What are the most dangerous countries in the world? The people living in these places are living in constant fear, and many of them try to leave in search of more peaceful lands. For the rest of us, these are the places that, at the very least, we don’t include in our itinerary when we’re going on vacation. But for some, though, knowing these places is important because we want to do what we can to raise awareness and provide help.
It’s easy enough to figure out the most dangerous countries. If there’s a war going on, then it’s pretty much a very dangerous place for anyone to live in. But not all the most dangerous countries have a war going on. In some of the most violent countries, the conflict is between criminals and the innocent people.
Global Peace Index Factors
One of the more accepted means of measuring «peace» is the Global Peace Index, which was developed by the Institute for Economics and Peace. This is a global non-profit research organization with headquarters in Sydney, Australia and with branches in New York and Oxford. The GPI is endorsed by such luminaries as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, former UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan, and former US President Jimmy Carter.
Every year, the organization gathers a select group of experts to rank countries on peacefulness according to 22 distinct factors. Broadly speaking, these factors are about:
Wars. This includes the number of wars and internal conflicts involving the country, the intensity of these conflicts, the number of deaths as a result, and the relations with its neighboring countries. If there’s a war going on and thousands of people are dying, then it’s most probably one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
The threat of war because of unfriendly relations with neighbors can also make the country a very dangerous place to live in. The number of displaced persons or refugees is also an important factor.
Political Instability. If there’s no real government, then it’s pretty much a free for all in the country. Related stats here are the level of terrorist activity, as well as the level of terror practiced by an authoritarian regime upon its own citizens.
When there’s political instability, there’s also a higher likelihood of violent demonstrations, and mobs can make a place very dangerous indeed.
Crime. Here it is important to note the violent crime rate, and in particular the murders, rapes, and assaults. Abductions and forced slavery must also be taken into account.
Other related factors here are the number of people jailed, as well as the ease in which people can gain access to firearms (small arms such as hand guns as well as light weapons).
Military and Police Personnel. The number of people in the military and the number of law enforcement officers are all indicative of how peaceful or violent a place is.
Most Dangerous Countries in the World
So according to the GPI, the following countries are pretty much the most dangerous countries in the world:
- 1. Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein was not a Taliban, and the mission was definitely not accomplished – if the mission was to make things better for the Iraq people when the US forces invaded the country. More than a decade after the first US troops landed here, it’s still the most dangerous country in the world even if you’re not an American tourist. If you are, it will seem like everyone here, especially the members of the Islamic State, will want to kill you. So for your sake, stay away from Iraq.
- 2. Afghanistan. Supposedly the war is over in Afghanistan, but it seems the people didn’t get the memo. The Afghan military acknowledges that the Taliban still controls several districts in the country and the war is still ongoing. Just recently in June 2015 Taliban fighters targeted numerous police checkpoints and killed at least 20 police officers. Since the start of the year up to the first week of May, at least 2,322 members of the military and police have been killed.
- 3. Democratic Republic of Congo. They just had a civil war that had numerous groups of people killing everybody else. What remained after millions have died is a country without any real government except one that is regarded as the most corrupt in the world. It’s also been called the «rape capital» of the world, where 48 women are raped every hour. And there are still quite a few rebels in the country.
- 4. Syria. Everything goes to hell when you get a civil war. Ever since 2011, Syria has been racked by internal conflict that has claimed the lives of at least 100,000 people. More than 6 million Syrians have been displaced, and 3 million more have fled from the country. Those who are left face terrible living conditions that include food and water shortages.
- 5. Sudan. This country has a long history of civil wars and internal strife, and the history keeps on repeating. You have a lot of ethnic cleansing going on and slavery is rampant, and then you have to deal with the government’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.
- 6. Somalia. In 1991, a resistance movement rose up against the regime of Siad Barre. Unfortunately, the civil war devolved into a multi-faction fight that has left the population in terrible conditions. Hundreds of thousands have already died, there’s no effective government in charge, and many have resorted to piracy. (We’re talking about people boarding passenger ships, and not the First World problem of people downloading music and films online.)
- 7. Central African Republic. In late 2012, fighting broke out between factions of the government, Muslims, and Christians. The ethnic and religious cleansing is still going on, and large numbers of the population have been displaced as a result. It’s not exactly a prime tourist destination.
- 8. Yemen. The people got rid of their president after mass protests in 2012, but what replaced it is not exactly stable and competent. Half the population doesn’t have enough food, abuses are still ongoing, and discrimination against women is legally sanctioned.
