Report: Latin America, Caribbean record high number of firearm deaths in 2016
SAN JUAN – The Geneva Declaration, a diplomatic initiative aimed at addressing the interrelations between armed violence and development, defines armed violence as “the intentional use of illegitimate force (actual or threatened) with arms or explosives, against a person, group, community, or state that undermines people-centred security and/or sustainable development.”
Although the incidence of armed conflict has declined in recent years, the number of people killed by armed violence has not. Lethal violence took around 560,000 lives in 2016—more than one person every minute of every day of the year—with more than three-quarters of whom die in non-conflict settings.
A new report from from the Small Arms Survey, with support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, “Global Violent Deaths 2017: Time to Decide,” reveals that while the global conflict death rate dropped, the global homicide rate increased for the first time since 2004. Although this does not necessarily indicate a new trend, it does signal growing insecurity in non-conflict areas.
Of the five countries with the highest death rates in 2016—Syria, El Salvador, Venezuela, Honduras and Afghanistan—only two had active armed conflicts.
Latin America and the Caribbean recorded very high proportions of firearm deaths in 2016. In Puerto Rico, which has been in recession for more than a decade, firearms were the culprit in almost eight of 10 violent deaths last year.
The authors blame slow economic growth, high unemployment and underemployment for the rise.
The study also elaborates scenarios for the future based on current trends, to assess the number of people that could be saved if states implement effective violence reduction initiatives, as opposed to more negative outcomes if trends worsen.
If prevailing trends remain unchanged, the annual number of violent deaths is likely to increase to 630,000 by 2030. On the contrary, if states commit themselves to effectively address conflict and armed violence, the number of annual deaths could be lowered to 408,000 by 2030—even considering the population increase. In total, over the next 12 years, approximately 1.35 million lives could be saved. Nearly half a million of those lives could be saved in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the report.