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Monday, October 24, 2005

Study Shows Major Decline in Political Violence Worldwide

A comprehensive 3-year study shows surprising evidence of major declines in armed conflicts, genocides, human rights abuse,military coups and international crises, worldwide.The number of armed conflicts has dropped 40% since 1992. (Download the whole report here.)

This is really fascinating - it's a credible study, supported by five governments, produced at the University of British Columbia and published by the Oxford University Press. Some of the findings might surprise you:
  1. The number of armed conflicts has declined by more than 40% since 1992. The deadliest conflicts (those with 1000 or more battle-deaths) dropped even more dramaticallyby 80%.

  2. The number of international crises, often harbingers of war, fell by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001.

  3. Wars between countries are more rare than in previous eras and now constitute less than 5% of all armed conflicts.

  4. The number of military coups and attempted coups has declined by some 60% since 1963. In 1963, there were 25 coups or attempted coups; in 2004, there were 10. All failed.

  5. Most armed conflicts now take place in the poorest countries in the world, but as incomes rise the risk of war declines.

  6. The UK and France, followed by the US and Russia/USSR have fought most international wars since 1946.

  7. Most of the worlds conflicts are now concentrated in Africa. But even here there are signs of hope. A new dataset compiled for the Human Security Report finds that between 2002 and 2003 (the last year for which there is data) the number of armed conflicts in Africa dropped from 41 to 35.

  8. The drop in armed conflicts in the 1990s was associated with a worldwide decline in arms transfers, military spending and troop numbers.

  9. Wars have become dramatically less deadly over the past five decades. The average number of people reported killed per conflict per year in 1950 was 38,000; in 2002 it was just 600 a decline of 98%.

  10. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s by far the highest battledeath tolls in the world were in the wars in East and Southeast Asia. In the 1970s and 1980s, most of the killing took place in the Middle East, Central and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of the 1990s, more people were being killed in sub-Saharan Africas wars than the rest of the world put together.

  11. The new dataset created for the Report finds that between 2002 and 2003 the number of reported deaths from all forms of political violence fell by 62% in the Americas, 32% in Europe, 35% in Asia and 24 % in Africa.

  12. The biggest death tolls do not come from the actual fighting, however, but from war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition. These indirectdeaths can account for as much as 90% of the total war-related death toll. Currently there are insufficient data to make even rough estimations of global or regional indirectdeath toll trends.

  13. Not withstanding the horrors of Rwanda and Srebrenica, Bosnia, the number of genocides and other mass killings plummeted by 80% between the 1989 high point and 2001.

  14. International terrorism is the only form of political violence that appears to be getting worse. Some datasets have shown an overall decline in international terrorist incidents of all types since the early 1980s, but the most recent statistics suggest a dramatic increase in the number of highcasualty attacks since the September 11 attacks on the US in 2001. The annual death toll from international terrorist attacks is, however, only a tiny fraction of annual war death toll.
The Human Security Report identifies three major political changes over the past 30 years thathave radically altered the global security landscape.
While there's no room for complacency - there are still some 60 armed conflicts raging around the world; there are gross abuses of human rights (especially women and children); war crimes and terrorist attacks. The underlying causes of conflict are not being addressed fully.

Anyhow, this data does go against some of the current popular wisdom (as a bumper sticker I saw put it: WHAT IS THIS HANDBASKET AND WHERE AM I GOING IN IT?.

What do you think?

That's an extremely interesting list. You're right, I never would have guessed that things are better and not worse. Thanks.
oh i don't know, i don't know.

like most people, all i can do is rely on what other people tell me and hope that i'm not being manipulated too much.

i suspect that this list is correct. that we're better in the duke-it-out-on-the-streets department, but worse in the creepy-zealot/corporation department than we used to be.

and i suspect that a few more things happen behind closed doors now. that the increase in corporate rights and internationally legal bindings have created more loopholes in which abuses can occur and be in effect invisible to the media/us, where they used to perhaps be a little more bloodily apparant. if there is more silence on the front lines these days, i worry that it's a cold, repressive quiet.

plus, since america is one of the culprits these days, who is there to boss them around and make them shape up? who's the watch-dog's watch dog? what can the united nations really do about GITMO? or iraq? i feel like we're all kids in the school yard watching a really, really big kid pick on a smaller kid, who may have been a jerk in his own right, but now his nose is broken and it's gone too far and we wish the teacher would come because we're all too scared to intervene or tattle.

but maybe it just looks this way because i'm a canadian mouse sleeping next to an american elephant ;-)
Nice post... and yes, this may be good information (less dead people, less orphans), but it is not a sign that we can relax. The security card seems to trump human rights these days...and that can only feed the violence.

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