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Last Updated: Monday, 17 October 2005, 18:47 GMT 19:47 UK
Wars 'less frequent, less deadly'
A soldier from the United Nations 103rd India Brigade on patrol in the DR Congo
The report credits the UN with helping reduce conflict
Wars around the world are both less frequent and less deadly since the end of the Cold War, a new report claims.

The Human Security Report found a decline in every form of political violence except terrorism since 1992.

"A lot of the data we have in this report is extraordinary," its director, former UN official Andrew Mack, said.

It found the number of armed conflicts had fallen by more than 40% in the past 13 years, while the number of very deadly wars had fallen by 80%.

The study says many common beliefs about contemporary conflict are "myths" - such as that 90% of those killed in current wars are civilians, or that women are disproportionately victimised.

The report credits intervention by the United Nations, plus the end of colonialism and the Cold War, as the main reasons for the decline in conflict.

'Exploding caricatures'

A leading expert praised the study, but said it was only a first step and required further investigation.

Owen Greene, director of the Centre for International Co-operation and Security at Bradford University in the UK, called it "a very significant contribution".

He said its "explosion of political-cum-urban myths" was "a useful counter to some of the caricatures" about modern war.

A US marine on patrol in Falluja
Iraq will not change the findings, author Andrew Mack says

But he cast doubt on its praise for the United Nations, saying the international body had been more successful at preventing conflicts from resuming than starting in the first place.

"Its record in preventing large-scale conflict has been rather poor," he said.

The UK and France have fought the most international wars since 1946, followed by the US and Soviet Union/Russia, the study found.

But there have been ever fewer international wars, with most conflicts now being civil wars.

Major powers have gone longer without fighting a war between each other than at any time in hundreds of years.

Most of the world's conflicts are now fought in Africa, but Burma and India have seen the most conflict since the end of World War II.

Even in Africa, the number of conflicts is dropping.

The average number of people killed per conflict has fallen from 38,000 in 1950 to just over 600 in 2002.

Iraq effect

The report's authors do not yet have current data for the deadliest conflict in the world today - Iraq.

What is happening in Iraq is anomalous - it doesn't represent what is going on in the rest of the world
Prof Andrew Mack

But Mr Mack told the BBC News website it would not substantially alter his findings.

"What we will see will be an increase in the average number of deaths, but not such a huge increase," he said.

"Take the biggest claim about Iraq - 60,000 battle deaths per year. Compare that with 700,000 battle deaths worldwide in 1950."

Furthermore, he argues that what is happening in Iraq "is anomalous - it doesn't represent what is going on in the rest of the world".

The study also does not include Darfur, where there is little reliable data, Mr Mack says.

Owen Greene of Bradford University said that was a significant omission.

"Darfur could be massive," he said.

The fall in the number of deaths per conflict is due to a change from large-scale war between huge armies with heavy weaponry to low-intensity conflicts that "pit weak government forces against ill-trained rebels.

"Although often brutal, they kill relatively few people," the report says.

The report was produced by the Human Security Centre at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

It was funded by the governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

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