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Peace and Security

A boy on the wreckage of a tank in Afghanistan
Bar chart: 172 000-310 000 deaths per year, 191 million lives at risk Positive trend

Human health, development and economy need to be safe from injuries, killings and damages caused by armed conflicts.

Affected people and foundations of life: Armed conflicts have many victims – combatants and civilians, directly or indirectly. Armed conflicts are, with or without deliberate specific intent, a cause for hunger and poverty. In some armed conflicts or genocides famine is even used as a weapon.

Since armament has started to include weapons of mass destruction we are confronted with the danger of man-made devastation of mankind. Production and storage of NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) weapons as well as nuclear weapon early-warning systems pose risks similar to nuclear energy facilities and large chemical facilities, but with varying probability for the occurrence of damage (WBGU [German Advisory Council on Global Change] 1998, 73f. [and following page]). One nuclear missile started by error could kill millions.


  • 172 000-310 000 people per year are killed by violence in recent armed conflicts (not counting famine, diseases related to armed conflicts, etc. [and so on]; WHO 2008a, 58, 2004, 124 and 2002, 80). Counting only wars, or armed conflicts involving at least one state actor, it is 20 300-99 100 (UCDP [Uppsala Conflict Data Program] 2006).
  • The nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed 90 000-140 000 resp. [respectively] 60 000-80 000 people within 2-4 months after detonation (RERF [Radiation Effects Research Foundation]), which amounted to 200 000 resp. around 140 000 people within 5 years (DOE [United States Department of Energy]).
  • Within the 20th century there were about 191 million deaths of war, terrorism, genocide, torture and organized violent crime – 60% of them were civilians (WHO 2002a, 21, 5). Famine related to conflicts has cost 40 million human lives in the 20th century (WHO 2002a, 22).

The long-term figure regarding the death toll of the 20th century reflects the long-term risk of war.

Loss of healthy life-years: 7.38 million healthy life-years (DALYs [Disability-adjusted life years]) attributable to violence in war in 2004 (WHO 2008a, 64).

Targets/goals: All UN (United Nations) members have agreed on the priority of peaceful conflict resolution. The use of violence needs allowance exclusively by the UN Security Council, with the exception of self-defence against an armed attack. (UN Charter: UN 1945, art. [article] 2, 33, 24, 39, 42 and 51.) The UN (United Nations) already demanded the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction in 1946. The 1925 Geneva Protocol has banned the use of chemical and biological weapons. In 1972 the Biological Weapons Convention, and in 1997 the Chemical Weapons Convention added the prohibition of those weapons. By the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, the proliferation of nuclear weapons or respective technology is prohibited to the current 190 parties. It also includes the agreement to pursue negotiations on a treaty on general and complete nuclear disarmament. (NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], art. [articles] I [roman 1], II and VI.) By the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987, the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty I (START I) of 1991 and the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) of 2002, the USA [United States of America) and the USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) resp. Russia have cut their nuclear arsenals.

Trend: + After reaching a peak level in the early 1990s, the number of wars and armed conflicts has declined (AKUF [Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kriegsursachenforschung] 2008; HIIK [Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research] 2007, 2 [regarding high intensity conflicts]; Project Ploughshares 2007; SIPRI [Stockholm International Peace Research Institute] 2008, 5; UCDP 2008). Likewise, the number of battle deaths has decreased from 126 000 (122-198 000) in 1991 to 21 800 (15 500-31 000) in 2005 (state-involved conflicts only, not counting famine, diseases related to armed conflicts, etc.; UCDP 2006).

Measures: prevention of armed conflicts, support of non-violent conflict resolutions, containment of armed conflicts by the public international law, arms control and disarmament. A UN commission has made proposals regarding problems of implementing the above-mentioned conventions and the dangers of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of non-state actors. Furthermore, these proposals have pointed out the necessity of reducing poverty, enforcing development and protecting the climate as parts of a broader security concept. (UN 2004.)
  It should be noted that many nuclear disarmament agreements are soon expiring or otherwise questioned. There is a disagreement between Russia and the US about a missile defense system in Europe and a possible withdrawal from the INF Treaty. In 2009 the expiring Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty I (START I) should be renewed. In 2010 there will be an important Review Conference regarding the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) expires in 2012.


DALYs: Disability-adjusted life years.
One DALY represents the loss of one year of equivalent full health. DALYs are the sum of the years of life lost due to premature mortality (YLL) in the population and the years lost due to disability (YLD) for incident cases of the health condition. (WHO 2004, 95f.)


Draft (2008)

This draft is to be reviewed by experts. Your hints are welcome, please use the contact form.

Photo credit: © Yan Boechat - external.