Iceland has a lot of great things: the biggest glacier in Europe, northern lights, unpronounceable volcanoes and elves…however, the greatest of all is that Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world. Yes it is, and this is not something new.
According to the latest results of the Global Peace Index (GPI) for 2014, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world… for fourth year in a row. But, Why is this? There are three main reasons: lack of armed forces, low crime rate and high level of socio-political stability.
First of all, Iceland is very proud of not having standing army (and this includes unarmed police); in fact, it is the only NATO member without it. Even becoming a NATO member was a big deal for Icelanders and in March 1949 there were anti-NATO riots protesting against the Althing’s (Icelandic parliament) wishes of becoming member of the international organization, although they never succeeded. In addition, the USA government decided to abandon the base located in the town of Keflavík in 2006. This date marks the end of the presence of armed forces in Iceland. There’s also a very historic moment in peace in which Iceland played an important role: the end of the Cold War between the Western bloc led by the USA and the Eastern Bloc led by the Soviet Union. In 1986 Reagan and Gorbachev met in Reykjavík to sign the end of the conflict.
Secondly, as it has been mentioned, Iceland has a very low crime rate caused by the fact that there’s a very connected small population, genetically related and mainly gathered in the Reykjavík area, which makes it easy for the police to find responsible in case of a crime. Also, the isolated conditions of the island make it hard to escape or run away. Finally, there are no great differences between social classes, compared to other countries. When it comes to combating crime at an international level, Iceland along with Norway and Liechtenstein funds a program called “Reduction of Inequalities and Promoting Social Inclusion” for the Roma community in Europe which shows the Icelandic commitment towards eradicating crime and violence.
The Icelandic society builds itself upon trust. Often, when walking the streets, one can see baby chairs outside with children inside, while their moms are chatting in a café or unlocked bikes or people hitchhiking all over the country or small open fences in front of the houses. They believe in peace but that doesn’t mean that they don’t fight and that’s why they left their homes and went to the streets in 2008 after the country almost went bankrupt. To make a long story very short the citizens asked for and got a new parliamentary election, elected a group of people to make a new constitution (which has still not been implemented) and put many of the responsible actors of the financial crash on trial, some convicted of serious offences.
Reykjavík even has its own Peace Tower in the Viðey Island since 2007. A monument built by John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono in memory of her husband where the words “Imagine Peace” can be read in 24 different languages. Ono comes to the capital every 9th October to light the memorial for the next 4 months.
This article was written by Celia Haro Ruiz for Eurodesk Iceland