Notwithstanding Rwanda

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Notwithstanding Rwanda

There have been a number of stories today about the recently released "Human Security Report" that "paints a surprising picture of war and peace in the 21st century: a dramatic decline in battlefield deaths, plummeting instances of genocide, and a drop in human rights abuses."

As the AP explains its findings
Notwithstanding the genocides in Rwanda in 1994 and in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, mass killings because of religion, ethnicity or political beliefs plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001, the report said.
The report itself (PDF) explains it thusly
Figure 1.11 is drawn from Barbara Harff’s genocidepoliticide dataset. It plots the number of events that are classified as genocides or politicides, not the number of people killed. The trend is very similar to that of armed conflicts: an uneven rise until the end of the Cold War, followed by a sharp decline. But the drop in genocides and politicides in the 1990s is twice as steep as the decline in armed conflicts over the same period.
Yippee! The number of events classified as genocide or politicide have fallen. Since "politicide" is not itself an actual crime and the study seems to have ignored instances of widespread crimes against humanity, things do seem to be improving.

And if you choose to count Rwanda as just one event and ignore the nearly 1 million people who died, then things are really looking good.

Maybe next year there will be no hurricanes that hit the US, but the entire state of California will be utterly destroyed by an earthquake. If so, I will be out there touting the good news that, in terms of pure statistics, the number of natural disasters plummeted.


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