'Sharp drop in armed conflicts'

The number of armed conflicts around the world has dropped sharply since the end of the Cold War, according to a new report.

It found that the number of genocides, battle deaths, arms transfers and military coups have plummeted over the last decade.

The Human Security Report, written by a Canadian think tank, attributes progress to the rise in international peace-building efforts and the UN.

It challenges the notion that the biggest threat to security is international terrorism, but acknowledges that it is the only form of political violence on the rise.

The study was funded by five countries, including Britain, and directed by former UN official Andrew Mack of the University of British Columbia.

Prof Mack said few realise that such progress has taken place. “No international agency collects data on wars, genocides, terrorist acts, or core human rights abuses,” he said.

“The issues are just too politically sensitive. And ignorance is compounded by the fact that the global media give far more coverage to wars that start than those that quietly end.”

The report sought to quash widespread belief that armed conflict is increasing and that wars are getting deadlier.

It blames a lack of official data for the abundance of such myths and misinformation.

“Not one of these claims is based on reliable data,” the report says.

“All are suspect, some are demonstrably false. Yet they are widely believed because they reinforce popular assumptions.”

The three-year study says the end of the Cold War brought “remarkable change” to the global security climate.

It also identifies the end of colonialism and an upsurge in international peace-building activity as major factors to alter the landscape.

The number of armed conflicts has fallen by more than 40% since 1992, and that conflicts with 1,000 or more battle deaths has dropped by 80%, it found.

In 1950 every conflict killed an average 38,000 people. By 2002 that number had dropped to just 600.

The report says the biggest death tolls do not come from the actual fighting but from indirect factors such as disease and malnutrition.

But it does not ignore the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and notes that the risk of new wars breaking out remains very real in the absence of sustained commitment to conflict prevention.

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