In early 2020, as COVID-19 was beginning to spread globally, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for a global ceasefire, calling on all warring parties to “silence guns” and focus on fighting a pandemic that had left no country untouched.
The Secretary-General’s words recognized that despite an ongoing global health crisis, insecurity, violence and conflict continued to ravage many countries across the world, with catastrophic implications for millions of people.
In addition to the terrible loss of lives, injuries and destruction of property that result from conflicts, many people who live in these settings are also often compelled to leave their homes, communities and even countries in search of safety and security. In 2020 alone, there were 26.4 million refugees and 4.1 million asylum seekers globally.
Additionally, in the same year, an estimated 48 million people were living in internal displacement due to conflict and violence, the highest figure on record. This is by no means a new phenomenon. In the last decade, the number of people displaced due to armed conflict, violence and various forms of persecution has increased by more than 100 percent, while global peacefulness has deteriorated in the same period.
Conflicts are now responsible for most humanitarian needs globally, and by 2030, an estimated two thirds of the world’s poorest people could potentially live in societies that are highly insecure, conflict-ridden or violent.
Currently, almost nearly 86 percent of the world’s refugees are hosted in developing countries.
Conflicts have also undermined the ability of many countries to make progress on development, to the point of eroding previous gains. These realities have placed the need to address the underlying causes and dynamics of conflict and to foster more peaceful societies high on the global agenda. This is most clearly reflected in several global processes and outcomes, notably the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with target 16, for example, committing States to promoting “peace, justice and strong institutions”.