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The UNODC’s (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Global Study on Homicide 2019 was published online in July 2019, updating the 2014 edition. It aims to improve understanding of this complex issue and providing policymakers with a dataset of cross-national data to inform their decisions.

The Study is divided in six booklets, comprising a summary with policy implications and five booklets offering insights into specific dimensions:

  1. Executive summary

  2. Homicide: extent, patterns, trends and criminal justice response

  3. Understanding homicide - typologies, demographic factors, mechanisms and contributors

  4. Homicide, development and the Sustainable Development Goals

  5. Gender-related killing of women and girls

  6. Killing of children and young adults.

Prof Eisner contributed data and case studies, particularly for the booklet entitled Homicide: extent, patterns, trends and criminal justice response. In Historical perspective: what the past can teach about reducing homicide. The decline in homicide in Europe, 1200–2016, Prof Eisner writes:Countries in Western Europe are currently experiencing some of the lowest rates of interpersonal killing ever seen, with homicide rates ranging from 0.4 to 1.7 per 100,000 population and an average rate of 1.0. These low levels of homicide are part of a significant broader drop in property and violent crime across most affluent societies, which started in the early 1990s.”

He explains the drop in homicide rates by referring to improvements in security technology - including home protection and CCTV cameras - and economic conditions, such as the transition to a cash-free economy.

In Historical perspective: what the past can teach about reducing homicide. Historical homicide trends in Jamaica and Singapore, the focus is the current trends of two countries at the opposite ends of the global spectrum. Prof Eisner explains: “Jamaica and Singapore are quite different in respect of homicide levels. Singapore, with a population of 5.5 million, recorded 11 homicides in 2017, yielding a homicide rate of 0.2 per 100,000 population. In the same year, Jamaica, with a population of 2.9 million, recorded 1,647 homicides, yielding a homicide rate of 57.0 per 100,000 population.  On a per-capita basis this translates into a ratio of 1 to 296 […].”

The countries have comparable political backgrounds and their societies have gone through similar development pathways. “[The islands] were part of the British Empire until the early 1960s, and after independence both countries adopted a political system based on the Westminster model. […] According to World Bank data, their GDP per capita was almost identical, at roughly $3,300 at 2010 prices; the two societies had similar literacy rates of around 75 per cent, similar life expectancy at birth (64 years in Jamaica; 66 years in Singapore) and similar birth rates (41 per 1,000 population in Jamaica; 38 per 1,000 population in Singapore). […] In the years 1955–1959, the average homicide rate in Singapore was 3.2 per 100,000 population, while it averaged about 5 per 100,000 population in the same period in Jamaica.”

The analysis of long-term data identified when the turning point occurred. “It seems that the homicide rates of the two islands began to drift apart some 60 years ago, when the homicide rate in Jamaica started to increase by an average of 4.4 per cent per year, which continued for five decades, while Singapore experienced an average decline of a similar magnitude: around –4.2 per cent per year. […] Research conducted in each country suggests that factors related to governance and the rule of law, along with increasing differences in the relationship between the State and civil society, played an important role.” You can continue reading Prof Eisner’s contribution here

 

Conclusions 

The Study claims that homicide kills far more people than armed conflict – around 464,000 men and women across the world were murdered in 2017, compared to 89,000 killed in armed conflicts. It also shows that the number of homicide victims increased from 395,542 in 1992 to 464,000 in 2017. However, because the global population has risen faster than the homicide rate, the risk of being killed per 100,000 people has declined from 7.2 in 1992 to 6.1 in 2017.

“The Global Study on Homicide seeks to shed light on gender-related killings, lethal gang violence and other challenges, to support prevention and interventions to bring down homicide rates,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

“Countries have committed to targets under the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce all forms of violence and related death rates by 2030. This report offers important examples of effective community-based interventions that have helped to bring about improvements in areas afflicted by violence, gangs and organized crime.”

Organised crime is accountable for 19% of homicides in 2017. Just like an armed conflict, it has a destabilising effect on society, undermining socioeconomic development and eroding the rule of law. The UNODC figures reveal dramatic regional variations. The rate in the Americas (17.2%) was the highest recorded in the region since reliable reporting began in 1990. Africa’s rate (13%) is also above the global average. Rates in Asia, Europe and Oceania are below the global average (2.3%, 3% and 2.8% respectively).

Gender analysis reveals that around 81% of homicide victims recorded globally in 2017 were men and boys. Over 90% of suspects in homicide cases were men. However, gender disparity among victims changes with age. Girls and boys aged nine and under are killed at roughly equal rates, in marked contrast to all other age groups, according to data from 41 countries. Although women and girls account for a far smaller share of victims of homicide than men, they continue to bear by far the greatest burden of intimate partner and family-related homicide.

Efficient interventions to reduce murder rates require a clear understanding of its scale and drivers. The drivers highlighted in this Study include inequality, unemployment, political instability, the prevalence of societal gender stereotypes and organised crime. The availability of firearms, drugs and alcohol abuse are further facilitators of homicide.

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