Understanding violence: part 1

Conventional analyses often compartmentalize armed violence into distinct categories according to a particular context or underlying intentions of the perpetrator.

The two most common distinctions are drawn between organized (collective) and interpersonal (individual) violence; then between conflict (politically motivated) and criminal (economically motivated) violence.

These distinctions are intended to capture the level of organization and the motivations behind violent acts as applied to governments, multilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations, and illegal networks. However, these distinctions give the misleading impression that different forms and incidents of violence fit into neat and separate categories.

The 2011 Global Burden of Armed Violence report shows that beyond simple conflict, criminal or interpersonal forms of armed violence, today violence
manifests itself in multiple contexts and that different forms of violence interact
with each other.

‘Armed violence is the intentional use of illegitimate force (actual or threatened)with arms or explosives, against a person, group, community, or state, that
undermines people-centred security and/or sustainable development’ (1). This
definition covers armed violence in both large-scale armed conflicts and non-conflict

(1): The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development Secretariat, 2008, Global Burden of Armed Violence, 2008: http://www.genevadeclaration.org/en/measurability/global-burden-of-armed-violence/global-burden-of-armed-violence-2008.html

Some key findings of the 2011 Global Burden of Armed Violence report are:
– More than 526,000 people are killed each year as a result of lethal violence. While
war casualties are frequently featured in media headlines, their actual number is far
lower than that of victims killed in many ostensibly non-conflict countries. Roughly
three-quarters of all violent deaths are the result of intentional homicide, while
approximately ten per cent are direct conflict deaths. This translates into 396,000
intentional homicide victims and 55,000 direct conflict deaths per year.

– Fifty-eight countries exhibit violent death rates above a ratio of 10 per 100,000.
These countries account for almost two-thirds of all violent deaths, with El Salvador
most affected by lethal violence in 2004–09, followed by Iraq and Jamaica.

– The intensity and organization of violent killings provides a critical indicator of a
relative insecurity of a state and its population. From a statistical perspective,
violent deaths tend to be more systematically recorded than other crimes.

– The proportion of homicides related to gangs or organized crime is significantly
higher in Central and South America than in Asia or Europe. Homicide rates related
to robbery or theft tend to be higher in countries with greater income inequality.
Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre

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