Nine out of ten violent deaths occur outside conflict zones, and crime is the single largest contributor to violent killing.
These startling findings of this year’s report on the Global Burden of Armed Violence, enlarges the context of lethal violence: it is not necessary linked to war, armed conflict and terrorism, but encompasses crime, gang-related violence and gender-related violence, as well.
Violent murders occur in both developed and developing countries where poverty, inequality, social and political exclusion, and governance challenges are both causes and consequences of armed violence. In fact, more people per capita were killed in El Salvador than in Iraq, reveals the report by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, released last week in Geneva.
Out of the 526,000 people who die as a result of armed violence every year, only 55,000 of them lose their lives in conflict or as a result of terrorism. Instead, 396,000 people - including 66,000 women - are victims of murder, 54,000 die as a result of manslaughter and 21,000 violent deaths occur during law enforcement actions. High levels of ‘femicide’ are frequently accompanied—and in some cases generated by—a high level of tolerance for violence against women, the report notes.
“The boundaries between political, criminal, and interpersonal violence have become increasingly blurred, as revealed in cases of killings associated with drug trafficking in Central America or of pirates engaging in economically-motivated violence in Somalia,” said Keith Krause, one of the editors and authors of the report.
One-quarter of all violent deaths occur in just 14 countries (average annual violent death rates above 30.0 per 100,000) - half of which are in the Americas. Although wars dominate media headlines, the levels of armed violence in some non-conflict countries resemble those of conflict zones. El Salvador was the country with the most per capita lethal violence in an average year between 2004 and 2009, followed by Iraq, then Jamaica, according to the report.
Not surprisingly, the report also links lethal violence to underdevelopment.
“States with high levels of lethal violence almost always struggle to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” said Krause. “And we also know that when a country makes progress in terms of development, it is likely to exhibit decreasing levels of lethal violence.”
Echoing the results of a growing body of research, the report also confirms that countries with low levels of income inequality and unemployment experience lower levels of homicide.
The Global Burden of Armed Violence is produced by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development. The Declaration was adopted on 7 June 2006 and is now endorsed by over 100 states.