Table of Contents

Hard as this is to believe, we live in one of the most peaceful periods of human history.1 Homicides have been falling in most parts of the world for centuries.2 Despite the horrors beamed across the internet, violent deaths from wars between states are at historic lows.3 Civil war deaths have risen in recent years owing to the conflicts principally in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, but they had fallen so far since the end of the Cold War that they are still a fraction (in per capita terms) of what they were at any time before.4 After rising for a decade and a half, even violent extremist–related fatalities are on the decline.5

Rachel Kleinfeld
Rachel Kleinfeld is a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where she focuses on issues of rule of law, security, and governance in post-conflict countries, fragile states, and states in transition.
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These comparatively recent improvements in peace and security did not occur spontaneously. The end of the Cold War gave them a boost, but they were chiefly achieved by concerted investment in policies designed to prevent and mitigate warfare and terrorism. Sharp reductions in violent crime were also due in part to investments in smarter policing and prevention.

But there is a darker side to the story.6 Many societies ostensibly “at peace” are far from peaceful. Some of them are experiencing endemic violence that exceed death rates in warfare. These situations can only be improved with better quality governance, rather than traditional peace agreements and peacekeepers. Almost nine out of ten violent deaths across the world today occur inside countries and cities that are not at war in the traditional sense.7 Criminal violence perpetrated by drug cartels, gangs, and mafia groups is skyrocketing, especially in Latin American and the Caribbean, causing global homicides to creep up again.8 Meanwhile, state security forces are continuing to deploy mass violence and excessive force against their own people.9

Robert Muggah
Robert Muggah is the director of research at the Igarapé Institute, a think tank working on data-driven safety and justice across Latin America and Africa, that he co-founded in 2011.

These two types of violence—organized crime and state repression—are more intertwined than is commonly assumed. Politicians, police, judges, and customs officials often cooperate with cartel bosses and gangs in the pursuit of profit and power. Both are skilled at hiding their violent acts such that they often are not recorded in worldwide datasets on lethal and nonlethal violence. Yet it is possible that such violence may be contributing to a jump in overall violent deaths worldwide. Such violence is difficult to disrupt.

These challenges are not confined to poor, “failed,” or “fragile” states. Compare the roughly thirty fragile states listed by the World Bank to the fifty most violent countries in the world, and just four appear in both compilations. It is middle-income countries that are fast becoming the world’s most violent places.10 Relatively wealthy South Africa has a violent death rate nearly double that of war-torn South Sudan.11 In 2018, more civilians were killed by state and paramilitary forces in the Philippines than in Iraq, Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo—as many as in Afghanistan.12 Of the fifty most violent cities in the world in 2017 (based on murder rates per 100,000), fifteen are in Mexico, fourteen are in Brazil, and four are in the United States.13 Inequality, not poverty, is strongly correlated with murder—and inequality often rises as poverty falls.14

The international community has few tools to address the twin challenges of state and criminal violence. Traditional peace treaties and the deployment of blue-helmeted peacekeepers are not fit for purpose. Development organizations have a role to play in reducing criminal violence—but it must be an explicit focus, since measures to alleviate poverty don’t affect violence per se.15 In fact, efforts to reinforce state capacity can make violence even worse by propping up governments complicit in the problem. When politicians are unable or unwilling to stem violence, international leverage is often limited, since governments can sanction international organizations and agencies or evict their staff. A new toolkit of solutions is needed to return violence to its previous trajectory of decline.

