By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
December 28, 2006
But, in some ways, it is actually a less violent globe than we perceive, according to two studies that offer a measure of optimism as a new year dawns.
Yes, international terrorism is on the rise and, yes, formerly quiescent lands such as Somalia appear on the brink of exploding again.
Still, a just-released report on the state of the world says the number of armed conflicts is on a decidedly downward trend, shrinking from 66 to 56 in the past few years.
"From the beginning of 2002 to the end of 2005, the number of wars being fought around the world dropped significantly," said Andrew Mack, director of the Human Security Centre(cq) at the University of British Columbia, which produced the report.
And a new study by a world expert on natural and manmade disasters just reported the good news that 2006 saw a "major drop" in casualties and losses from such calamities.
In fact, 2006 ranks as the third lowest year for insured losses in 20 years, according to the annual study by Swiss Re, the worlds largest reinsurance company.
This year, disasters killed about 30,000 - a substantial drop from 2005, when hurricanes and earthquakes caused about 112,000 deaths. The 2006 disaster toll also pales next to that of 2004, when the Indian Ocean tsunami alone killed 230,000.
Analysts at Swiss Re attributed the drop to a benign hurricane season and a minimum of major earthquakes, airliner crashes and floods.
"After years of record losses, property insurers appear to be getting off lightly in 2006," the report said.
The drop in what Mack terms "political violence" is not nearly so dramatic, or even universal.
The report shows, for example, that the number of armed conflicts in parts of Asia and the Middle East actually rose between 2002 and 2005. It also notes that there has been a threefold jump in international terrorist incidents in the past five years.
But Mack, once a top aide to former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, says that the international community's efforts to prevent conflicts and curb those that erupt can be credited with pushing the planet in a general trend toward peace.
Among the optimistic developments Mack cites:
- The estimated number of people killed in battles had declined by almost 40 percent from 2002 to 2005.
- There was a precipitous drop in the number of genocide campaigns and other civilian mass slaughters. In 1989, 10 mass killings occurred. Now, the only site of a still smoldering genocide is in Darfur, a troubled area in western Sudan.
- The ranks of refugees and others routed from their homes by violence have dropped about 6 percent since 2003, from 34 million to 32 million.
While Mack hails the signs of progress toward a more peaceful world, he also cautions that such a positive trend is by no means permanent.
"There can, of course,
be no guarantees that this decline will continue, and there are
many reasons why it may not," Mack said.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions