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Financial crisis said to be making world less safe

THE global economic downturn isn't just making us poorer - it's making us less safe, according to an Australian think tank.

The Institute for Economics and Peace said yesterday that the world financial meltdown was dragging the world toward political instability and conflict, saying that many of the indicators it uses to measure peacefulness - such as a nation's homicide rate or its level of military expenditure - had deteriorated as the world economy worsened.

The institute laid out its key findings ahead of the publication of its annual "Global Peace Index," a report prepared in conjunction with the UK-bases Economist Intelligence Unit.

It measures nations according to 24 criteria - such as the potential for terror attacks, the level of violent crime, or the number of conflicts it is fighting. The criteria are then weighted and tabulated to rank 144 countries.

The rankings have changed little since the list was first published in 2007. Scandinavian and Western European countries still cluster near the top, and violence-racked countries such as Afghanistan and Somalia round out the bottom.

This year the United States rose six ranks, to a still-modest 83rd place, something the survey attributed to a decreasing likelihood of terror attacks. Those behind the survey have said in the past that US standing is dragged down by the large number of people in its jails, its relatively high levels of violent crime, and its multibillion dollar defense budget.

In what the institute said was a sign of what the economic crisis was doing to even the most peaceful countries, Iceland tumbled from first place to fourth. The tiny North Atlantic nation saw violent demonstrations following the spectacular implosion of its debt-fueled economy.

New Zealand took Iceland's place as the world's most peaceful nation. Iraq maintained its position at the bottom.

The institute isn't the first to warn of the knock-on effects of the economy. Last week London-based Amnesty International said the aftermath of the credit crunch was putting pressure on human rights conditions across the world.


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