Women, Peace and Security Index 2020/21: Tracking sustainable peace through inclusion, justice and security for women – Global
Women’s inclusion, justice and safety are more critical than ever amid a pandemic that has wreaked havoc around the world. This year’s global report, the third since the inaugural edition in 2017, finds a slowing pace of improvement in the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index and growing disparities between countries. The range of WPS 2021 Index scores is wide, with Norway at the top performing more than three times better than Afghanistan at the bottom. The range of scores is much wider than in 2017, when the top performer’s score was about double that of the worst performer. This widening gap reflects the growing inequality in the status of women in all countries: countries at the top continue to improve while those at the bottom worsen, reflecting global trends in wealth and income inequality.
The index captures and quantifies the three dimensions of women’s inclusion (economic, social, political), justice (formal laws and informal discrimination) and safety (at individual, community and societal levels) through 11 indicators (figure 1).
Globally, WPS Index scores have increased by an average of 9% since 2017 and at above-average rates in 31 countries. The score improved by more than 5% in 90 countries. Six of the top ten scores are in sub-Saharan Africa.1 And current global levels of organized violence are significantly lower than the 2014 peak, despite a slight increase between 2019 and 2020.
Compare regions and countries: a snapshot in time
The top twelve countries in the index all belong to the group of developed countries (see annex 2 of the full report for the groups of regions and countries). The differences between these 12 countries are minimal, ranging from 0.879 (Canada, at number 12) to 0.922 (Norway, in the lead; Figure 2). At the other end of the spectrum, the range of performance is much wider, with Afghanistan at the bottom of the scale, performing around 51% lower than Somalia, ranked 12th from the low. Of the last 12 countries, 10 are classified by the World Bank as fragile states.
All except Palestine (newly added to the index), Sierra Leone and Somalia have been in the bottom twelve since the 2019 WPS Index, and 7 of the bottom 12 have been in this group since 2017. Yet some of these countries have made progress. Democratic Republic of Congo is among the top scorers since 2017, up 13%, while Central African Republic’s score rose 22%, moving the country out of the bottom dozen, to 157th place.
This year, for the first time, South Asia is the worst performing region, reflecting high levels of legal discrimination, domestic violence and discriminatory norms that disenfranchise women, often combined with low levels of discrimination. ‘inclusion. Less than one in four women in the region has paid work, less than half the global average.
Behind the regional averages, some countries perform much better or worse than their neighbours, illustrating the opportunities for improvement that can be made (Figure 3). Unboxing the WPS Index reveals mixed performance across metrics. All countries have room for improvement. Mexico, 88th overall, is 43rd on the justice dimension but falls to 160th on the safety dimension: only a third of women feel safe walking alone in their neighborhood at night, and rates of organized violence are among the 10 highest in the world.
The broadest performance spectra relate to employment and financial inclusion. And the COVID pandemic has undermined paid employment opportunities for women in much of the world. Female employment rates range from 92% in Burundi to just 5% in Yemen. Financial inclusion rates range from universal in Denmark, Norway and Sweden to less than one in 20 women in South Sudan and Yemen.
On the legal front, the Middle East and North Africa is the worst performing region, averaging only 50 points out of 100, with Palestine having the worst legal score (26) globally. The proportion of men who think it is unacceptable for women to have paid employment outside the home if they wish – our measure of discriminatory norms – is also the highest in the Middle East and North Africa. This suggests a convergence of formal and informal barriers to justice for women in the region.
In terms of safety, Latin America scores poorly on community safety, with only around one in three women feeling safe walking alone in their neighborhood at night, although the country where women feel the less secure is Afghanistan. Syria ranks worst globally in organized violence and worst regionally in community security.
Trends in WPS Index scores between 2017 and 2021
Changes in index rankings show how countries have performed relative to others,2 while fluctuations in a country’s scores reflect absolute changes in women’s inclusion, justice and safety.
Since the first WPS index in 2017, 90 countries have improved their score by at least 5%, and in 31 countries scores have increased by at least 9%, exceeding the global average improvement. Six of the top ten scores are in sub-Saharan Africa: Central African Republic, Mali, Cameroon, Benin, Kenya and Rwanda, in descending order of improvement (Figure 4).
Trend analysis reveals that the pace of progress has slowed by more than half: the global average WPS index increased by around 7% between 2017 and 2019, but only around 3% between 2019 and 2021.
Deteriorating index scores for several countries point to persistent challenges. Since 2017, Afghanistan’s score has deteriorated by 28%, mainly due to worsening rates of organized violence and perceptions of community security, with the recent rise of the Taliban threatening further deterioration. Scores have also deteriorated in absolute terms for Haiti, Namibia and Yemen, with particularly steep declines in community safety (excluding Yemen) and increasing rates of organized violence (excluding Namibia). ).
Welcome improvements in many countries included new legislation to protect women from domestic violence, an increase in mobile phone use by women (from 78% to 85% in the four years to 2020) and perceptions of community safety (increasing in 81 countries). Women’s parliamentary representation, although on the rise, still averages only around one in four.
A unique dimension of the WPS Index is women’s safety, measured by rates of current intimate partner violence, perceptions of community safety, and organized violence. The good news is that global levels of organized violence are well below their 2014 peak, despite a slight increase in combat deaths between 2019 and 2020.
In 2020, more than 60% of combat deaths occurred in four countries: Afghanistan (20,836), Mexico (16,385), Azerbaijan (7,621) and Syria (5,583).
Organized violence has declined despite a growing number of conflicts: there were 56 single state conflicts in 2020 – the highest number since 1946 – alongside 72 non-state conflicts. This indicates the presence of many low-intensity conflicts and highlights that more people are now living in conflict zones. This is a major concern given mounting evidence of the repercussions of conflict beyond the battlefield, particularly for women and children, from increased food insecurity to increased risks of domestic violence. .
High rates of organized violence are strongly correlated not only with high rates of violence against women in the home,3 but also with poor performance in women’s inclusion, justice and security more generally. Two of the four countries with the worst levels of violence in 2020 – and indeed in the past decade – Afghanistan and Yemen, are also the lowest ranked on the WPS Index.