Frequently Asked Questions


What is the WPS Index?

The Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Index is a comprehensive measure of women’s wellbeing spanning three dimensions: inclusion (economic, social, political); justice (formal laws and informal discrimination); and security (at the family, community, and societal levels.) It is the first index to capture both peace and security—and women’s inclusion and justice – in the context of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

Which countries are included?

The WPS Index draws on recognized international data sources to rank 153 countries across all regions of the world—covering more than 98 percent of the world’s population.

What are the headline results?

Overall, the Index values range from a high of .886, achieved by Iceland, which leads the world in this first edition of the WPS Index, down to .385 in Afghanistan and Syria, the bottom ranked countries in a tie for last place.

The results reveal extensive unevenness in performance – only about 30 countries score in the top third for all three dimensions; most countries do not perform uniformly well across key indicators of inclusion, justice, and security. For example, while United States ranks 22 overall and is on par with other countries in the top tercile on inclusion and justice metrics, 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. South Africa similarly performs relatively well on the inclusion and justice fronts, while the security of women lags—fewer than 3 in 10 women feel safe walking in their community at night.

While there are clear regional patterns in performance – with Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific performing well, and the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa relatively badly overall – there are also major differences among countries within each region, illustrating that improvements are feasible in order to reach the standards of neighbors. The lowest scoring regions all have some countries whose score exceeds the global average, including Nepal in South Asia, and South Africa, Mauritius, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Attainments in too many countries lag well below global averages. For example, parliamentary representation of women lies in the single digits in nearly two dozen countries and zero in Qatar. In too many countries, women continue to face serious discrimination. For instance, countries in which more than half of men do not accept women working include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan. There is a striking correlation between insecurity in the home – as measured by high rates of intimate partner violence – and 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.

Finally, money matters, but many countries do far better on the WPS Index—or far worse—than their per capita income rank. Saudi Arabia drops a stunning 89 places on the WPS Index relative to its income ranking, and Iran performs drops a hefty 57 places.

The deficits in women’s inclusion, justice, and security highlight priority areas in which policy reforms and investments are needed to accelerate progress, especially in countries lagging significantly behind their neighbors.

How can the WPS Index be used? 

The index results reveal the potential for improvements, as well as more generalized deficits that require attention.   The WPS Index and the findings it reveals are likely to be especially useful to several key stakeholder groups:

  • Policymakers can draw on the results to set priorities for action to improve women’s inclusion, justice, and/or security, and benchmark performance against neighbours as well as over time.
  • Civil society can use the results to spotlight achievements as well as injustice and to hold decision-makers accountable, especially given the links to the Sustainable Development Goals to which all national governments have committed.
  • Businesses and investors can better analyze risks and assess the policy environment in countries based on rankings on inclusion, justice, and security.
  • Academics from a range of disciplines—peace and security studies, development economics, gender specialties—can exploit a wealth of possibilities for research from the WPS Index, which provides a major database for analysis as well as online tools to investigate the data.
  • The international development community can see a comprehensive picture of achievements and gaps along a range of fronts, including areas needing greater focus and investment.

How does the WPS Index reinforce international goals and commitments?

It reflects a shared vision that countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. All the indicators selected are explicit aspects of the SDGs. As far as possible, they are part of the official set of indicators and targets for monitoring the SDGs.

Which dimensions and indicators are included?

The Index captures three dimensions—inclusion, justice, and security—that are measured using publicly available data for 11 indicators. Inclusion is measured by women’s achievements in education, employment, and parliamentary representation, as well as access to cell phones and financial services. Justice is captured in both formal and informal aspects—extent of discrimination in the legal system, alongside a bias in favor of sons and exposure to discriminatory norms. Security is measured by intimate partner violence, perception of community safety, and organized violence (number of battle deaths.) 

What data does the WPS Index use?

The data represent widely agreed-on measures and are derived from official sources (such as national statistical offices, UN organizations) or other reputable international sources (such as Gallup, Peace Research Institute Oslo, peer-reviewed journals). The data are based on population or a representative-survey-based measure and do not rely on the judgment of experts to score performance. Data are available for at least 120 countries for a recent year and are collected and processed in a statistically reliable way.

What is included in the security dimension?

The inclusion of security is a major innovation of the WPS Index. Security is captured at several levels that are crucial for women’s well-being: the home and family, the community, and society.

The WPS Index includes intimate partner violence, the most common form of violence experienced by women globally, in both conflict and non-conflict settings. The Index also captures the feeling that one can walk alone at night anywhere near one’s home without fear, which is another basic indicator of security. This sense is also correlated with other measures of well-being, such as good health. Security at the societal level is captured in the WPS Index using battle-death data for organized violence from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP).This measure includes three types of conflict, with a threshold of 25 deaths per 100,000 annually.

Why another index?

Global indices are a popular tool to assess and compare national progress against international goals, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, by distilling complex information into a single number, in ways that can be readily understood and that focuses attention on key achievements and major shortcomings. 

Why is the WPS Index better than other indices?

While there are a growing number of global indices, none has brought together the three important dimensions of women’s inclusion, justice, and security. Gender indices are typically limited to indicators of inclusion, such as whether women complete secondary school or are in paid work. These aspects of inclusion are important, but incomplete in the absence of aspects of justice and security. It is misleading to focus on girls’ schooling where girls are not safe in their home or community. Likewise, traditional measures of security include an array of conflict indicators and assessments but invariably ignore systematic bias and discrimination against women and girls.

Who created the WPS Index?

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo collaborated to create the WPS Index, which was made possible by generous support from the government of Norway and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation. The development of the Index was led by Jeni Klugman, ManagingDirector, Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security and Fellow, Women and Public Policy Program Harvard Kennedy School.

Will the WPS Index be updated?

Index will be updated every two years and will track progress ahead of the UN High-level Political Forum in 2019, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 20th anniversary of 2000 UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security