Improvements in peace are ultimately dependent on decreases in corruption, concludes a new report by the Institute for Economics & Peace, Peace and Corruption 2015. Although the report found that keeping corruption under control is essential for building and maintaining peaceful societies, there is no indication of the causal relationship between peace and corruption.

While the drivers of peace are multifaceted, complex and systemic, there is a statistically significant relationship between peace and corruption, the report found, but it is a one-way street. Changes in corruption drive changes in peace, but changes in peace do not appear to impact corruption.

The most important aspect of this relationship is what the report’s authors call a “tipping point”—if a country has low levels of corruption, increases in corruption will have little effect on peace, but once a certain threshold of corruption is reached, small increases in corruption can result in large decreases in peace.

Examining Corruption

According to the report, corruption is commonly defined as the “abuse of entrusted power for private gain” and includes acts such as bribery, fraud, extortion, embezzlement and kickbacks.

The most significant forms of corruption associated with falling levels of peace are within the police, judiciary and government. Increases in police and judicial corruption directly undermine the rule of law, thereby increasing political instability, which “can lead to the collapse of those institutions which were designed to prevent violence and conflict,” the report states.

The report found 64 countries that could be considered at our near the tipping point of corruption. The countries at or near the tipping point include authoritarian regimes, hybrid regimes and flawed democracies. The strongest democracies tend to be the most peaceful and the most corrupt. There are no democracies below the tipping point.

Global Peace Index

Pease was assessed in the report using the Global Peace Index (GPI), the world’s main measure of national peacefulness. It defines peace as the absence of violence or the fear of violence and measures three domains: the extent to which countries are involved in ongoing domestic and international conflicts, the level of societal safety and security, and the extent to which a country is militarized.

Once a country moves through the tipping point, the report explains, eight internal indicators from the GPI deteriorate dramatically. These indicators are political terror, political instability, violent crime, violent demonstrations, organized conflict, access to small arms and light weapons, the homicide rate and level of perceived criminality in society. At the same time, as countries transition out of the tipping point to lower levels of corruption, they become more peaceful as shown by these indicators.

Countries with the largest deteriorations in peace over the last seven years include those in Central, East and West Africa, the Middle East and North African countries. At the same time, Haiti, Chad, Serbia and Mongolia have seen improvements in peace.

Read the full report.