War and Terrorism—Changing Threats

War has always constituted an existential threat to humanity. The civilization-ending potential of armed conflict reached its apogee in the twentieth century. Then, in the late 1940s, something remarkable started happening. The incidence and severity of cross-border and civil wars began to fall.16 Half a century later, after the Cold War had ended, the number of wars went into free fall, with many petering out as the United States and Russia withdrew support for competing sides. By 2018, direct deaths from civil and interstate wars had dropped to fewer than 53,000 a year.17 (Indirect deaths caused by conflict, such as increased disease and malnutrition, remain higher.18)

The risk of warfare is reemerging as U.S. hegemony weakens and geopolitical rivalries return, fueling regional proxy conflicts such as those in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. While the deadliness of today’s wars remains historically low, there are nevertheless twice as many civil conflicts today as there were in 2001. It is a small uptick after a long decline, but it is a disturbing trend.19

Armed conflicts today are harder to extinguish because of three parallel trends. First, while old-style interstate wars are now vanishingly rare, the term “civil war” can be a misnomer. Of the fifty-two current intra-state conflicts counted by the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO), external states were sending troops to at least one side in eighteen of them.20 These conflicts fueled by outside states are generally more violent, longer lasting, and much harder to resolve than traditional civil wars.21 (For more, see the essay by Mary Kaldor in this collection.)

Second, the number of nonstate armed groups participating in the bloodshed is multiplying. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), roughly half of today’s wars involve between three and nine opposing groups.22 In a handful, including the ongoing conflicts in Libya and Syria, literally hundreds of armed groups are fighting one another. Wars are harder to end when so many groups can spoil the peace. Third, today’s warriors are as likely to be affiliated with drug cartels, mafia groups, and criminal gangs as with armies or organized rebel factions. In a globalized world with highly connected supply chains, they often act as all of the above. The Taliban is a rebel group fighting for political control of Afghanistan. It is also a drug cartel fighting criminalized portions of the Afghan government for control over domestic and regional smuggling routes.23 Politicians, businessmen, and fighters who profit from ongoing war make negotiated peace more complex, and in some cases impossible.

These trends are compounded by a long-ignored reality. Many citizens suffering under predatory governments have no automatic loyalty to the state. Rebel groups, terrorist insurgents, cartels, and gangs successfully lobby for legitimacy and public support—not just with threats, but with slick digital videos and social media persuasion campaigns.

For much of the twentieth century, terrorism was viewed as a lower-order concern by most governments. The September 11 al-Qaeda-led attacks on the United States catapulted terror to the top of the global agenda. Incidents of terrorism spiked for more than a decade. But since 2014, the number of attacks has fallen by as much as 44 percent.24 North Americans and Europeans still feel that they are on the frontlines of terror, yet according to the Global Terrorism Index, white nationalist groups pose a greater threat to U.S. citizens than political Islamist groups.25 As gruesome attacks in Brussels, Manchester, and Paris, suggest, Western Europe does face a greater terrorist threat. Yet in 2017, just 2 percent of all terrorist-related attacks occurred in Europe. Across the continent, the probability of dying at the hands of a terrorist was 0.027 per 100,000—slightly less likely than being hit by lightning.26

The geographic locus of extremist violence has altered. Just seven countries account for 90 percent of all terrorist attacks and related deaths: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.27 Perpetrators are also concentrated in a few conflict zones. More than 10,000 of the roughly 19,000 terrorist killings in 2017 were perpetrated by just four groups: the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the Taliban, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram.28 Over the past decade, they have been responsible for close to half of all terrorist-related deaths. Terrorism today serves largely as a battle tactic within irregular war in the developing world.

The inherent vulnerability of soft targets will always allow individuals with the will and means to sow terror. But the focus of Western security policy should correspond more closely with the actual—rather than the perceived—threat. In particular, attention should focus on the potential of attacks with biological and chemical weapons, a threat that has become plausible again after their repeated use in the Syrian war.29

Within the countries hardest hit, the only meaningful method of terror prevention in the long run is to address the factors that give rise to it in the first place. Terror is a tactic of war, but it is a product of inequitable governance and political and social exclusion. Feelings of inequality, marginalization, and indignity feed anger and resentment. Moreover, it is often state violence that sets this tinder alight. According to a UN study interviewing violent extremists across North Africa, violent state repression transformed grievances into terrorist violence in 71 percent of the cases.30

