Norway is the most peaceful country in the world and Iraq the least, according to a study launched Wednesday, which notably puts Japan near the top and Russia and Israel close to the bottom.
The Global Peace Index, published a week before a Group of Eight (G8) summit in Germany, rates 121 countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe on some 24 factors including levels of violence, organised crime and military expenditure.
While most European countries including Britain rank in the top, more peaceful half of the league table, the United States is nearer the bottom in 96th place, while Russia is fifth from last on 118th.
"This is a wake-up call for leaders around the globe," said Steve Killelea, who commissioned the study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is linked to the news weekly The Economist.
"Countries like Japan and Germany can give hope and optimism to countries further down the index that there can be light at the end of what may seem at the moment like a very dark tunnel," he added.
Norway, the peace-promoting Scandinavian country which brokered the 1993 Oslo Mideast accords and has also sought to resolve fighting in Sri Lanka -- is followed by New Zealand in second place and neighbouring Denmark in third.
Iraq, which has been gripped by growing violence since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, comes bottom just below Sudan, with Israel only two places from the bottom on 119th place.
The index is backed by international figures including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and US economist Joseph Stiglitz, all winners of the Nobel peace prize. It is also supported by Queen Noor of Jordan.
Overall the study found that small, stable countries which are part of regional blocs such as the 27-nation European Union are most likely to be more peaceful.
Income and education are crucial in promoting peace, it said, while also noting that countries which had turbulent times in the 20th century, such as Ireland and Austria, have emerged as "peace leaders" in the 21st century.
"I believe there is a link between the peacefulness and the wealth of nations and therefore business has a key role to play in peace," said Killelea.
The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader who fled China after an aborted uprising in 1959, said the launch of the index could be a useful tool for policymakers.
"Compiling and maintaining an index of which countries are the most peaceful and publishing the results will undoubtedly make the factors and qualities that contribute to that status better known, and will encourage people to foster them in their own countries," he said.
Organizers say the plan is to publish the index annually for the next two years, while after that the frequency with which it is updated will be reviewed.
Here are the top 10 and bottom 10 countries in the index:
TOP 10 BOTTOM 10
1. Norway 112. Angola
2. New Zealand 113. Ivory Coast
3. Denmark 114. Lebanon
4. Ireland 115. Pakistan
5. Japan 116. Colombia
6. Finland 117. Nigeria.
7. Sweden 118. Russia
8. Canada 119. Israel
9. Portugal 120. Sudan
10. Austria 121. Iraq.