Syria is caught in a quagmire of political and social unrest; Egypt and Tunisia saw uprisings and the Arab Spring raged through Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and other parts of the Arab world in 2011. The world was hardly what could be called a peaceful place last year, as indeed news reports and white papers will show.

However, in the midst of all that chaos, the Global Peace Index 2012 (GPI), a survey conducted by the Australia and US-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) showed that the global economic downturn of 2011 led to a decrease in incidences of terrorism across the world and violence in general, as nations axed large sections of their military budgets.

The sixth annual GPI report from the IEP identified the most peaceful countries in the world and, unsurprisingly, European countries remain on top of the list, while Canada, New Zealand and Japan also made it to the top ten. According to the report, a country's ability to avoid military conflicts related to wars and the business of the import and export of arms and ammunition, as well as the ability to check criminal activity, violent demonstrations and terrorism within its borders. All of these, it transpired, determined the nation's "peace" quotient.

The IEP examined 158 nations, including third world and developing countries, on 23 separate parameters, measuring their relative level of internal and external conflicts.

Besides the level of internal and external conflicts, the report also considered other factors in determining the most peaceful countries in the world. According to the IEP, countries with less access to small arms, a lower level of political terror, lower levels of corruption and freedom given to the press have the highest peace ratings.

Financial news provider 24/7 Wall St has reproduced IEP's data for the four strongest factors affecting the peace in a country and released a list of the ten most peaceful nations in 2012. The factors, including the political terror scale, access to small arms, relations with neighboring countries and likelihood of violent demonstrations, were rated on a scale of one to five, with the latter representing the least peaceful state.

Check out the slideshow to find out the top ten most peaceful countries in the world...

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