Paymer….

JP – What is your sense of this Forum?

SK – This is the second I’ve been to. The thing I find here is the intelligence. The speakers all excel in whatever sphere they are in, but the common thread is the spiritual dimension which they share through the work they do.

JP – You have a vast background….what do you hope to take away from this?

SK – For me, the spiritual dimension comes through in the activities I do. We are all spiritual beings and that dimension gets reflected in what we do, how we work. The Institute for Economics and peace and it focuses on developing metrics to measure peace and that appeals to both the left and the right, and those that are spiritual and those that aren’t

JP – Where are we on this index?

SK – We’ve been doing it for about a decade and what we have is that 86 countries have decreased, while 76 countries have increased in terms of peacefulness. This duality is growing, and the most peaceful nations are probably the most peaceful they have ever in. But you go to the most stressed out countries, and they are becoming less peaceful. At one end we have part of the world becoming more peaceful with countries becoming more peaceful, but at the other, less so.

JP – Do you see a way that we can become more peaceful?

SK – I think when we look at it, we have a world which in many ways is rallying around the challenges of our age like climate change. They are global in nature. But unless we have a world that is peaceful we will never solve these problems. In my view peace is a pre-requisite for society existing in the 21st century. Peace is achievable and is quite practical. The research we do is around what actually creates peaceful societies. It’s societies that are resilience. When they do get challenged they are likely to be more adaptable, and that is called positive peace. They are the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. But what is profound is that is operates as a system. Societies, are systems, and by taking a systems approach then using positive peace is achievable, practical and can be done.

JP – What about the competition we see?

SK – Where we are in a phased transition. Competition is never going to disappear, and there are advantages from competition, and that in nations is, providing it’s not done on battlefields is not a bad thing.

JP – With these strong leaders, how do we get them to come together and to say ‘we need to change this’?

SK – I think the change needs to come from within. It comes about in an age where we are inter-connected. People now start to get disillusioned with the systems, there is a change going on. We are in the first part of this change. Change, will create change. The good news is that 75% of countries in the world have increased in peace in the last 20 years.

JP – This movement for or against peace, what precipitates a movement towards and away from peace?

SK – The narrative through the media focuses on the negative. But the world actually, if we took the Middle East out, has become more peaceful. One of the areas which has driven the improvement is militarisation. If we look at that, and the number of weapons, that number is decreasing. In the last 12 months, the world actually became slightly more peaceful with more countries improving. One of the measures is the concept of state sponsored terror, and in the last decade that has improved remarkably with countries becoming more civilised.

JP – We see slavery coming back, we see countries arming themselves, countries disintegrating….

SK – Terrorism is on the rise too, and this is true. But what we are doing is focusing on the negative. But homicide is decreasing, so is violent crime globally. If we look at terrorism, 28,000 people died in 2015 through terrorism. In that same year 436,000 people died with homicides, 1 million people committed suicide. Sometimes we focus in on the most alarming things to us without looking at everything.

JP – You sound optimistic and hopeful…

SK – Somewhat. I think we live in an age with serious challenges. We are definitely over populated, we are consuming bio-resources faster than we are replenishing. Climate change, we will probably beat it. But we do have really serious problems coming up. I just want to be progressive.

JP – Can you imagine if we were able to work together as a global community? If we spent defence money on re-forestation, stopping the pollution?

SK – If we look at the cost of violence to the global economy in 2016, it came in at 13.6 Trillian dollars. Just to put that in perspective that is 10 x all the foreign investment that occurred that year. If we could direct some of that into these things we’d have enough money to solve the problems of our age. The Youth get it, and they will become our next leaders.