The world never was peaceful – but combat deaths have plummeted

 
Remi Piet

Is the world becoming a more violent place?

The world never was a peaceful place to begin with, but annual battle death has actually dropped tenfold since the 1950s. What is new is the conjunction of three parallel evolutions. First, improved media coverage, informing populations. Second, stronger transnational criminal groups with access to advanced military technology, allowing them to rout armies (as in Iraq). Third, the increased vulnerability of our globalised societies to the impacts of remote conflicts, requiring enhanced international cooperation. Although this combination makes us strive for peace, our global institutions are incapable of efficiently tackling new transnational threats (ISIS) or mitigating political games (Ukraine). Global trade has undeniably increased countries’ interdependence and incentives for peaceful cooperation, although the impact of climate change could eventually multiply conflicts over scarce resources and civil unrest, fuelled by refugee populations.

Dr Remi Piet is assistant professor of political economy at Qatar University.

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