New Zealand is the most peaceful nation on earth, according to the newly released Global Peace Index.

Wellington, New Zealand is the kick-off site of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence that will travel through 95 countries, starting on October 2, 2009, the International Day of Nonviolence and culminating in Punta de Vacas, Argentina, January 2, 2010.

Rafael de la Rubia, international spokesperson for the World March and World Without Wars founder, says, “We chose New Zealand because it is the first country to grant women the right to vote, to legally ban nuclear weapons, and the first and only country to establish a Minister of Disarmament so we are pleased at the recognition now given to New Zealand by the Global Peace Index.”

According to the GPI, an independent analysis of 144 countries using 25 concrete indicators, New Zealand ranks first because of its peaceful foreign policy, relatively low rate of violence and restrictions on weapons and low level of military expenditure.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast of Wellington says: “While the march starts in the peace of New Zealand, its course will take it through many territories – Israel, Palestine, Bosnia, Russia, Pakistan – which are scarred by decades of conflict. The aim of the March is to give a voice to the majority of humankind who yearn for peace, on an international and national scale as well as in the home.”

An international team of marchers will cross the planet from New Zealand to Argentina, to raise awareness of the dangers of a renewed arms race, the military occupation of foreign territories and the heightened probability of nuclear conflict. Thousands of concerts, festivals, forums, and demonstrations are planned to coincide with the March worldwide.

Alyn Ware, March Coordinator for New Zealand, says, “With the World March we celebrate the successful examples, in our communities and worldwide, of violence prevention, conflict resolution, cross-cultural understanding, bringing hope and inspiration for the future.”

The World March is an initiative of World Without Wars, an international organization working to prevent war and promote nonviolence. It has already gathered an impressive number of endorsers including six acting heads of state and international figures like former President Jimmy Carter, Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan, Nobel Laureates, Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, and celebrities like Penelope Cruz, Viggo Mortensen, Pete Seeger, Lou Reed, Yoko Ono, Pedro Almodóvar, and Zubin Mehta.

The other GPI’s top five countries are Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Austria. The lowest ranked countries are Israel, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US was ranked at 83, which is a few points better than last year, when the nation was in 89th place. Chris Wells, US spokesperson for the March, hopes “the US will do better next year when some of Obama’s initiatives develop further and the World March will give that push.”