Rising State Violence

Ever since modern nation-states burst onto the scene in the seventeenth century, they have violently controlled their populations. The practice of giving states a pass on coercion within their borders was codified in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which ended the apocalyptic bloodshed of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe. In the long run, the cure turned out to be more deadly than the disease, however. R. J. Rummel estimated that in the twentieth century, 262 million people were killed by their own governments—six times more than in all international and civil wars occurring in that period.31 In China, the Soviet Union, and other Communist, totalitarian states such as Cambodia, between 85 and 110 million people were killed by their own governments.32

Tear gas, and plastic pellet gunshot used by Venezuela’s National Police against a protest in Altamira, Caracas. (Andrés E. Azpúrua)

After the fall of Communism, humanitarians argued that state repression could no longer be tolerated under the rubric of national sovereignty and noninterference. Most states perpetrating violence against their citizens were no longer near-peer rivals, but weaker governments more susceptible to Western strong-arming. Rwanda’s genocide of 1994, in which possibly 800,000 people were killed in a hundred days, was so horrific that a new norm, the “responsibility to protect,” sanctioning international interference in situations of mass violence, won widespread support.33

Yet, despite the new global norm of protection, state violence has continued. North Korea is holding between 70,000 and 130,000 people in concentration camps deemed by a Holocaust survivor to be as bad as those of Nazi Germany.34 In Brazil, police committed more than 6,100 killings in 2018 (more than one of every nine violent deaths in the country)—and one of the legislators who condoned this violence is now president.35 Amnesty International found that between 2009 and 2015, Nigeria’s military starved or tortured to death at least 7,000 Nigerians, killed 1,200 more in extrajudicial executions, and imprisoned 20,000.36

Today, state killings are potentially among the largest sources of violence against civilians—although with data so easily hidden and manipulated, it is hard to be sure. Indeed, few countries collect or centralize statistics on victims of state violence, much less make them available to the public. At the same time, new, digitally enabled forms of state control are emerging, most notably China’s practices of preemptive imprisonment and super-charged surveillance, employed most thoroughly against its Muslim Uyghur minority.

While China’s surveillance state hints at the future, Venezuela embodies state violence today. Venezuela has one of the highest murder rates in the world, a grim record that at first glance appears to be the result of murderous criminals taking advantage of a nearly failed state.37 In fact, Venezuelan drug trafficking is well organized and managed by the government itself.38 The most virulent form of violence today is the result of such partnerships between states, their security forces, and paramilitaries and organized criminals.

The Sinister Expansion of Organized Crime

Organized criminal violence has grown in virtually every part of the world in recent years, whether it be drug cartel violence in Mexico, reprisal killings among pastoralists and herders in Nigeria,39 gangland murders in El Salvador,40 or brutality by election-campaign thugs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.41 The acts of bloodshed these violent actors commit are often flagrant and intentionally gory so as to send a message to their rivals. Many places are so deadly that they face war in all but name.

True, organized crime tends to step into the breach where a government is unable or unwilling to provide basic security and justice. Yet this kind of organized crime flourishes more often when a state is not weak, but collusive. Such “privilege violence” occurs when politicians and security forces allow mafias, cartels, and gangs impunity, in exchange for campaign contributions, bribes, and help getting out the vote or repressing opposing electorates.42

The exchange allows these political elites to enjoy the fruits of corruption, privilege, and perks, while ceding portions of their territory to control by violent criminals.43 In some Mexican towns, parallel governments composed of criminalized political and administrative structures wield real control from behind the scenes. In Brazil, large portions of some of the country’s biggest cities are under the control of competing drug trafficking factions and militias. In some places, criminals and politicians merge and become one and the same. From Latin America to India, violent criminals have gained electoral office, while others seek to influence elections through buying and selling votes.44

To allow their violent compatriots impunity, politicians politicize and deliberately weaken their security services. Criminalized police battle with gangs and cartels not over law and order, but over control of turf and illegal proceeds. Ordinary citizens are forced to pick sides. Stuck between massive criminal violence and a predatory, criminalized state that tends to prey on the marginalized, populations become polarized, and fragile regimes get even more brittle. These so-called crime wars thus corrode democracy.45

