Violence has long been one of the most significant global challenges for humankind. Hundreds of millions of men, women and children have been killed or affected by armed conflicts, crimes, extremisms, sexual violence and gender-based violence.
Violence corrodes our democratic institutions and undermines fundamental human rights. An increase in some kinds of collective violence is also possible during the next decade, primarily motivated by the pressures of climate change and insecurities surrounding new technologies.
Nonetheless, although it hasn’t made the headlines, the last half century has made some progress towards preventing and reducing many types of violence.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that this relatively recent downward trend will continue as we move further into the twenty-first century. But with targeted and financially sustainable interventions, especially in cities, levels of many types of violence may continue to decline. This, in fact, is one of the main aspirations of sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg16. The world has a genuine opportunity to halve its current levels of violence by 2030. To achieve this, we have to take stock of where we’re at today and make decisions about where we want to be in the future. This is what bold initiatives such as the Pathfinders Partnership are trying to answer.
It’s important to reflect on the number of people affected by violence. Although it’s difficult to measure precisely, up to 600,000 people, including almost 100,000 women and children, die worldwide as a consequence of conflicts, crimes, extremist violence and extrajudicial circumstances. Millions more are left physically or psychologically wounded by wars, criminality, and sexual or gender-based violence. More than 40 million people are displaced by violence, including 26 million refugees. If we do not take measures to change our current course, there’s no guarantee that these trends will improve in the next decade. However, if measures are taken to reverse these trends, we could save, literally, hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in reconstruction, repairs, productivity losses and insurance claims.
The first step towards effectively reducing violence by 2030 is to develop a clear understanding of how it is distributed in time and space. Take the case of lethal violence. There is a common misconception that more people are violently killed in war zones than in countries at peace.
The second step is to determine where the violence is concentrated and who is most at risk from it. A sizeable quota of all violence (deaths, injuries and rape) is concentrated in our cities.
The third step is to recognise the risk factors that lead to different types of violence. Although violence is a multifactoral problem, some recurrent risks stand out. Social and economic inequality, for example.
Reducing violence by 50% over the next ten years will require unprecedented levels of global cooperation. But there are good reasons for optimism. For the first time, the UN and the World Bank have united behind a common framework for preventing conflicts. UN organisations like the United Nations Office on drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have committed to reducing violence. UN Women has announced a spotlight initiative to end violence against women, and UNICEF has joined forces with others to extend the reach of the INSPIRE strategies and help governments improve safety for all. Another promising initiative is the global campaign to end violence against children, which has already raised close to 38 million dollars.