Is the World Actually Getting Safer? One Study Says So...

The news may be full of violence and strife, but a new statistical analysis, the Human Security Report, says conflicts are becoming less deadly.

Good news is no news. That's one way of putting one of the conclusions of the report, which is available at

The report argues that long-term trends are reducing the risks of both international and civil wars. The report, which is funded by the governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, also examines recent developments that suggest the world is becoming a more dangerous place. These include:

  • Four of the world’s five deadliest conflicts––in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia––involve Islamist insurgents.
  • Over a quarter of the conflicts that started between 2004 and 2008 have been associated with Islamist political violence.
  • In the post-Cold War period a greater percentage of the world’s countries have been involved in wars than at any time since the end of World War II.
  • Armed conflict numbers increased by 25 percent from 2003 to 2008 after declining for more than 10 years.
  • Intercommunal and other conflicts that do not involve a government increased by more than 100 percent from 2007 to 2008.
  • The impact of the global economic crisis on developing countries risks generating political instability and increasing the risk of war.
  • Wars have become “intractable”––i.e., more difficult to bring to an end.

Some of these developments provide a cause for concern. It is not just that the decline in conflict numbers reported in the 2005 Human Security Report has been reversed. The real worry, says the report, is that rising Islamist violence, the intractability of the conflicts that remain, and the impact of the economic crisis on developing countries may mean that the recent increase in conflict numbers will continue and the future could resemble the Cold War years, which saw conflict numbers triple over four decades.

Other findings in the report include:

  • France, the UK, the US, Russia/USSR, and India (in that order) were the world’s most war-prone countries between 1946 and 2008 in that they have been involved in most the state-based armed conflicts.
  • If we rank countries by the number of years of conflict they have experienced since 1946, Burma comes first with an astonishing 246 conflict years––an average of four conflicts a year for the entire period. It is followed by India, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and the UK (in that order).
  • In 2008, the estimated number of civilians killed by organized violence was the lowest since data started being collected in 1989.

How do these findings impact your security operations? Email me at

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