Poorer communities are left to protect themselves. There is a tight correlation between people’s perception of insecurity and exposure to victimization and their likely support for extralegal measures to restore law and order. Where private security is too expensive and unavailable, people tend to turn to vigilantes, gangs, and mafias that offer security against the predatory state and other violent groups—for a price. The cocktail of factors driving terrorism—marginalization, exclusion, and repression—can similarly compel young men to join criminal gangs. Finally, as impunity grows, ordinary people turn to violence. A significant portion of murder emerges from bar fights and disputes between neighbors rather than professional criminals.46

The ensuing mayhem allows politicians to posture as being tough on crime with repressive or militarized policing. Many citizens, exhausted by crime and violence, are easily seduced by simple promises of law and order. These so-called mano dura tactics tend to win elections.47 They are also, often unintentionally, emboldened by foreign security assistance and equipment. But these policies supercharge criminal groups. Zero-tolerance laws condemn many young men to life in jail, where they learn from each other.48 Criminals respond to brutal policing with even more violence.49

The result is a self-reinforcing cycle of violence among criminal groups, the state, and regular people. Since 2015, Brazil has witnessed more violent deaths than in Syria.50 Over the last fifteen years, Mexico has experienced more violent deaths than Iraq or Afghanistan.51 Public authorities there estimate that 40 percent of the country is subject to chronic insecurity with disappearances and population displacement at all-time highs.52

Fighting State Violence and Crime

The confluence of state repression and organized crime constitutes a wicked problem. Venezuela (and its patrons) is not going to authorize United Nations peacekeepers to patrol the streets of Caracas. China and Russia are not about to allow international observers to monitor their repression. Questions of noninterference and state sovereignty loom large. A new toolkit can help to fight state violence and crime. These tools could also help in addressing contemporary forms of splintered, semi-criminalized warfare, and the terrorism emanating from poor governance and state repression.

As a beginning, the United Nations, World Bank, and other multilateral institutions must become less risk-averse and savvier in engaging with states that purposefully brutalize their citizens, govern inequitably, or partner with criminals.

The experience of states, or substate governments that are willing to improve, indicates a great deal about policing reforms and other security improvements that can reduce violence.53 Disrupting today’s violence, however, also requires reducing political, social, and economic inequality and building inclusive decisionmaking mechanisms across divided societies.54 Reversing high levels of gender inequality and gender-based violence can decrease vulnerability to civil war and interstate war.55 Countries that offer more opportunities for political and economic participation and encourage social mobility also tend to experience less violence.56

When the problem is a governing system that relies on violence to sustain inequity, straightforward solutions to increase inclusiveness will meet resistance, however. Technical solutions premised on strengthening a weak but well-intentioned government won’t work. Some bolder and smarter initiatives to address these issues of will are already under way. For example, the World Bank has a program to make security sector budgeting more transparent. Corruption is now receiving greater international scrutiny from public and private investors alike. More work is needed to rebalance lending strategies, including by spending less on technical programs that gloss over the underlying problem and more on efforts that tackle the elites profiting from the status quo. 57

International and intergovernmental organizations are limited in their ability to affect domestic politics, both by internal legal constraints and because they rely on the permission of governments to operate. These interventions from outside are also not a long-term solution: a social contract needs to exist between a state and its people, not a government and external powers. The role of international actors must always be focused on empowering active citizens (and citizenship), while incentivizing states to listen to their own people. Changing the relationship between a state and its citizens is what ultimately reduces state violence and organized crime. Repressive states and organized crime thrive when societies are divided and fragmented.

Success comes primarily from helping the middle class build social momentum for political and economic change. Donors can fund local organizations that can spread trusted information while avoiding partisan pitfalls; can bring citizens together across polarized, divided countries; and can support a free media and investigative journalists who inform people about what their government is up to. Information alone, however, can merely anger and depress populations that lack a means to force change. Knowledge must be paired with mechanisms to enforce accountability.

