SINGAPORE moved up seven places in this year's Global Peace Index (GPI) to be the 16th most peaceful out of 162 countries.
It is one of only three Asian nations in the top 20 - the others being Japan at No. 6 and Bhutan at No. 20 - and leads the South-east Asian nations in its scores.
The annual GPI, now in its seventh year, was released on Wednesday at the United Nations by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an independent, non-profit research group dedicated to shifting the global focus to peace as a measure of well-being and progress.
The GPI is used by many international organisations, governments and non-governmental organisations such as the World Bank and the UN to inform policy.
The institute's New York operations director, Ms Michelle Breslauer, said overall scores were derived from 22 indicators measuring levels of peacefulness within a country, as well as outside the country, which had an impact on its peacefulness.
They included data such as the number of police officers per 100,000 people, organised crime levels and military expenditure as a percentage of the country's gross domestic product.
Overall, she said the world had grown more violent primarily due to a rise in internal levels of civil strife and crime, pointing out that homicide rates had gone up 8 per cent globally.
Singapore's GPI score tied with that of Australia, which was 22nd last year when Singapore was 23rd.
Iceland remains the most peaceful nation, followed by Denmark and New Zealand, while Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan round off the bottom three.
Other Asean countries highest on the list are Malaysia, at 29, and Laos, at 39.
It is understood that Singapore moved up in the rankings as some of the other nations' scores fell, like Portugal, which slipped from 16th last year to 18th, partly because of the impact of the European Union debt crisis.
Analysts told The Straits Times that the boost from the GPI augured well for the country and showed citizens and government the way forward.
Singapore International Foundation governor and Singapore's Ambassador to Jordan, Mr K. Kesavapany, said the GPI showed that the "fundamentals of human development in Singapore are well in place: health care, education, support for families and the elderly".
"The ranking index is a good guide for policy concerns and for the population in general to go forth and make further improvements to make Singapore a more egalitarian society," he noted.
He added that all the Asean countries are taking their own steps to progress, as shown by Malaysia and Laos in the rankings, and "in line with forming the social community".
Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng said the GPI reinforced Singapore's international reputation as a safe country, and expects the ranking to remain that way in the next few years.
"I think the efforts of our law and enforcement, as well as of the people in Singapore, have contributed to this. It is important that people are aware of what should be done, instead of relying on law and enforcement to ensure peace," he said.
National University of Singapore Associate Professor Reuben Wong said the ranking is a reflection of Singapore as a wealthy and relatively well-developed and stable society with good infrastructure and no major political, ethnic or economic tensions.
"You can understand why other wealthy nations like, say, the US (which was ranked 99), are doing badly on the index, because their societies have a lot of potential for conflict, as indicated by their high Gini coefficients."
The Gini coefficient is generally used as a measure of income inequality, among other things.
"In this, Singapore needs to be careful - our Gini coefficient is almost on the same level as the US' now. If this continues, we may need to be prepared for the ranking to go down."