Despite some major strides, women in many countries face huge constraints in personal security, social and political inclusion, and legal access that harm their well-being and hold back economies, according to our new Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index, released at the United Nations on October 26.
The Index, compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo, draws on recognized international data sources to rank 153 countries on the condition of women and their empowerment in homes, communities, and societies more broadly. It is the first index to capture women’s inclusion, security, and access to justice in the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda.
The WPS Index represents an innovation in how we think about and measure women’s wellbeing by bringing together achievements for example in schooling and access to cell phones, an essential tool for women around the world, with data on violence against women and girls. There are a growing number of global indices, but none has brought together these dimensions into a single measure and ranking.
“I firmly believe that data not only measures progress, it inspires it. That’s why I welcome this new global index.” -Former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Iceland leads the world in this first edition of the WPS Index, which covers more than 98% of the world’s population, while war-torn Afghanistan and Syria are tied for last place.
The results reveal extensive unevenness in performance – only about 30 countries score in the top third for all three dimensions. For example, the United States ranks 22 overall and is on par with other countries in the top tercile on inclusion and justice metrics. Yet its score on the security dimension is depressed by its high rates of intimate partner violence that are more than 10 percentage points above the mean for developed countries.
While there are clear regional patterns in performance, there are also major differences among countries within each region, illustrating that improvements are feasible in order to reach the standards of neighbors.
The Index captures three dimensions—inclusion, justice, and security—that are measured using publicly available data. There is a striking correlation between insecurity in the home, which is measured by high rates of intimate partner violence, and a lack of safety in the community. Rates of current intimate partner violence in developing countries are more than one-third higher in conflict countries than in non-conflict countries.
The findings underline that while money matters, many countries do far better on the WPS Index—or far worse—than their per capita income rank. Saudi Arabia drops 89 places on the WPS Index relative to its income ranking and Iran drops 57 places.
The WPS Index was made possible by support from the government of Norway and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. It will be updated every two years.
“I welcome this new global Index – the first gender index to be developed for women’s role in peace and security. As the world works to realize the sustainable development goals, we will need robust tools to measure progress.” -Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations