LONDON - Despite an escalating conflict in Syria and mounting civil unrest in Europe, the world became a more peaceful place in the last year, a study showed on Tuesday, highlighting particular improvement in Africa.

The Global Peace Index, produced by the Australia and US-based Institute for Economics and Peace, showed its first improvement in two years. For the first time, sub-Saharan Africa was no longer the world's least peaceful region, losing that dubious distinction to the Middle East and North Africa in the aftermath of the "Arab Spring."

The survey studied 23 indicators across 158 countries, ranging from measures of civil unrest and crime to military spending, involvement in armed conflict and relations with neighbors. Aside from the deterioration in the Middle East, every other region in the world showed at least some form of improvement.

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