To reduce chronic levels of violence, outside actors—including public and private donors—must fight to defend civil society, free speech, and rights to assembly and opposition voices. In many countries, opposition efforts rely on local businesses willing to fund advocacy that would build a more just state.58 Outside funders that can’t appropriately or legally fund advocacy can target aid toward building a middle class and a private sector that can be independent of the government, not reliant on government largesse.

To ease the path of active citizens, international actors must also avoid doing harm. Donor funding can prop up predatory governments so that they do not need to heed the wishes of their populations. Where corrupt politicians are fueling the violence they claim to be fighting, foreign governments should withhold security aid rather than waste taxpayer dollars. Central America’s gangs metastasized when the United States deported gang members from Los Angeles with no support for integrating them into countries they had left as toddlers. The United States continues to repeat that mistake today.59

The private and social sectors play an important, if often underappreciated, role. International financial hubs such as Dubai, London, New York, Shanghai, and Singapore should tighten the regulations of financial systems and property markets that allow criminals and politicians to launder ill-gotten gains.60 Academic institutions could follow the lead of Magnitsky Act and Global Magnitsky Act sanctions and deny admission to the children of leaders guilty of gross human rights violations and corruption.

Finally, more research is needed into diplomacy and mediation among criminal groups and between governments and criminals. El Salvador’s famous gang truce of 2012 ended in failure.61 But, in Los Angeles, violence has not rebounded after a thirty-year truce modeled on the Middle East peace process helped end violent reprisals in the 1990s.62 These negotiations are often secret and are rarely even apparent to anyone other than the politicians and criminals themselves. Very little is known about the circumstances that allow some to succeed, while others cause only more bloodshed. Gaining a better understanding could help address not only criminal violence but also criminal actors within modern warfare.63

The problem of violent predatory governments won’t be permanently solved by agreements such as these. In fact, they can make a governing order even less legitimate. But they can buy time, creating the breathing room necessary to rebuild the social contract between a state and its citizens. While working to improve internal governance, other measures are needed to tackle urgent problems that cross borders. Refugee law needs updating to help those trying to save themselves. Millions are trying to escape the criminal violence of Central and Latin America, just as refugees have fled the wartime violence of Syria. The difference is that those seeking succor from crime are often stuck in legal limbo after being refused asylum in third countries.64 In otherwise peaceful countries across Europe and in the United States, populism is rising on the backs of migrants fleeing bloodshed, often not caused by war.

Finally, data collection may not be sexy, but the fight against all forms of violence also requires better statistics and analysis. There is surprisingly little information about violence in sub-Saharan Africa, where around half the states don’t report homicide numbers, in authoritarian countries where the numbers are probably manipulated, and in places less covered by the English-speaking press (which is generally used to determine conflict counts).65 Supporting better data, which would be comparable across war and homicide as well as across countries, is essential to learn where the problems lie, and whether interventions are having an impact.

Decades ago, in the wake of the Second World War, a vast intellectual, multinational, and bilateral effort succeeded in corralling interstate war and reducing civil war. Collective violence fell globally. Now it is rising again, in new forms that are harder to eradicate. According to the World Health Organization, one in six people worldwide is affected by violence today. It is time for the international community to direct its manifold resources, monetary and intellectual, to upending the problem of our time: organized crime and criminally violent states.


1 Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York: Viking Press, 2011).

2 For homicide statistics, see Manuel Eisner, “Long Term Historical Trends,” Crime and Justice 30 (2003): 83–142; Manuel Eisner, “Modernization, Self-Control, and Lethal Violence: The Long-term Dynamics of European Homicide Rates in Theoretical Perspective,” The British Journal of Criminology 41, no. 4 (September 2001): 618–38; Ted Robert Gurr, “Historical Trends in Violent Crime: A Critical Review of the Evidence,” Crime and Justice 3 (1981): 295–353; and Ted Robert Gurr, “Historical Trends in Violent Crime: Europe and the United States,” in Violence in America, Volume 1: The History of Crime, ed. Ted Robert Gurr (California: Sage Publications Inc., 1989), 21–54.

