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UN Report Notes High Number Of Deaths Due To Homicides In 2021


More people were killed due to homicide than armed conflict and terrorism combined in 2021, with an average of 52 lives lost per hour worldwide, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a report published on Friday.

The Global Study on Homicide analyzes the complex dynamics behind these violent deaths and includes a special section on how organized crime is driving death rates up in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report examines homicides related to criminal activities and interpersonal conflict, as well as “socio-politically motivated homicides” such as the deliberate killing of human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists.

Consideration is also given to the impacts of “megatrends” – such as climate change, demographic changes, inequality, urbanization and technological shifts – and how they might influence homicide rates.

‘A sombre reminder’

UNODC chief Ghada Waly said the loss of thousands of lives each year to homicide is “a sombre reminder” of the collective failure of the international community to reduce all forms of violence by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The complex web of factors fuelling homicide deaths worldwide, from gender-based violence against women and girls, to organized crime and gang violence, to poverty and inequality, shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” she said.

The report revealed that during the period from 2019 to 2021, an average of roughly 440,000 deaths worldwide were due to homicide – more than conflict-related or terrorist killings combined.

2021 ‘exceptionally lethal’

UNODC said 2021 “was an exceptionally lethal year”, marked by 458,000 homicides. The spike was in part linked to economic repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic and to a rise in organized crime and gang-related and socio-political violence in several countries.

Furthermore, despite a more than 95 per cent surge in conflict deaths between 2021 and 2022, available data shows that the global homicide burden in 2022 was twice that of conflict deaths.

Organized crime accounted for 22 per cent of homicides globally, and 50 per cent in the Americas, where competition among organized crime groups and gangs can spark a sudden and sharp rise in “intentional homicides”, as has happened in Ecuador and Haiti.

Homicide rates by region

The Americas also lead the world in highest regional homicide rate per capita, with 15 per 100,000 population in 2021, or 154,000 people.

Africa had the highest absolute number of homicides at 176,000, or 12.7 per 100,000 population, “and available data suggests that the homicide rate is not falling, even as decreases have been registered in other regions,” the report said.

Meanwhile rates in Asia, Europe and Oceania were far below the global per capita average of 5.8 per 100,000 population in 2021.

UNODC said the global homicide rate is projected to decrease to 4.7 in 2030, as evidenced by long-term trends. While this falls short of the SDG target of significantly reducing all forms of violence, it is still a promising trend, the agency said.

Weapons and victims

Firearms were used in most killings in the Americas in 2021, or roughly 75 per cent, whereas in Europe and Asia they were involved in 17 and 18 per cent of homicides, respectively.

Men accounted for 81 per cent of homicide victims and 90 per cent of suspects, but women are more likely to be killed by family members or intimate partners.

“Although they represent 19 per cent of homicide victims in total, they account for 54 per cent of all killings in the home and 66 per cent of all victims of intimate partner killings,” UNODC said.

Additionally, 15 per cent of homicide victims in 2021 were children, or 71,600 boys and girls.

Aid workers under attack

The data also showed that the deliberate killings of human rights defenders, environmental defenders, community leaders, journalists, and aid workers represented nine per cent of global homicides.

“The threat has increased for humanitarian aid workers, who witnessed a higher average number of fatalities over the period 2017-2022 than 2010-2016,” the authors said.

Ms. Waly expressed hope that the report will help inform policies and responses that will address the root causes of violence and save lives.

UNODC expects that the effects of demographic, economic, technological, and climatic “megatrends” on homicide rates will likely vary per region.

Projections through the year 2100 indicate that Africa will be the most vulnerable region due to its younger population, persisting inequality, and climate-related shocks and stresses, according to the report.


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  1. Are you people just itching for a crime story? Slow news day? We are at the back end of 2023 and you are referencing the number of deaths by homicide in 2021? Come on now. To state the obvious, people are more and more vicious, angry and bloodthirsty with every passing year. Find something not depressing to report on please.

  2. Humanity is infinitely prone to resorting to violence for survival. A vestige of our cave dwelling ancestors who had to kill to survive. Such was the case to provide sustenance for the family and such was the case to defend from others who wanted to take from you for themselves. And the factors mentioned in this article like climate change etc etc, will only make things worse as fewer resources are left to support a growing global population. Imagine less food being produced due to lost arable land..hunger will drive a epidemic of thievery and violence….the global north has enriched themselves at the expense of others and made significant progress in attempting to better a certain section of the populace while leaving another demographic less fortunate….why is it that black majority countries measures the least on any Human progress index…check the index on education, health, economics, life expectancy, etc etc…why is it? It’s the history and legacy of slavery, genocides, colonization, racism, discrimination, economic subjugation and other factors that are the remnants of the just mentioned hideous nouns. Inequality is what caused all these issues…. historical and grave injustices is what caused these crisis…now there is mass migration from Africa to Europe and from South America to North America. People just want a better life even if it means risking their lives and even though the grass may not be greener on the other side, atleast for most appears to be so and it’s better than where they grew up…and so these historical atrocities of exploitation and subjugation must be addressed to even begin to scratch the surface of the issue. Climate change is partly due to the global north’s avaricious exploits in other parts of the globe…the industrial revolution may have been a good thing for the global north but it also hastened the death of our planet due to exploitation of the resources. And yes it was that exploitation that gave us the modcons we all enjoy but it come with a price. Yet granted, it did bring progress but for a selected few. And here we are today, talking about freedom, democracy, rule of law etc etc but not addressing the proverbial elephant in the room which is to address these historical inconsistencies that has caused immeasurable suffering to those unfortunate to be the recipient of these historical injustices. I don’t believe in wallowing in our self pity, looking for hand me downs, but one has to recognise the truth and the fact that the past has a direct influence and bearing on the present… There is enough globally for all to leave a comfortable life but greed, hatred has given us the world we have today. Anyone who is honest to the argument will atleast concede this point. The global north has made remarkable progress in technology due to their boundless wealth and rightly so but it’s time to view humanity through the lens of we are one race..the human race. Of course I know such ideology is but a dream in a word rife with greed.. but if we want to remedy these issues, we must do things differently or else we all will suffer the destruction of our fragile planet.

  3. SMBH the murder rate in St. Lucia is very high only the large islands like Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad have more killings.


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