Each year over 1.6 million children, women and men die as a result of armed violence, with millions more deeply affected.
Today we see the misery of violence in Syria, the Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Mexico. Violence is not confined to war: deaths from homicide greatly outnumber deaths from organised conflict. The human suffering caused is immense; economic costs are estimated at over €100 billion annually.
Yet there is reason for real hope about the potential to reduce violence around the world. Steven Pinker’s ‘The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined’ presents strong evidence that violence is in long-term decline. The Human Security Report of 2013 comments that “there are now compelling reasons for believing that the historical decline in violence is both real and remarkably large – and also that the future may well be less violent than the past”. The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention shows that homicide rates have declined globally in the last decade. Although this is questioned by some and is not inevitable, we know that real progress is possible.
We are learning what works in helping to bring such progress about, from Guatemala, Ireland, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Uganda. As Irish people know, tackling violence requires action at individual, community and state levels and that an end to violence is just a step on the journey to lasting peace. The ghosts of the past can only be laid to rest when communities can come together in a spirit of trust and respect, to survive, heal and grow.
Experience in Ireland and elsewhere, has helped develop a body of people with the commitment, skills and knowledge to help build genuinely peaceful, non-violent societies.
The quest to remove violence from our world is indeed a great cause and worth the effort; with hard work, and funding, we know it is achievable.