WASHINGTON, June 17 (UPI) -- Although worldwide peace levels were stable this year, the division between countries enjoying peace and those afflicted by conflict has increased, according to a report.
The annual Global Peace Index report produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace measures the state of peace in 162 countries by using 23 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence.
"The world is less peaceful today than it was in 2008," according to the report. "The indicators that have deteriorated the most are the number of refugees and [internally displaced persons], the number of deaths from internal conflict and the impact of terrorism."
"Last year alone it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago," the report added.
The study found that there have only been two improved indicators: United Nations peacekeeping funding has increased and the number of deaths from external conflicts has fallen from 1,982 to 410 in the last eight years.
The total economic impact of violence in 2014 reached $14 trillion, which is about 13 percent of the global gross domestic product.
Countries with the best improvement in peace include Egypt, Cote D'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. Europe is the world's most peaceful region, with 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries residing there.
Since 2014, 81 countries have become more peaceful while 78 have become less peaceful.
"Due to an increase in civil unrest and terrorist activity, the Middle East and North Africa is now the world's least peaceful region for the first time since ," according to the report. "Globally the intensity of internal armed conflict has increased dramatically, with the number of people killed in conflicts rising over 3.5 times from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2014."
Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are the world's least peaceful countries. The countries where peace deteriorated the most were Libya, which now ranks 149th out of 162 countries, and Ukraine, 150th.
"2014 was marked by contradictory trends: on the one hand many countries in the OECD achieved historically high levels of peace, while on the other, strife-torn nations, especially in the Middle East, became more violent," Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the Institute for Economics and Peace said in a statement. "This is a real concern as these conflict become even more intractable they spread terrorism to other states."