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17.4.2021 : 23:23 : +0200

Global Violent Deaths database signals possible downturn in lethal violence

GENEVA—A new update of the Small Arms Survey’s Global Violent Deaths (GVD) database reveals a decrease in conflict-related violence, with 2018 lethal violence numbers for Iraq, Syria, and South Sudan lower than in 2017, which in turn has decreased the numbers overall.

The GVD database estimates that 596,000 people lost their lives to lethal violence in 2018—a decrease from 2017. Of these 596,000 people, 93,700 (16 per cent) were women. In absolute numbers, this is the third highest figure of women victims since 2004, but the standardized rate is on par with previous years—largely due to population growth.

Incorporating both expanded data that has become progressively available as well as improved conflict-related fatality data, the Small Arms Survey retroactively identified an additional 42,000 conflict-related deaths for the 2015–17 period alone. This obviously affected totals and rates as well, with—for example—the 2017 total global violent deaths figure of 589,000 adjusted to 612,000, or 8.1 per 100,000 population. Based on the new data, the drop from 2017 to 2018 is significant, and the 2018 violent death rate of 7.8 is the lowest since 2012. The authors note caution when interpreting trends, however.

‘Trends were ambivalent over the past two to three years,’ notes Small Arms Survey specialist Gergely Hideg. ‘Lethal violence peaked in 2014 and has decreased since, but 2017 saw a clear uptick in the violent fatalities. Therefore, it’s too soon to ascertain which of the two trends will prevail, especially considering the unknowns surrounding the COVID-19 situation and its full future consequences. This is why the annual updates are so vital; they help us monitor the figures, constantly refine our methodology, as well as integrate increasingly accurate data,’ he continued.

Of the 596,000 violent deaths in 2018, 223,300 (38 per cent) were caused by firearms. The rate of firearms-related lethal violence for the same year was 2.93 per 100,000 population, with women constituting 8 per cent of the victims. In terms of the global figures, 84 per cent of victims were men and 16 per cent were women. Of the latter, 18 per cent were killed by firearms.

‘As with every GVD update, we also use it to inform our scenarios of possible trends moving forward,’ says Small Arms Survey senior advisor Anna Alvazzi del Frate. ‘Our positive scenario—in which states take concerted efforts to reduce violence—still projects the possibility to save 1.43 million lives by 2030, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to take stock a year from now to see how this has affected violence trends overall,’ she cautions.

The Global Violent Deaths database update was carried out as part of our Gender Lens for Arms Control Support and Sustainability (GLASS) project, generously supported by Global Affairs Canada.

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