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Churches call for greater efforts to counter arms trade

November 10, 2011

Geneva

At least 526,000 people are killed each year by armed violence, according to a report published by a Swiss research group.

The study found that 396,000 people ― including 66,000 women ― are victims every year of intentional homicide. 54,000 die as a result of manslaughter, while 21,000 stem from violence during law enforcement actions. In addition, an estimated 55,000 are killed in direct conflict settings or during terrorist activities.

“The boundaries between political, criminal and interpersonal violence have become increasingly blurred, as revealed in killings associated with drug trafficking in Central America or pirates engaging in economically motivated violence in Somalia,” said Keith Krause, an arms trade expert and one of the lead authors of the report.

The report, “Global Burden of Armed Violence: Lethal Encounters,” published by the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, is backed by more than 100 governments, including the Netherlands, Norway, Brazil, and Colombia, as well as United Nations agencies.

Its signatories commit to support initiatives measuring “the human, social, and economic costs of armed violence.”

The study says the average global violent death rate between 2004 and 2009 was 7.9 per 100,000 people, though at least 58 countries saw violent death rates above 10 per 100,000.

During that period, El Salvador had the highest violent death rate, at 61.9 per 100,000, followed by Iraq, with 59.4. Five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela and Guatemala, all had rates of more than 43 per 100,000.

In the same period, the report notes, eight countries recorded average annual numbers of violent deaths from intentional homicides that were higher than the number of direct conflict deaths in Iraq.

The somber findings are expected to support global advocacy efforts spearheaded by human rights and church groups, including the World Council of Churches (WCC), for governments worldwide to intensify efforts already underway in the United Nations to re-regulate the trade and transfer of conventional arms.

“Whether we represent a U.N. member state, a church or civil society, we are all here to connect the needs of ordinary people in our communities with an agenda for the robust control of weapons that threaten their daily life and peace,” said WCC general secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit at a panel in New York on Oct. 21 on human rights and the arms trade.

Representatives of churches and related agencies and networks in 27 countries are supporting the WCC-led initiative to help secure a strong and effective arms trade treaty.

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