Armed Violence Threatens Progress on Millennium Development Goals

May 11, 2010

Geneva, 12 May — With less than five years to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a growing number of states, international organisations and civil society are addressing one of the paramount obstacles to their achievement: armed violence.

To galvanize this movement, and call for more countries to join, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are co-hosting a global meeting on armed violence in Geneva, aimed at making the reduction of armed violence a top issue on the global development agenda.
 “Every day armed violence kills more than 2,000 people,” said Foreign Minister Støre. “The majority of these fatalities are civilians. This is a fundamental challenge to our common humanitarian and developmental goals. States must come together and work in partnership with the UN and civil society to take action against armed violence now.”
At the conference, which opened today, delegates from international organizations, civil society, and 60 states are discussing strategies to tackle armed violence. Their conclusions will contribute to the 2010 MDGs review process, leading up to the High Level summit in New York in September, when world leaders will gather to assess  progress, identify gaps, and commit to a concrete action agenda to achieve the MDGs. 

“Armed violence has a devastating effect on development progress,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.  “Life as normal is severely disrupted – affecting citizens’ safety and security and access to basic services and livelihoods. The international community can mobilise to deter the proliferation and use of the weapons which fuel this violence.”

By endorsing the Oslo Commitments, States commit to a wide range of actions, including, for example, to better monitor and record armed violence; support its victims through the provision of adequate care and rehabilitation; better integrate armed violence into development plans at all levels of government; and strengthen international cooperation and assistance to prevent and reduce armed violence.

  • Each year more than 740,000 people—over 2,000 per day—die as a result of the violence associated with armed conflicts and large- and small-scale criminal violence.  The majority of these deaths—490,000—occur in non-conflict settings.
  • States suffering from conflicts or persistently high levels of criminality are furthest from reaching MDG targets: 22 of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the MDGs are in, or are emerging from, conflict.
  • According to the World Bank, efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger are at 10 percent of target; efforts to extend universal primary education are at 45 percent of target; and the extension of maternal health are at 14 percent of target in conflict-affected and fragile states.
  • Armed violence destroys lives and livelihoods, breeds insecurity, and hampers prospects for human development. According to the most recent estimates, the total cost of armed violence in non-conflict countries amounts to $163 billion—more than the total annual spending on official development assistance.
  • In El Salvador, firearm violence costs the state and its citizens 11.5 percent of GDP —more than twice the budget for education and health (4.8 percent of GDP), according to the most recently available figures (2003).
  • Years of civil war and sustained levels of armed violence in conflict states such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Sri Lanka have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and to a massive loss of livelihood for millions, greatly increasing the number of people living in poverty and inhibiting the achievement of MDG 1.
  • An estimated 875 million small arms and light weapons (SALW) are in circulation today, three-quarters of them in the hands of civilians. Globally, 60 percent of homicides involve the use of SALW.
  • An estimated 50 to 60 percent of the global small arms trade is legal–but legally exported weapons often find their way into the illict market, destabilizing already fragile states in conflict.>
  • In June 2006, UNDP and the Government of Switzerland co-hosted a summit that resulted in 42 states endorsing the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, an initiative designed to achieve measureable reductions in armed violence by 2015. As of March 2010, 108 states had signed the declaration. Building on the work of the Geneva Declaration, UNDP and the Government of Norway are working with Member States to ensure that commitments to armed violence reduction and prevention are included in the High Level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs, and are reflected in subsequent MDG and developmental strategies through 2015.

UNDP currently supports 27 countries worldwide to address the proliferation of weapons and related violence. For more details, please visit:

Contact Information Media who are interested in attending the conference at the Intercontinental Hotel are encouraged to do so, provided they RSVP first to

Media who would like an advance copy of the Commitments but who are unable to attend the briefing may contact:
Ms. Salwa Al-Dalati

Senior Communication & Media Relations Associate, tel.: +41 (22) 917 85 42.  

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