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Reality Check: Wars ‘Less Frequent, Less Deadly’

Wars around the world are both less frequent and less deadly since the end of the Cold War, a new report claims. The study says many common beliefs about contemporary conflict are “myths”

The Human Security Report found a decline in every form of political violence except terrorism since 1992.

“A lot of the data we have in this report is extraordinary,” its director, former UN official Andrew Mack, said.

It found the number of armed conflicts had fallen by more than 40% in the past 13 years, while the number of very deadly wars had fallen by 80%.

The study says many common beliefs about contemporary conflict are “myths” – such as that 90% of those killed in current wars are civilians, or that women are disproportionately victimised.

The report credits intervention by the United Nations, plus the end of colonialism and the Cold War, as the main reasons for the decline in conflict.

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Report on Political Violence Finds Global Wars Still Declining-with Dramatic Decrease in Africa

Notwithstanding the escalating violence in Iraq and the widening war in Darfur, the Human Security Brief 2006 a new report from the Human Security Centre at the University of British Columbia, reveals that, from the beginning of 2002 to the end of 2005, the number of wars being fought around the world dropped significantly. By far the greatest decline was in sub–Saharan Africa.

Canadian Study Reports New Threats to Global Security but Reveals Encouraging Long-Term Trends

The new Human Security Report (Report) from the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University argues that long-term trends are reducing the risks of both international and civil wars. The Report, which is funded by the governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and will be published by Oxford University Press, also examines recent developments that suggest the world is becoming a more dangerous place. These include the following:

  • Four of the world’s five deadliest conflicts––in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia––involve Islamist insurgents.
  • Over a quarter of the conflicts that started between 2004 and 2008 have been associated with Islamist political violence.
  • In the post-Cold War period a greater percentage of the world’s countries have been involved in wars than at any time since the end of World War II.
  • Armed conflict numbers increased by 25 percent from 2003 to 2008 after declining for more than ten years.
  • Intercommunal and other conflicts that do not involve a government increased by more than 100 percent from 2007 to 2008.
  • The impact of the global economic crisis on developing countries risks generating political instability and increasing the risk of war.
  • Wars have become “intractable”––i.e., more difficult to bring to an end.