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About two billion people in the world – and half of the world’s extreme poor – live in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV). By 2030, up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor will live in FCV settings. Since 2007, the number of major civil wars has tripled. At the same time, conflicts have grown more complex, with a proliferation of armed groups. In 1950, the average number of armed groups in a civil war was eight. By 2010, it had jumped to 14.

The increased complexity and reach of violent conflict today contribute to its intractability: while conflicts that ended in 1970 tended to last an average of 9.6 years, conflicts that ended in 2014 had lasted an average 26 years, and those that ended in 2015 had lasted 14 years. 

These alarming trends continue. In 2021, 1.7 billion people were exposed to political violence. The direct economic losses from violent conflict are staggering. One estimate shows that these amount to $14.3 trillion, or about 12.6 percent of global GDP. Violent conflicts affect not only the poorest countries. Over the past decade, more people have been killed in middle-income countries than in low-income ones.

In addition to violent conflict, interpersonal, gang-related, drug-related, and gender-based violence all pose a major threat to development and to the well-being of millions. Every year, about half a million people die from violence, two-thirds of which are victims of intentional homicide. In some areas, homicide rates are higher than deaths in conflict zones, causing major human suffering as well as economic and social disruption. The impacts of this violence are highly gendered.  While a majority of victims of lethal violence are young males, high levels of homicide go hand in hand with high levels of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and violence against children, with severe, lifelong impacts on those affected.  For example, while one out of three women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, this rate increases by a further 34 percent in conflict-affected countries. For instance, the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Ethiopia have both been characterized by high levels of SGBV.

As a result of the increased levels of conflict and violence, the world is seeing the largest forced displacement crisis ever recorded. There are more than 100 million displaced people globally, of whom the internally displaced constitute over 50 percent. Syria, Colombia, the DRC, Yemen, Ethiopia and Afghanistan continue to host the largest IDP populations. Furthermore, forced displacement has become increasingly complex and protracted, with substantial socioeconomic impacts on both refugee and host communities. Women and children together comprise about 70 percent of all forcibly displaced people worldwide. Current conflict or climate related events in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen are all contributing to growing forced movements of people.

Moreover, adverse climate changes will likely have greatest impact on many of today’s fragile and conflict-affected societies. Climate variability and change, and its interaction with conflict vulnerabilities, has led to displacement, loss of livelihoods, destruction of infrastructure, undermining the resilience of communities and institutional capacity of governments. In Ethiopia, for instance, the vast majority of IDPs (85 percent) have been displaced by conflict while other main causes of displacement are climate-induced, namely drought (seven percent) and seasonal floods (three percent). The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on some of the biggest cracks in societies worldwide. In some of the world’s most fragile environments, violence has compounded the effect of the crisis. This violence has disproportionately affected women. Studies show that COVID-19 lockdowns have led to a marked surge in domestic violence globally.  

Last Updated: Apr 07, 2023


Washington, D.C.
Laura Ivers