Conference of ministers speaks out against armed violence

Bern, Press release, 31.10.2011

Deputy prime ministers, ministers and state secretaries from over 80 countries are meeting today and tomorrow at a conference in Geneva. The goal of the meeting is to support states, international organizations and civil society in their efforts to reduce armed violence worldwide and take stock of the progress that has been achieved in this area. The meeting of ministers was jointly organised by Switzerland and the United Nations Development Programme, the former represented by Martin Dahinden, Director-General of SDC, the latter by Helen Clark.

Every day about 1500 people are killed either as a result of armed violence in armed conflicts or as a result of petty crime or organised crime. The numbers of those killed due to the indirect consequences of armed violence is far higher. Armed violence destroys lives, undermines communities, impedes economic development and results in costs estimated at about US$160 billion a year.

On the initiative of Switzerland and of the UNDP, 42 states met for the first conference in Geneva in 2006, at which, by signing the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development, they pledged to significantly reduce armed violence by 2015. 112 countries have by now signed this declaration.

In his opening speech, Ambassador Martin Dahinden, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), commended the progress and the efforts made by states and civil society in the fight against armed violence.  He stressed how important it was that actors from different spheres - security and development policy - were jointly developing specific and realistic measures to prevent and to reduce armed violence. 

He referred to the three main lines of action of the Geneva Declaration: awareness raising at the international and national level as well as the further development of analytical and measuring instruments at the national and international levels which form the basis of the development and implementation of specific programmes. The conference participants will discuss the activities of young people to fight armed violence, questions of crime prevention, urban violence and reforms of the justice sector.

Referring to unrest in various parts of the world, UNDP administrator Helen Clark stressed that youth unemployment, the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and the exclusion of entire sections of populations from development, together with the easy availability of arms, can lead to a dangerous spiral of violence. However, she said that if local governments, the police, development and health specialists met to discuss and to tackle the causes of armed violence, this could be a very promising approach to prevention. The UNDP is currently supporting about 40 countries in their efforts to reduce violence. These countries include El Salvador, East Timor and Kenya.

In the concluding document of the conference, the participants will decide on a number of specific measures designed to ensure that the goals of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development are achieved by 2015.  

Further information:

Diplomatic initiatives in conflict resolution

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