- 9. North Korea. Technically it’s still at war with South Korea, but it’s safe to say that the country is at war with the rest of the world. The current regime is an autocratic government that doesn’t provide enough for its citizens, and it doesn’t exactly open its doors to outsiders. The people here are trapped, and every aspect of their lives is managed by the government. Any hint of insubordination leads to torture and executions.
- 10. Pakistan. Where to start with this country? First, the terrorists here are very active. In 2012 alone it was the scene for 1,404 documented terrorist attacks. Add to that the massive poverty, overpopulation, illiteracy, and corrupt government officials, and what you have is one of the most violent countries in the world that’s not currently at war or in a civil war.
If you’re going on a world tour and you are concerned about your safety, you may also want to pass on countries such as Israel, Colombia, Egypt, and Nigeria. You should just as well cross out any country in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Countries with the Highest Murder Rates
When you read the news and see that there’s a war going on in certain places, one of the first things that come to your mind is that you won’t be visiting those countries anytime soon. There are exceptions to this, of course, such as if you’re a war reporter or photographer and you go where the action is. But the standard rule is you don’t go where the wars are.
But there’s another war, and that’s the war on crime. In some places, the war is conducted by crime gangs against each other and against the police. And so you have to watch out for those countries with the highest murder rates. These are the most violent countries you can go to where there’s no war buy people still keep getting killed.
So here are some of the most dangerous countries to live in or visit, according to the latest homicide stats:
- 1. Honduras. The homicide rate in Honduras is 90.4 murders per 100,000. That’s almost double the homicide rate of the next country on this list. In many ways, this is also the most dangerous country in the world.
- 2. Venezuela. It’s hard to picture the country that has produced so many beauty pageant winners to contend for the title of most dangerous country in the world. But that 53.7 murders per 100,000 homicide rate is very hard to take. It puts the USA’s 5 per 100,000 homicide rate in a very good light.
- 3. Belize. Gang violence is rampant here, and the government has resorted to using soldiers instead of just police officers to combat the threat. The murder rate is at 44.7 per 100,000.
- 4. El Salvador. Most US residents have heard on this place only as a country where civil war and dictatorial governments reign. But lately it’s all about gang violence, with the murder rate at 41.2 per 100,000.
- 5. Guatemala. When you have a civil war that rages for 36 years, you have a population that’s quick to take lethal action against each other. The murder rate of 39.9 homicides per 100,000 proves that in some ways, the war isn’t really over yet.
Other places where the murder rate is high include Jamaica, Swaziland, Saint Kitts and Nevis (which had 18 murders in 2012, but has a very small population), South Africa, and Colombia.
A Look at Iceland
Compare the Honduran homicide rate to Iceland’s, which is the most peaceful country in the world according to the GPI. From 1999 to 2009 the homicide rate never went past 1.8 per 100,000 population. Given that for most of that time the population was just over 300,000 and its current population is still short of 400,000, that means in the worst year for homicides in Iceland there were 6 murders for the entire year.
During that same stretch of time, the US homicide rates ranged from 5.0 and 5.8 per 100,000 populations.
In Iceland, violent crime is almost nonexistent. People don’t worry about their safety all the time. Children are left outside to play, because no one will abduct them. It really is a different culture, even though there are 90,000 guns in the country and the population is less than 400,000. Iceland actually ranks #15 in legal per capita gun ownership.
Here, however, it’s not that easy to own a gun. You’ll need to pass a written test, and then you also have to undergo a medical exam.
But that’s understandable, since even regular police officers don’t carry guns. That privilege is reserved for the «Viking» squad, which is a special forge that’s only called for special occasions.
Here are some possible explanations:
- There’s little difference between the upper, middle, and lower classes. In fact, most people just identify themselves as middle class. That means there’s very little tension between the haves and the have-nots.
- There’s very little use of hard drugs. In the 1970, the government thought that there were going to be problems with drugs, so they set up a separate police and court for drug cases. For the next 10 years, 90% of the cases ended up with the defendant paying a fine. Today, very few people use hard drugs.
- The country also has a culture of crime preemption. They preempted drug crimes, and just recently they preempted organized crime.
It may not be easy to follow Iceland’s direction, but at least we know what kind of society we should be living in. In the meantime, you can always visit Iceland as well as New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, and Austria for a good and safe vacation. You can follow that list with visits to Norway, Belgium, Japan, Canada, and Denmark. All these countries are the most peaceful according to the GPI.