The 2012 Human Security Report sheds new light on the human costs of war. It argues that widely held beliefs about wartime sexual violence and the impact of war on education are one-sided and sometimes flat-out wrong.
The study, produced by a research team at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, critically appraises the mainstream narrative on wartime sexual violence. This narrative assumes that conflict-related sexual violence is on the rise, and that rape is increasingly being deployed as a “weapon of war.” It suggests that the experience of the small number of countries afflicted by extreme levels of sexual violence is the norm for all war-affected countries. There is no compelling evidence to support any of these assumptions.
This is not all. The mainstream narrative ignores domestic sexual violence in wartime, which is far more pervasive than that perpetrated by combatants—and which victimizes a far greater number of women.
The narrative also largely ignores the impact of wartime sexual violence against males, even though it is substantially greater than generally believed. Finally, it fails completely to acknowledge female perpetration of sexual violence.
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The mainstream view on the impact of conflict on children’s education is similarly bleak and one-sided. War is seen as having a highly damaging, even “devastating,” “disastrous” effect on educational outcomes, causing the destruction of educational opportunities on “an epic scale.”
But the Report finds—counter-intuitively—that more often than not educational outcomes in war-affected countries improve over time despite the fighting, even in the regions worst affected by the war.
Finally, the Report examines recent global and regional trends in the incidence and severity of organized violence. It presents new research on the deadliness of external military interventions, refutes the notion that conflicts are becoming more persistent, and shows that even “failed” peace agreements save lives.