Children playing with toy guns in Maputo, Mozambique. 
Photo: UN Photo/P Sudhakaran.Children playing with toy guns in Maputo, Mozambique. Photo: UN Photo/P Sudhakaran

Stepping up to stop armed violence

10/20/2009 // Every day, armed violence kills more than 2000 people. The large majority are civilians. Backed by Norway, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is stepping up to support affected governments to reduce the demand for arms – by developing comprehensive Armed Violence Prevention Programmes.

"The international fight against armed violence has not received the attention this huge humanitarian challenge calls for. We succeeded in our fight against landmines and cluster munitions, now our next target is armed violence," says Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Globally, the economic loss caused by non-conflict and criminal violence has been estimated as high as USD 163 billion per year. This is no less than a global crisis, affecting the lives and security of hundreds of thousands of people, and threatening international peace and security.

"The challenge UNDP is taking on, is to analyse how armed violence evolves in a given country, and to support the authorities locally in solving the root cause for this problem," says Helen Clark, head of UNDP.

Armed violence is the fourth leading cause of death for persons between the ages 15 and 44 worldwide. However, casualties is not the only problem related to armed violence, the threat of weapons prevents children from going to school, from market places to function and it is a burden on already scarce resources in the health sector.

"It is evident that in many countries, there is a need to strengthen the justice sector. A first step is to get control of illegal weapons and address impunity. In order to make this happen, we will need global coordination and local action. The same approach was used when we worked on the ban of cluster munition, and working with UNDP, we believe we can also fight armed violence effectively," says Jonas Gahr Støre, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

"Together, we will build a framework for practical action, between governments, international organisations and civil society, aimed at achieving measurable reductions in the global burden of armed violence by 2015," says Clark.

There's an estimated 600-875 million small arms and light weapons in circulation worldwide; of which an estimated 50-60% are believed to be legally-held leaving up to more than 400 million of these to be illegally held.

The economic cost of armed violence is only just beginning to be quantified, but estimates suggest that war-related violence in non-conflict settings decreases the annual growth of an economy by around 2% per year on average.


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