Going beyond murder and theft, our algorithm accounts for natural disaster threats. 

Author: Marc Getzoff
Project Coordinator: Edith Updike


What makes a nation “safe”? Typically, rankings look at rates of homicide or violent crime overall. But there are other threats to a person's well-being. What about safety from disease? Or, given the extreme weather events of recent years, from risk of natural disaster?

Japan, relatively peaceful but routinely devastated by earthquakes and storms, is more likely to deploy its military for disaster relief than combat. Here, Japanese troops are briefed at Kadena Air Base prior to distributing supplies to victims of the Tohoku earthquake in March 2011.

The Global Finance ranking of World's Safest Countries incorporates three measures of security and safety. One component is each nation's score in the Global Peace Index, created by the Institute for Economics and Peace, which measures social safety, violent conflict, and militarization. We also mix in each country's score for Safety and Security as measured by the World Economic Forum in its annual Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. This measures the likelihood of violence, terrorism, and the country’s anti-crime procedures. Lastly, we incorporated each nation's risk for natural disasters, also from the WEF.

Rather than just measuring how likely you are to get murdered and robbed, this index also measures how likely it is you will get caught in a tornado or tsunami. In essence, it measures the general sense of physical safety for people living in or visiting the country.

This approach highlights some of the lurking dangers in famously “safe” countries. Japan, for example, where crime and bellicosity are low but tectonic plates and ocean storms wield great power, ranks 111th, just ahead of Yemen, which has the lowest score for peace but also a low risk of natural disaster. Likewise Nigeria, among the bottom 20, scores high for violence, but relatively low for natural disaster risk.

New Zealand’s exposure to natural disasters—such as the earthquake that liquified these roads in Christ Church—pushes it out of the top 20. Photo by Martin Luff

Among the least-safe countries are a few that, like Japan, are largely safe from human violence but often pummeled by Mother Nature. Those include Vietnam (118th), Mauritius (124th) and Costa Rica (126th). In some cases, natural disaster risk pushes countries that are otherwise quite lovely out of the top 20, such as Denmark (22nd), New Zealand (23rd) and Australia (27th).  

At the top of the list, the safest countries also include several Middle East nations whose Peace rankings are relatively low—Qatar (34th), United Arab Emirates (57th), Oman (66th), Saudi Arabia (110th)—but whose Natural Disaster rankings are compensatingly high: 1, 5, 15, and 2, respectively.

Saudi Arabian security forces on parade. Saudi Arabia scores low for peacefulness, but is second-safest when it comes to natural disasters.

And some countries squeaked into the top 20 with balanced risk portfolios. Poland, at #20, ranks 24th, 34th, and 25th, for respectively Peace, Safety, and Natural Disaster Risk. Sweden (#6), Norway (#7), Germany (#14) and Spain (#17) also show relatively balanced risk. 

Many of the world’s “major players” in the global arena do not make either the best or the worst rankings. Curious? The UK comes in at 34th. The US, with a poor Peace score, is not far behind at 41st, and Israel is next at 42nd.  China and Russia, also with low Peace scores, rank 69th and 70th, respectively.  India comes in at 99th.




Table One: The Safest Countries in the World



Global Finance Safety Index

1 Qatar 6.90
2 Iceland 7.36
3 Finland 8.37
4 Switzerland 8.79
5 Singapore 8.94
6 Sweden 8.94
7 Norway 9.09
8 United Arab Emirates 9.23
9 Austria 9.48
10 Canada 9.74
11 Estonia 9.78
12 Saudi Arabia 9.83
13 Portugal 9.83
14 Germany 9.86
15 Belgium 9.95
16 Slovenia 10.03
17 Spain 10.29
18 Oman 10.29
19 Czech Republic 10.38
20 Poland 10.45


Table Two: The Most Dangerous Countries in the World



Global Finance Safety Index

112 Pakistan 20.21
113 Cameroon 20.33
114 Gambia 20.64
115 Burundi 20.73
116 Dominican Republic 20.95
117 Guyana 21.03
118 Vietnam 21.03
119 Haiti 21.06
120 Nigeria 21.08
121 Chad 21.15
122 Honduras 21.51
123 Jamaica 22.16
124 Mauritius 22.74
125 Nicaragua 23.43
126 Costa Rica 24.82
127 Cambodia 25.94
128 El Salvador 26.90
129 Bangladesh 28.83
130 Guatemala 30.85
131 Philippines 37.88

*Based on data from the World Economic Forum and The Global Institute For Peace 

To view the complete ranking see page two.


No comments yet

Add a Comment

You must be a registered user with Global Finance Magazine to comment.

Forgot Password?