3 Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2009/2010: The Causes of Peace and the Shrinking Costs of War (New York: Human Security Report Project, 2011), 21.

4 Nils Petter Gleditsch, et al., “Armed Conflict 1946–2001: A New Dataset,” Journal of Peace Research 39, no. 5 (2002): 615–37. See also Håvard Strand, “Onset of Armed Conflict: A New List for the Period 1946–2004, With Applications,” under review at Conflict Management and Peace Science (2006).

5 National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), “Global Terrorism Database,” 2018,

6 See Rachel Kleinfeld, “Reducing All Violent Death, Everywhere: Why the Data Must Improve,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2, 2017,; and Robert Muggah, “Counting Conflict Deaths: Options for SDG 16.1, Briefing Note to Members of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators,” Igarapé Institute, October 2015,

7 Mirielle Widmer and Irene Pavesi, “Monitoring Trends in Violent Deaths,” Small Arms Survey, no. 59(September 2016): 1–8.

8 Claire McEvoy and Gergely Hideg, Global Violent Deaths 2017: Time to Decide (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2017).

9 Of course, the reduction of mass killings from totalitarian states such as the twentieth century slaughters in China, Russia, and Cambodia does not mean state violence ever disappeared. In countries such as North Korea and Rwanda, state implemented or state-directed violence continued apace.

10 Rachel Kleinfeld and Elena Barham, “Complicit States and the Governing Strategy of Privilege Violence: When Weakness Is Not the Problem,” Annual Review of Political Science 21 (May 2018): 215–38.

11 According to the UNODC, Brazil’s homicide rate is 36 per 100,000, South Sudan’s was 13.9 according to the UNODC in 2012, for a conservative estimate we add to this the estimates of war deaths based on a population of approximately 10.2 million prior to the conflict, and a violent death rate of approximately 190,000 due to war over the course of 7 years. See Francesco Checchi et al., “Estimates of Crisis-Attributable Mortality in South Sudan, December 2013-April 2018: A Statistical Analysis,” London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, September 2018,

12 Roudabeh Kishi and Melissa Pavlik, “ACLED 2018: The Year in Review,” Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, January 11, 2019,

13 Consejo Ciudadano Para La Seguridad Pública y La Justicia Penal AC, “Las 50 ciudades más violentas del mundo 2018” [The 50 Most Violent Cities in 2018], Consejo Ciudadano Para La Seguridad Pública y La Justicia Penal AC, The list is limited to cities of more than 300,000 and does not include war zones.

14 Maia Szalavitz, “The Surprising Factors Driving Murder Rates: Income Inequality and Respect,” Guardian, December 8, 2017,

15 Robert Muggah and Clionadh Raleigh, “Violent Disorder Is on the Rise. Is Inequality to Blame?,” World Economic Forum Agenda, January 4, 2019,

16 Gleditsch et al., “Armed Conflict 1946–2001,” and Strand, “Onset of Armed Conflict.”

17 Therese Pettersson, Stina Hogbladh, and Magnus Oberg, “Organized Violence: 1989-2018 and Peace Agreements,” Journal of Peace Research 56, no. 4 (2009): 589–603. See also Havard Strand et al., “Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2018,” ReliefWeb, March 2019,

18 McEvoy and Hideg, Global Violent Deaths 2017, 10.

19 Fiona Terry and Brain McQuinn, “The Roots of Restraint in War,” International Committee of the Red Cross, June 18, 2018,

20 Kendra Dupuy et al., “Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2016,” ETH Zürich, June 22, 2017,

21 Erik K. Jenne and Milos Popovic, “Managing Internationalized Civil Wars,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, September 2017,

22 Terry and McQuinn, “The Roots of Restraint in War.”

23 Robert Perito, “Afghanistan’s Police: The Weakest Link in Security Sector Reform,” U.S. Institute of Peace, August 2009, 7.

