Every Body Counts: Measuring Violent Deaths (Research Note 49)

Anna Alvazzi del Frate and Luigi De Martino
Research Note

In September 2015 world leaders will meet at the UN to adopt the Sustainable Devel­opment Goals (SDGs),which will be the international development framework that will replace the current Millennium Development Goals. The seventeen proposed goals and associated targets are planned to run until 2030. Among them, Goal 16 focuses on peaceful and inclusive societies, access to jus­tice, and accountable institutions.

The inclusion of Goal 16 in the reflects the growing acceptance that issues related to peace, security, and good governance should play a role in the post-2015 development framework. This progress of a global agenda on peace and development has been possible thanks to the work of several processes, including the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development (GD), which calls for measurable reductions in the burden of armed violence that humankind faces.

The Small Arms Survey has been the leading research partner of the Geneva Declaration's 'measurability pillar' since the beginning of the initiative. The Global Burden of Armed Violence reports (2008, 2011 and 2015) have used 'violent deaths' as the main indicator for measuring and monitoring the scope and impact of armed violence globally, and refined a methodology for its collection and analysis. The violent death of a human being is the most extreme consequence of armed violence, and is treated seriously in all societies. For this reason it is likely to be recorded more accurately than other violent events. As a consequence, the number of persons who die violently is frequently used as a proxy measure for insecurity in both conflict and non-conflict settings. 

The Global Burden of Armed Violence reports focus on lethal violence shows that ‘violent deaths’ is a realistic indicator for policy-making (towards goals and targets) and for the purpose of measuring the results of armed violence prevention and reduction programmes. This experience is of great value to the discussion around targets and indicators for Goal 16.

The 46th Session of the UN Statistical Commission is meeting to seek agreement on modalities for the development of the indicator framework for the post-2015 development agenda, and discuss its implementation.

The Research Note Every Body Counts: Measuring Violent Deaths focuses on the objective measurement of violent deaths as a composite indicator that can be realistically used for monitoring progress towards target 16.1. The adoption of ‘violent deaths’ as an indicator within the SDG framework would contribute to realizing the call for a data revolution, a call that sees data and statistics as comprising an instrument of change towards more transparency, accountability, and inclusion, so that no one is indeed left behind.

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Keywords: GVD Violent deaths SDGs