New Zealand has been ranked the second most peaceful country on Earth, according to this year's Global Peace Index.

The report measures the "peacefulness" of 163 countries with a range of measures including military spending and deaths from conflict and terrorism, as well as an estimated economic cost of violence.

Iceland, often portrayed as an idyllic Nordic paradise, came first in the rankings for the 12th year in a row.

A map showing countries ranked by their Global Peace Index, with Afghanistan scoring worst and Iceland best. The bottom 10 countries are listed left and the top 10 right. Photo / Global Peace Index
A map showing countries ranked by their Global Peace Index, with Afghanistan scoring worst and Iceland best. The bottom 10 countries are listed left and the top 10 right. Photo / Global Peace Index

Researchers praised Iceland's falling murder rate and an increase in funding to United Nations peacekeeping.

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"The strong institutions, attitudes and structures of peace that Iceland maintains has bolstered the country's resilience against small internal shocks," they said.

New Zealand came second, with the researchers noting the Christchurch mosque attacks, but stating that our country had improved other scores and developed a "resilience" to cope with such disasters.

"New Zealand maintained or improved its scores in 22 out of 23 indicators, but deteriorated in the impact of terrorism because of the 15 March 2019 terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch, in which 51 people were killed," the report said.

"Improvements in five other indicators across all three domains helped New Zealand maintain its rank as the second most peaceful country in the world."

Portugal was ranked third, and Austria fourth despite the likelihood of violent demonstrations after a far-right party joined the government, the Global Peace Index report said.

Denmark was fifth, with European nations dominating the top of the list.

"Europe remains the most peaceful region in the world and it recorded a very slight improvement in peacefulness after several years of deterioration," the report said.

"However, despite these improvements, the broader political environment in Europe remains uncertain, and resurgent nationalism and terrorism remain significant threats to peace."

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Japan scored highly among leading world powers, coming in as the world's 9th-most peaceful country.

Germany was 22nd, the United Kingdom 45th and France 60th - while the United States dropped four places to 128th.

The report highlighted that the growing political polarisation in America added tensions between Washington and Iran is why the country's ranking dropped to 128.

"Confidence in US leadership has fallen the most in the past five years, with people now having more confidence in China than the US on average," the report noted.

Australia's score also fell slightly, as researchers said the country had increased its military expenditure and weapons imports.

Russia scored badly, coming 10th from the bottom, below North Korea.

Afghanistan was listed at the bottom of the rankings, scoring even worse than Syria, where ISIS was swept out of its last patch of territory earlier this year.

"Despite the improvement this year, the world remains considerably less peaceful now than a decade ago," the report said.

"A wide range of factors drove the fall in peacefulness over the past decade including increased terrorist activity, the intensification of conflicts in the Middle East, rising regional tensions in Eastern Europe and northeast Asia, increasing numbers of refugees, and heightened political tensions in Europe and the US," the report explained.

South Sudan, Yemen and Iraq were also ranked as the least peaceful country in the world.

The full list of countries in the 2019 Global Peace Index

1. Iceland

2. New Zealand

3. Portugal

4. Austria

5. Denmark

6. Canada

7. Singapore

8. Slovenia

9. Japan

10. Czech Republic

11. Switzerland

12. Ireland

13. Australia

14. Finland

15. Bhutan

16. Malaysia

17. Netherlands

18. Belgium

18. Sweden

20. Norway

21. Hungary

22. Germany

23. Slovakia

24. Mauritius

25. Romania

26. Bulgaria

27. Chile

28. Croatia

29. Poland

30. Botswana

31. Qatar

32. Spain

33. Costa Rica

34. Uruguay

35. Latvia

36. Taiwan

37. Estonia

38. Lithuania

39. Italy

40. Malawi

41. Indonesia

42. Mongolia

43. Kuwait

44. Ghana

45. United Kingdom

45. Laos

47. Panama

48. Timor-Leste

48. Zambia

50. Serbia

51. Albania

52. Sierra Leone

53. United Arab Emirates

54. Tanzania

55. South Korea

55. Madagascar

57. Vietnam

58. Senegal

59. Liberia

60. France

60. Namibia

62. The Gambia

63. Cyprus

64. Kazakhstan

65. Greece

65. North Macedonia

67. Montenegro

68. Moldova

69. Oman

70. Equatorial Guinea

71. Ecuador

72. Benin

72. Sri Lanka

72. Eswatini

75. Argentina

76. Nepal

77. Angola

77. Jordan

79. Rwanda

80. Peru

81. Bosnia and Herzegovina

82. Tunisia

83. Jamaica

84. Dominican Republic

85. Bolivia

86. Kosovo

87. Haiti

88. Paraguay

89. Cambodia

90. Morocco

91. Cuba

92. Guyana

93. Trinidad and Tobago

94. Mozambique

95. Kyrgyz Republic

96. Gabon

97. Belarus

98. Papua New Guinea

99. Georgia

100. Guinea

101. Bangladesh

102. Uzbekistan

103. Lesotho

104. Burkina Faso

105. Tajikistan

105. Uganda

107. Cote d' Ivoire

108. Togo

109. Djibouti

110. China

111. Algeria

112. Guinea-Bissau

113. El Salvador

114. Guatemala

115. Turkmenistan

116. Brazil

117. Thailand

118. Armenia

119. Kenya

120. Nicaragua

121. Republic of the Congo

122. Mauritania

123. Honduras

124. Bahrain

125. Myanmar

126. Niger

127. South Africa

128. United States of America

129. Saudi Arabia

130. Azerbaijan

131. Ethiopia

132. Zimbabwe

133. Eritrea

134. Philippines

135. Burundi

136. Egypt

137. Chad

138. Cameroon

139. Iran

140. Mexico

141. India

142. Palestine

143. Colombia

144. Venezuela

145. Mali

146. Israel

147. Lebanon

148. Nigeria

149. North Korea

150. Ukraine

151. Sudan

152. Turkey

153. Pakistan

154. Russia

155. Democratic Republic of the Congo

156. Libya

157. Central African Republic

158. Somalia

159. Iraq

160. Yemen

161. South Sudan

162. Syria

163. Afghanistan