24 Institute for Economics & Peace, “Global Terrorism Index 2018: Measuring the impact of terrorism,” Institute for Economics & Peace, December 2018,

25 A Washington Post analysis of the Global Terrorism Database at Maryland’s START found that of 263 terrorists incidents since 2010, ninety-two were carried out by white nationalists, compared to thirty-eight jihadists. See Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy, and Andrew Ba Tran, “In the United States, Right-Wing Terrorism Is On the Rise,” Washington Post, November 25, 2018, See also Institute for Economics & Peace, “IEP’s 2018 Global Terrorism Index: Deaths From Terrorism Down 44 per Cent in Three Years, but Terrorism Remains Widespread,” Institute for Economics & Peace, December 5, 2018,

26 Robert Muggah, “Europe’s Terror Threat Is Real. But Its Cities Are Much Safer Than You Think,” World Economic Forum, June 08, 2017,

27 Institute for Economics & Peace, “Global Terrorism Index 2018,”

28 Ibid.

29 Will S. Hylton, “How Ready Are We for Bioterrorism?,” New York Times,October 26, 2011,

30 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives, and the Tipping Point for Recruitment,” UNDP, 2017,

31 R. J. Rummel, “Freedom, Democracy, Peace: Power, Democide, and War,” University of Hawaii,

32 Ibid.

33 See United Nations, “Responsibility to Protect,” United Nations,

34 International Bar Association, “North Korea: Inquiry Finds Kim Jong-un Should Be Investigated and Prosecuted for Crimes Against Humanity,” International Bar Association, December 12, 2017,

35 César Muñoz Acebes, “‘Good Cops Are Afraid:’ The Toll of Unchecked Police Violence in Rio de Janeiro,” Human Rights Watch, July 7, 2016,

36 “Stars on Their Shoulders, Blood on Their Hands: War Crimes Committed by the Nigerian Military,” Amnesty International, 2015,

37 Juan Carlos Garzon and Robert Muggah, “Venezuela’s Raging Homicide Epidemic Is Going Unrecorded,” Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2017,

38 Insight Crime: Venezuela Investigative Unit, “Drug Trafficking Within the Venezuelan Regime: The ‘Cartel of the Suns,’” Insight Crime, May 17, 2018, Illegal gold mining is also under the purview of the state.

39 Robert Muggah and José Luengo Cabrera, “The Sahel Is Engulfed in Violence. Climate Change, Food Insecurity and Extremists Are Largely to Blame,” World Economic Forum Agenda, January 23, 2019,

40 Robert Muggah, “It’s Official: San Salvador is the Murder Capital of the World,” Los Angeles Times, March 2, 2016,

41 Robert Muggah, “Is Kabila Using Ethnic Violence to Delay Elections?,” Foreign Policy, November 27, 2018,

42 Rachel Kleinfeld, A Savage Order: How the World’s Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security (New York: Pantheon Books, 2018).

43 See Muggah and Raleigh, “Violent Disorder Is on the Rise.”

44 Milan Vaishnav, When Crime Pays (New Haven, Conn. Yale University Press, 2017). See also John P. Sullivan, José de Arimatéia da Cruz and Robert J. Bunker, “Third Generation Gangs Strategic Note No. 9,” Small Wars Journal,

45 Robert Muggah and John Sullivan, “The Coming Crime Wars,” Foreign Policy, September 21, 2018,

46 Kleinfeld, A Savage Order, 86–96.

47 Robert Muggah, “Reviewing the Costs and Benefits of Mano Dura Versus Crime Prevention in the Americas,” in The Palgrave Handbook of Contemporary International Political Economy, ed.Timothy Shaw, Laura Mahrenbach, Renu Modi and Xu Yi-chong (London: Palgrave, 2018), 465–83.

