The re-emergence of Belgium as a footballing powerhouse has been a long time in the making. After finishing fourth in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the Belgian national team has struggled to make any real impact at either the World Cup or European Championships. However, in the last few years a new golden generation has emerged, one that has many pundits predicting that Belgium has an outside chance to be crowned world champions in 2014. Players like Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany, Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois, and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard play at the highest levels for both club and country.
Belgium has also been successful off the field in recent years, as can been seen in the 2014 Global Peace Index report. Belgium is now the 9th most peaceful country in the world according to the GPI (higher even than its official FIFA ranking of 11th). Belgium has become more peaceful since the inception of the index in 2007, and has been a constant in the ten most peaceful countries for the last three years. It has a low homicide rate, low levels of political instability, excellent relations with neighbouring countries, and no one indicator in the GPI has a score higher than two out of five, meaning that Belgium is relatively peaceful across the board, just as its soccer team can boast of strength in every position.
In peace, as in football, success doesn’t come overnight. Whilst the Belgian national team is blessed with an abundance of talented players, the rise of the national team is the result of a concerted effort at all levels of the game: from players, coaches, administrators, and fans. In 2006 the Belgian coaching system was radically overhauled, with a far greater emphasis placed on player development than merely winning games, particularly at the youth level. By 2009 this bold experiment was beginning to bear fruit, and now the national team is within touching distance of a World Cup quarter-final. According to research conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a similar emphasis on development is needed in order to foster the kind of societies associated with peaceful environments. There are eight key structures, known as the ‘pillars of peace’ which must be nurtured, developed, and strengthened, in order for peaceful societies to flourish. Whilst development in levels of national peacefulness moves more slowly than in football, progress is possible. One hundred years ago Belgium was the site of one of humanity’s bloodiest ever conflicts. Today, it is one of the most peaceful nations in the world.
As the world looks to Brazil to watch 32 countries fight it out on the soccer field, we take a look how this tournament would turn out if they were in the playoffs for peace.
Vision of Humanity is an initiative of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). IEP have offices in New York and Sydney. For more specific inquiries related to the peace indexes and research, please contact IEP directly.