Wednesday 19 September 2018


People  in Northern Ireland are more optimistic about future peace prospects than other parts of the UK, a new report has revealed.

In a survey commissioned by the British Council and International Alert, the UK has emerged as the most pessimistic country regarding its future peace prospects with 40% of wider UK respondents feeling prospects for peace and security will get worse in the next five years, compared to 28% of respondents in Northern Ireland.

The Peace Perceptions Poll 2018, conducted in partnership with global polling agency RIWI, found that people in wider UK seem more negative about their country’s future peace and security than those living in conflict zones, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).   

The poll asked more than 110,000 people about their perceptions of peace and conflict. The online survey included Brazil, Colombia, DRC, Hungary, India, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United States of America and the United Kingdom, with targeted polling additionally undertaken in Northern Ireland.

Those living in more peaceful countries tended to be more pessimistic about future prospects for peace, with the UK the most worried about terrorism of all the countries surveyed, followed by Brazil, the US and Hungary.

However the report found that people in Northern Ireland:

  • had some of the highest levels of perceptions of political exclusion, 38% of respondents felt less able to influence the political decisions affecting them, compared to five years ago. 
  • put their trust to build and maintain peace in community leaders (44% compared to 34% of respondents in wider UK)

Interestingly, those aged 65 and over in Northern Ireland were more pessimistic about prospects for peace in the next five years, 38% saying things would get worse versus 26% who thought things would get better. This is the generation that lived through the Troubles, having been in their late teens/early twenties at its height.

Speaking about the UK results, Harriet Lamb, CEO of International Alert said: “The poll’s findings point to the uncertainties facing the British public. The UK has to ensure that people have more equal access to economic opportunities and feel able to engage politically.” 

Professor Jo Beall, Director Education and Society, British Council said: “This poll seeks to understand people’s experience of conflict, and their aspirations for peace – whether in the UK or elsewhere in the world. We believe these findings will be useful for leaders and policy-makers facing up to the challenges of peacebuilding, wherever they are in the world.” 

Jonathan Stewart, Director British Council Northern Ireland said: “Twenty years on from the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, this poll demonstrates that there are reasons for the people of Northern Ireland to be optimistic about their future. However, the lasting impact of the Troubles is reflected in these results and we need to ensure that we continue to build trust, invest in everyday peacebuilding and maintain dialogue.”

Key Global Findings:

  • Those living in more peaceful countries tended to be more pessimistic about future prospects for peace. The UK, Brazil, the US and Hungary had the largest numbers thinking peace and security would get worse over the next five years. 
  • ‘Lack of jobs and ability to provide for one’s family’ was widely seen as the top reason that would drive people to violent action. This was followed by a ‘sense of injustice’ and a need to ‘improve one’s social status’. 
  • Globally, terrorism and criminal violence were people’s top security concerns. 
  • 83% of global respondents said having political influence was fundamental for peace and security, with 90% saying the same about access to economic opportunities.  
  • Globally, people said the two most important means of achieving long-term peace were establishing why conflicts start and supporting societies to deal with conflict peacefully. 
  • When asked where governments should spend more to promote peace, ‘dealing with the reasons why people fight in the first place’ ranked first in 10 of the 15 countries, followed by ‘teaching peace, tolerance and conflict resolution in schools’.
  • The DRC and South Africa perceived the highest levels of political exclusion, with 50% and 44% of the population respectively saying they are less able to influence the political decisions that affect them, compared to 5 years ago. This was followed by the UK (41%), Hungary (40%) and the US (37%). 
  • Across the majority of countries polled, corruption in politics was cited as the number one reason why people felt they had less political influence. This was most strongly felt in South Africa, Ukraine and Nigeria. 
  • Those who thought they had more political influence attributed it extensively to social media and technology, which ranked top with 28% choosing it.    
  • Those who felt most economically excluded generally lived in middle- to high-income countries, including Hungary, Ukraine, the UK, Lebanon, the US and South Africa. This shows that the perception of economic exclusion is as important as the reality. 

Notes to Editor

About International Alert: 

International Alert is a leading peacebuilding organisation that works with people directly affected by conflict to build lasting peace. Founded in 1986, International Alert works in over 25 countries and territories.   

About RIWI:

RIWI is a global survey technology, global messaging, and global predictive analytics firm. RIWI partners with those who need adaptive insights and large sets of privacy-compliant opinion data, behavioural data, and population trends data. RIWI offers predictive and applied analytics, message testing, and risk monitoring anywhere around the world.

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Communications Manager: T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Twitter: @BCouncil_NI, Facebook – 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.  For more information, please visit: