Are Wars Becoming Less Lethal? The 2009 Human Security Report
The Human Security Report has become well-known for its argument, backed up by careful statistical analysis, that wars are becoming less common since the early 1990s, and also becoming less lethal. The new HSR study, ‘The Shrinking Costs of War’, brings new data to bear on this question, and makes stronger claims than in previous editions.
In particular, the Human Security Report argues that population death rates actually fall in many protracted wars, because improved health care for the general population outweighs the deaths caused by violence and disruption. This is sure to be controversial, and it would have been useful if the Report made a clear distinction between smaller and larger wars and clarified whether this claim holds for both.
Another striking and controversial claim, is that the very high levels of estimated excess mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo (5.4 million) are exaggerated by a factor of three. If correct, this would compel a rethinking of Congo — but would still make it Africa’s most costly conflict in terms of human life over the last decade.