This article first appeared as part of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils in Dubai, 4-6 November 2019.
Violence has always been one of humanity's most serious global challenges. Hundreds of millions of men, women, and children have been killed or maimed by armed conflict, crime, extremism, and sexual and gender-based violence.
The news is not all bad; far from the headlines, progress has been made over the past half century in preventing and reducing many types of violence. While the comparatively recent drop in violence is no guarantee that it will continue well into the 21st century, This is, in fact, one of the central aspirations of Sustainable Development Goal 16 on peace, security, and justice. This is precisely what the Pathfinders Partnership, a coalition that includes countries across the full range of World Bank Group members, seeks to achieve.
Understanding the problem
To frame the problem, let’s first reflect on just how many people are affected by violence. While difficult to measure with precision (a challenge we’ll address in a future blog post), we know that as many as 600,000 people – including almost 100,000 women and girls – die around the world each year as a result of conflict, crime, extremist, and extrajudicial violence. Millions more suffer physical and psychological injuries associated with warfare, criminality, and sexual and gender-based violence. Over 40 million people are displaced by violence – including 26 million refugees. If no steps are taken to change our present course, it is not at all certain that these trends will improve in the next decade. Yet if measures are taken to reverse these tendencies, hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in reconstruction, reparations, productivity losses, and insurance claims could be saved.
estimates that the ratio is roughly 5:1. Put simply, many more people are dying violently as a result of organized and interpersonal crime in countries like Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico than in internal conflicts in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. This is not to say that one type of lethal violence is more important than the other, but rather to highlight the importance of a fact-based diagnosis.Take the case of lethal violence. There is a misperception that more people die violently in war zones than in countries at peace. While total levels of violence oscillate from year to year, it turns out that the reverse is true. The UN Office for Drugs and Crime
A second step is to determine where violence concentrates and who is most at risk. most urbanized regions – feature some of the highest levels of lethal and non-lethal violence. Meanwhile, most conflict and terrorist-related deaths are concentrated in a handful of countries in Central Asia, the African Sahel, North Africa, and the Middle East. Irrespective of where it occurs,These tendencies are likely to increase steadily given the inexorable urbanization of every region on earth. Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean – already one of the world's
The third step is to acknowledge the risk factors that give rise to various types of violence. Although violence is multi-factoral, a number of recurring risks stand out.Other situational factors loom large, including exposure to narcotics and alcohol and the availability of arms. Many of these factors cluster in urban settings, especially in neighborhoods exhibiting concentrated disadvantage, social disorganization, and low levels of social cohesion.
research suggests that a focus on reducing lethal violence in the 40 cities with the highest rates of homicide could save more than 12,000 lives a year. In Latin America, reducing homicide in just the seven most violent countries over the next 10 years would save more than 365,000 lives.This must be accompanied by sustained investment in reducing the risks and improving the protection of affected areas and populations, and investing in solutions with a positive track record. In the U.S., for example,
Charting our path forward
First, countries and cities can develop violence reduction plans with clear targets and performance indicators over the next decade. Effective data-harvesting systems to track trends, investment in in-house monitoring and analytical capacities to interpret results, routine supervision, ongoing training and professional development, and constant evaluation are all critical. This requires leaders who are prepared to plan across electoral cycles and business and civil society champions who are willing to invest time, energy, and resources to improve their communities.
Next,This means investing in prevention – including the risk factors that give rise to violence. It also means building in peace architectures that can channel grievances non-violently. Ideally, governments can combine specific adaptations in policing practice with prevention and protection measures tailored particularly for at-risk places and people – from young out-of-work males to vulnerable women and children. This requires the creation of partnerships across institutional and bureaucratic silos – between state and city authorities, but also across different public entities. Strong partnerships with universities, research institutes, and businesses can help identify evidence-based pathways for improvement.
Another key ingredient of success is staying power. It is challenging to maintain support given electoral cycles and economic volatility, but when interventions are terminated prematurely, the positive effects vanish quickly. The most successful interventions take time to have a lasting effect. Consider São Paulo, for example, a city that has registered sharp reductions in its murder rate in recent years. Metropolitan São Paulo's homicide rate fell from 49.2 per 100,000 in 2001 to just 5.5 per 100,000 between 2001 and 2018, making it one of the safest large cities in Brazil. In 1991, the city of Medellín in Colombia registered a homicide rate of 381 per 100,000 – among the highest ever recorded anywhere. Today it is 21 per 100,000.
a common framework for preventing conflict and charting pathways to peace. UN entities such as the Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have made commitments to reduce violence. UN Women has announced a Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and UNICEF has joined forces with the World Bank and others to advance INSPIRE strategies to help governments improve safety for all. At the city scale, UN-Habitat is promoting safer cities, and a coalition of mayors have launched the Peace in Our Cities campaign to localize SDG 16 commitments. The World Bank Group is finalizing a Strategy for combating fragility, conflict, and violence that will place a dramatic new emphasis on reducing interpersonal violence.For the first time, the UN and World Bank have united behind
- Report: Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict
- Report: Stop the Violence in Latin America : A Look at Prevention from Cradle to Adulthood
- Brief: Gender-Based Violence
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