Given that everyone’s top wish, politicians and bimbos alike, is supposed to be “world peace,” you’d think that when a detailed, intensely-researched, highly credible report is published suggesting spectacular progress in that direction, it would be front-page news in the media.
You’d be wrong.
The Human Security Report 2005 published last week included the following astonishing, not-to-say exhilarating findings.
- The number of armed conflicts has declined by more than 40% since 1992. The deadliest conflicts (those with 1000 or more battle-deaths) dropped by 80%.
- The number of military coups and attempted coups has declined by some 60% since 1963. In 1963, there were 25 coups or attempted coups; in 2004, there were 10. All failed.
- Most armed conflicts now take place in the poorest countries in the world, but as incomes rise the risk of war declines.
- The period since the end of World War II is the longest interval without wars between the major powers in hundreds of years.
- Most of the world’s conflicts are now concentrated in Africa. But even here there are signs of hope. Between 2002 and 2003 (the last year for which there is data) the number of armed conflicts in Africa dropped from 41 to 35.
- Wars have become dramatically less deadly over the past five decades. The average number of people reported killed per conflict per year in 1950 was 38,000; in 2002 it was just 600, a decline of 98%.
Of course there’s still plenty of horror in the world, but good news should be celebrated, especially as there are pointers in the report as to how the situation can be improved further. One of the drivers of the reduction may have been a four-fold increase in UN peace-keeping missions. The total cost of these missions? The same as one-month of the US war in Iraq. Go figure.
"The wars that dominated the headlines in the 1990s were real – and brutal enough," the study says. "But the global media have largely ignored the 100-odd conflicts that have quietly ended since 1988."
The global media also, of course, largely ignored the report. Chances are this is the first you’ve heard of it. I’m getting more and more angry about this… the strange, unspoken, self-reinforcing alliance between media and public, which results in such a distorted world image being created. Drama, celebrity and parochialism inevitably trump insight, reason, and the global view.