The 2014 Global Peace Index, which was released last week, revealed that the world has become less peaceful every year since 2008.
It also showed that the global economic impact of violence is USD 9.8 trillion – or 11.3 percent of global GDP.
While many developing countries have made tremendous progress in reducing poverty over the last decade, these are depressing numbers. However, they reiterate that peace and stability – and the prevention of violent conflict — are inherently tied to sustainable development.
A less peaceful world is a much more challenging place to fight inequality and want. Countries experiencing repeated cycles of violence face poverty at significantly higher rates. People in unstable and conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be under-nourished as those in other developing countries; and children in conflict zones are more than three times less likely to be able to attend school, and twice as likely to die before the age of five. Nine out of 10 countries with the lowest human development index have experienced conflict within the past 20 years.
We must double down on efforts to mitigate risk and prevent the loss of development investment when conflict strikes. Success today depends not just on preventing conflict in the traditional sense – through for example early warning and mediation – but on finding ways of fighting poverty and inequality, and deepening inclusion.
We must build the ability of governments to mediate disputes, we need to better address inequality and other underlying causes of violence – and we need to understand and combat such factors as transnational crime and radicalization.
UNDP works to support local institutions, civil society and leaders in their efforts to prevent violence, manage conflicts constructively, and engage peacefully in political transitions and rapid change processes. In many places, like Georgia, Madagascar and Kenya, UNDP help has led to real improvements and the diffusing of tensions, especially around events such as elections or political transitions, when violence was expected. This shows that violence is not random. It can often be predicted.
And often, we focus on building the state. But as the Global Peace Index for 2014 shows, we need to adopt a wider perspective – because sometimes this approach fails to address the deep-seated causes of structural violence. We need to focus on strengthening social covenants, because this is the glue that holds groups or communities together and lays the foundation for social contracts.
Peace and sustainable development go hand in hand and failure to address this reality means we will live in a more violent planet for years to come.