VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The world is becoming a safer place, or at least it is trending that way, according to recent research done by the Human Security Report Project. In a series of yearly reports ranging from 2005 to 2013, the Vancouver-based independent research center presented evidence of a definite drop in high-intensity global conflict numbers since the early 1990s.
Amid the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, and the resulting deluge of news reports, it is easy for this positive trend to go unnoticed. However, the veracity of the information or the source should not be doubted.
The Human Security Report Project is a widely respected source of information: its work has received considerable attention in over 50 countries and has been translated into over 20 languages. And through empirical analysis of events worldwide, they have shown that organized violence is, and has been, declining.
The organization’s most recent report, issued in 2013, details the downward trend of organized violence occurring worldwide. From 2011 to the end of 2012, the number of worldwide conflicts dropped from 37 to 32. Along with this drop in conflicts, the report also identified two rather important changes in the nature of conflicts worldwide.
The first change is the shift from interstate to intrastate violence. Interstate violence is a conflict between two separate nations, and since World War II, this has gradually been superseded by intrastate violence, or civil wars.
The sole interstate conflict fought in 2011 was between Thailand and Cambodia.
The second change was that, along with this reduction in interstate violence, there has been a reduction in high-intensity conflicts worldwide. A high intensity conflict is described as including more than 1,000 battle deaths. Since the 1980s, the number of high-intensity conflicts has been more than halved. This reduction of high-intensity conflicts can be seen perhaps nowhere better than in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the 13 conflicts that occurred there during 2011, only two can qualify as high-intensity.
However, the good news does not stop there. Colombia, by the end of 2012, reached its lowest murder rate in 27 years, Guatemala had its murder rate decline substantially between 2009 to 2011 and Mexico saw a decrease in homicides attributable to organized crime drop by 28 percent from 2011 to 2012. And since the 1990s, there has been a dramatic decrease in violence perpetrated on civilians by their governments.
There have been a number of reasons identified by The Human Security Report Project for the good news. Most prominent among them, however, is the reduction of global poverty. For the past two decades, the number of the chronically undernourished has been halved, and the reduction in poverty has been mirrored in the significant decreases in global conflicts since the 1990s.
The world’s most dangerous countries to live in today, such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan, are also among the world’s poorest countries.
Impoverished countries are much more likely than wealthy ones to become havens for terrorist organizations and are much more likely to suffer internal strife and civil wars. Considering this, the speeding up of the elimination of global poverty seems a vital way to help speed up the reduction of global conflicts.
The Human Security Report Project’s report is particularly poignant information to keep in mind during the coming days. It is too easy to become overwhelmed by the constant stream of articles on the most recent violence and terrorist attacks in the world.
Too often, pessimism is the first recourse of many when discussing international affairs. However, with the data provided by The Human Security Report Project, perhaps it will be possible to inject some healthy optimism into the discourse again.
– Albert Cavallaro