VIENNA – A total of 464,000 people were killed in homicides in 2017, far more than the total number of people killed in conflict and war, with the region of Latin America driving those figures up, according to a United Nations report on Monday.
In its Global Study on Homicide, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime underlined inequality, organized crime and violence against women as leading causes behind the homicide trend in the Americas.
It added, however, that although the number of homicides globally had risen since 1992 – when accurate records began – by 17 percent, homicide rates per 100,000 people had actually witnessed a steady decline.
Since 1992, homicide rates have dropped from 7.2 per 100,000 to 6.1.
Within that general trend, there was a slight uptick in rates in 2015, when decades of general decline was reversed.
This could be explained by growing homicide rates in the Americas, with an average of 17.2 per 100,000, where they were especially high in Central America (25.9), South America (24.2 percent) and the Caribbean (15.1), a stark contrast with Africa (13), Europe (3), Oceania (2.8) and Asia (2.3).
In subregional terms, the lowest rates, with an average of 1 person for every 100,000, were observed in Western Europe, Eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
The report highlighted some of the main drivers behind the crime.
“Targeted and efficient interventions to counter homicide require a comprehensive understanding of its scale and drivers. The drivers of homicide highlighted in the study include inequality, unemployment, political instability, the prevalence of gender stereotypes in society, and the presence of organized crime,” the report said.
The report added that homicide rates could rise again if regions continue to miss out on the effects of economic growth and investment in socio-economical development.
In countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela, homicide rates surpassed their levels of socio-economic development, leaving space for organized crime and gang violence.
Organized crime accounted for 19 percent of homicides in 2017 and was responsible for the death of one million people between 2002 and 2017, equaling the number of people killed in warfare, the report said.
In Latin America, gang activity and drug trafficking are key elements in the relationship between organized crime and homicide rates.
The highest rates of gang-related homicides particularly affect adolescents and young men in Central America and especially those without education or work.
It said that 21 percent of youngsters in Latin America fell into this category.
“Participation in organized crime and gang activities, or involuntary exposure to the violence associated with these, are important drivers of homicide affecting young people in various countries in Central and Latin America,” the report said.
The study also published a booklet on violence against women and girls, acknowledging that although homicide rates are lower for women in general, accounting for about 20 percent of the overall tally, most are killed by someone they know, like a family member or partner.
Around 60 percent of the 87,000 women killed in 2017 were victims of femicide at the hands of their partners, ex-partners, male family members.
The UN study also made mention of the growing, albeit unclear, link between climate change and violence as conflict emerges from resource scarcity.