UNITED NATIONS – A study issued Monday paints a surprising picture of war and peace in the 21st century: Armed conflicts have declined by more than 40 percent since 1992, and genocide and human rights abuses have plummeted around the world.
The only form of political violence that appears to be getting worse is international terrorism – a serious threat that nonetheless kills extraordinarily few people per year compared to wars, it said.
The first Human Security Report, financed by five governments, said the end of the Cold War and breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989-91 was the most important factor in the decline in armed conflicts: It ended the East-West ideological battle, stopped the flow of money to proxy wars in the developing world, and most importantly allowed the United Nations for the first time to begin to play the role its founders intended.
“Civil wars, genocides and international crises have all declined sharply,” the report said.
Professor Andrew Mack, who directed the three-year study, said there has been a shift away from the huge wars of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s where million-strong armies faced each other with conventional weapons.
“The average war today tends to be very small, low intensity conflict, fought with ill-trained troops, small arms and light weapons, often very brutal, with lots of civilians killed – but the absolute numbers of people being killed are … much, much smaller than they were before,” he said.
Notwithstanding the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and Srebrenica in 1995, mass killings because of religion, ethnicity or political beliefs plummeted by 80 percent between the 1988 high point and 2001, it said.