48 Yusuf Ahmedad, Alyssa Dougherty, Rachel Kleinfeld and Alejandro Ponce, “Reducing Violence and Improving the Rule of Law: Organized Crime, Marginalized Communities, and the Political Machine,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 24, 2014,

49 Robert Muggah, “Brazil’s Prison Massacres Send a Dire Message,” NPR, May 28, 2019, See also Robert Muggah and Ilona Szabo, “Brazil’s Deadly Prison System,” New York Times, January 4, 2017,

50 Data drawn from the Brazilian Forum of Public Safety (63,880), the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (39,000). See Robert Muggah, “Brazil’s Murder Rate Finally Fell—and by a Lot,” Foreign Policy, April 22, 2019,

51 Afghanistan and Iraq figures are drawn from the Costs of War Project at the Brown University Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, which estimated the death toll of the Iraq war (2003–2018) to be from 267,792 to 295,170 and calculated the death toll of the Afghanistan war (2001–2018) to be 147,124 as of November 2018. By comparison, according to the Igarape Institute’s homicide monitor (which utilizes statistics from the Mexican government), there were 33,341 homicides in 2018 and 310,834 from 2003 to 2018. See Neta C. Crawford, “Human Cost of the Post-9/11 Wars: Lethality and the Need for Transparency,” Costs of War, November 2018, See alsoIgarapé Institute, Homicide Monitor, V1, distributed by Igarapé Institute,

52 Tom Phillips, “Mexico: 40% of Country Is Paralyzed by Violence, Says Chief of Staff,” Guardian, July 10, 2018,

53 Thomas Abt, Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets (New York: Basic Books, 2019).

54 Facundo Alvaredo et al., “World Inequality Report 2018: Executive Summary,” World Inequality Lab, 2018,

55 Marianne Dahl, “Global Women, Peace and Security,” PRIO, May 2017,

56 Kari Paasonen and Henrik Urdal, “Youth Bulges, Exclusion and Instability: The Role of Youth in the Arab Spring,” PRIO, 2016, Opportunities for youth is likely an interdependent variable, serving as both cause and effect, in which case it may be a lagging indicator of a system of governance that is moving away from Privilege Violence.

57 See Robert Muggah and Clionadh Raleigh, “Violent Disorder Is on the Rise.”

58 Leonardo Arriola, Multi-Ethnic Coalitions in Africa: Business Financing of Opposition Election Campaigns (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

59 Ana Arana, “How the Street Gangs Took Central America,” Foreign Affairs 84, no. 3 (May–June 2005): 98–99.

60 Mattha Busby, “First Ever UK Unexplained Wealth Order Issued,” Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, March 2, 2018,

61 Sinisa Vukovic and Eric Rahman, “The Gang Truce in El Salvador,” Oxford Research Group, April 18, 2018, See also Robert Muggah, Ami Carpenter, and Topher McDougal, “The Inconvenient Truth About Gang Truces in the Americas”, InSight Crime, December 5, 2013,

62 Andrea Ford, “Ex-Gang Members Look to Mideast for a Peace Plan: Truce: Group Uses 1949 Cease-Fire Agreement Between Egypt and Israel as the Basis for an Agreement Among L.A’s Bloods and Crips,” Los Angeles Times,June 17, 1992,; “Truce That Ended 30 Years of LA Gang Warfare,” BBC News,April 15, 2015,

63 A fascinating example of what works comes from Ecuador, which “legalized gangs” in recent years. See David Brotherton and Rafael Gude, “Social Inclusion From Below: The Perspectives of Street Gangs and Their Possible Effects on Declining Homicide Rates in Ecuador,” IADB, March2018),

64 Katie Benner and Caitlin Dickerson, “Sessions Says Domestic and Gang Violence Are Not Grounds for Asylum,” New York Times,June 11, 2018,

65 Kleinfeld, “Reducing all Violent Deaths, Everywhere.” See also Alexandra Lysova and Nikolay Shchitov, “What Is Russia’s Real Homicide Rate? Statistical Reconstruction and the ‘Decivilizing Process,’” Theoretical Criminology 19, no. 2 (2015): 257–77.