Article | 2018

Executive Summary

The Women, Peace and Security Index, introduced in 2017 by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), is the first index to combine insights from gender and development indices with those from peace and security indices. The WPS Index aims to measure women’s wellbeing more comprehensively by covering the dimensions of women’s inclusion, justice and security. The security dimension includes measures of violence and insecurity at three levels: in the family, community, and society. In this note, we are especially interested in the security dimension at the society level.

The WPS Index currently measures societal conflict using data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) on the number of total deaths that result from organized violence episodes.

Yet, as recently pointed out by Anna Applebaum and Briana Mawby in the context of El Salvador, high levels of gang violence may effectively be a new form of war.

We explore how the inclusion of gang-related violence affects the ranking in our WPS Index. We examine an extension to the measure of conflict from the UCDP—currently the most comprehensive measure of organized violence—by including a more accurate number of deaths associated with gang violence alongside “battle deaths.”  We apply this to the security dimension of the WPS Index, and calculate index rankings for a set of four Central American countries and Mexico.

This note illustrates how much of a difference gang violence makes to our assessments of national achievements on the WPS Index. The implications are huge, especially for El Salvador, and the analysis usefully shows how national rankings are affected, underlining that gang violence erodes well-being in ways that substantially undermine achievements on other fronts.

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