Good News for Peace

Tue Oct. 18, 2005 4:26 PM EDT

The newly published Human Security Report describes an under-celebrated fact: namely, the decline of war, human rights abuses, and genocide in the last decade. A few highlights from the Report's findings:

- The number of armed conflicts has declined by more than 40% since 1992. The deadliest conflicts (those with 1000 or more battle-deaths) dropped even more dramatically––by 80%.

- Wars have become dramatically less deadly over the past five decades. The average number of people reported killed per conflict per year in 1950 was 38,000; in 2002 it was just 600––a decline of 98%.

- The number of international crises, often harbingers of war, fell by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001.

- The number of military coups and attempted coups has declined by some 60% since 1963. In 1963, there were 25 coups or attempted coups; in 2004, there were 10. All failed.

- The biggest death tolls do not come from the actual fighting, however, but from war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition. These 'indirect' deaths can account for as much as 90% of the total war-related death toll. Currently there are insufficient data to make even rough estimations of global or regional 'indirect' death toll trends.

The Report gives credit to the United Nations' efforts, citing a RAND study that shows that two-thirds of UN peace-building missions are successful in bringing armed conflict to a negotiated end. But, to return to gloomy realism, as Bruce W. Jentleson notes on TPM Cafe, all this good news is "what makes the retreat at last month's UN 2005 World Summit on humanitarian intervention and related peace operations all the more discouraging."

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