When I began working in the field of conflict transformation, I was surprised to realize conflict impacts all aspects of life -- political, education, health, environment, business, etc... and at all levels -- home, community, national and international.
I also came to realize that conflict is neither negative nor positive, but rather it is a natural part of life resulting from differences. If we deal with conflict destructively, it can have terrible impact. If we approach conflict constructively, it can be an opportunity for deepening relationships and for growth.
This list of basic facts about conflict is a good start for learning about the impact of conflict in the world. It also gives hope in knowing that more and more people and organizations are using conflict resolution, mediation and other cooperative approaches for dealing with conflict constructively.
Another thing I try to keep in mind: most conflicts in the world are handled peacefully; something that is easy to forget when watching the news.
Basic Facts About Conflict
How to live together in a world of differences is one of the most critical challenges facing us today. So much depends on our ability to handle our conflicts peacefully - our happiness at home, our performance at work, the livability of our communities, even our very survival. How we deal with conflict affects every other major issue we're dealing with, either directly with specific consequences, or indirectly, through our inability to reach consensus and work together productively.
- In absolute terms, the 20th century was the most violent century in history, with more casualties than all the preceding centuries combined.
- In today's armed conflicts, less than 10% of the casualties are soldiers - more than 90% are civilians and half of those are children. This ratio is virtually the opposite of 100 years ago.
- With regard to hunger and poverty, 16 out of 20 of the most destitute countries in the world have recently suffered civil wars.
- With regard to education and literacy - not only are they the lowest in conflict zones, but global military spending is 170 times greater than what we spend on basic education.
- With regard to the environment, some of our worst disasters are the result of violent conflict:
- 17 million gallons of Agent Orange was used in Vietnam.
- 40 tons of depleted uranium was left behind in Kuwait and Iraq after the Gulf War.
- 90 countries are still heavily affected by landmines that endanger human lives and render large areas of land unusable.
- With regard to public health, The World Health Organization declared in 1994 that "violence is a leading worldwide public health problem."
- In the United States, the Center for Disease Control reported:
- In 2006, homicide was the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24.
- In 2007, more than 668,000 young people ages 10 to 24 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from violence.
Positive Efforts to Deal with Conflict Constructively
When you look at the current strife-ridden state of the world, an understandable response is to feel frustrated, if not hopeless. Although violent behavior is much too prevalent, our fundamental view is that the world is evolving in positive directions. One hopeful sign is that the whole field of conflict resolution has grown rapidly over the past 20 to 30 years. We've made tremendous progress in our understanding of how to deal with conflict constructively, and that momentum is growing.
- The United Nations and other multilateral organizations have helped parties in conflict avert the use of force; and, facilitate ceasefires, negotiations, and settlements.
- Between 1945 and 2000, there were over 300 international conflicts and more than 3,750 cases of mediation. For example:
- 255 worldwide conflicts were resolved by some form of mediation between 1945-1974 alone.
- Civil negotiation and formal mediation brought many civil wars to an end, including in El Salvador, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, and South Africa.
Within the USA
- There are over 100 degree programs in conflict resolution at universities and colleges across the U.S. compared to just a handful in 1980.
- The Center for Disease Control has made Violence Prevention a public health priority in the U.S. and has numerous national programs underway.
- In 2005, 91% of public schools had peer mediation programs that taught methods of violence prevention, either through student-to-student or adult-to-student programs. 80% of the student mediators agreed that the mediation process helped them to understand people with different views, thus leading to a decrease in conflict.
- There are over 550 community mediation centers in the U.S. compared to only 150 ten years ago. Community mediation centers have over 19,500 volunteers nation-wide who have trained 76,000 citizens on how to deal with conflict and foster cooperation. This has allowed the number of disputes/cases mediated on an annual basis to grow to over 45,000!
- Mediation is becoming more and more an accepted option to litigation. 82% of Americans would rather go to a mediator than go to court. For instance, in divorce/custody disputes, mediators work with the families in order to solve the problem quickly and successfully.
More and more people are becoming determined to be part of the solution. Just as it seems that our world is becoming increasingly polarized, there is a groundswell of enthusiasm and commitment for working toward peace around the world. Many signs are pointing to a major shift in consciousness with regard to dealing with conflict more constructively and learning to live with one another more harmoniously.
>> Sources of Statistics