Violence in many forms can be preventable

01Oct 2020
Editor
The Guardian
Violence in many forms can be preventable

The International Day of Non-Violence is observed on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Violence is "the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy."  

Less conventional definitions are also used, such as the World Health Organisation's definition of violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation."

Globally, violence resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1.28 million people in 2013 up from 1.13 million in 1990.  Of the deaths in 2013, roughly 842,000 were attributed to self-harm (suicide), 405,000 to interpersonal violence, and 31,000 to collective violence (war) and legal intervention.[4] In Africa, out of every 100,000 people, each year an estimated 60.9 die a violent death.  For each single death due to violence, there are dozens of hospitalizations, hundreds of emergency department visits, and thousands of doctors' appointments. Furthermore, violence often has lifelong consequences for physical and mental health and social functioning and can slow economic and social development.

In 2013, assault by firearm was the leading cause of death due to interpersonal violence, with 180,000 such deaths estimated to have occurred. The same year, assault by sharp object resulted in roughly 114,000 deaths, with a remaining 110,000 deaths from personal violence being attributed to other causes.  

Violence in many forms can be preventable. There is a strong relationship between levels of violence and modifiable factors in a country such as concentrated (regional) poverty, income and gender inequality, the harmful use of alcohol, and the absence of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and parents. Strategies addressing the underlying causes of violence can be relatively effective in preventing violence, although mental and physical health and individual responses, personalities, etc. have always been decisive factors in the formation of these behaviors.  

Collective violence is subdivided into structural violence and economic violence. Unlike the other two broad categories, the subcategories of collective violence suggest possible motives for violence committed by larger groups of individuals or by states. Collective violence that is committed to advance a particular social agenda includes, for example, crimes of hate committed by organized groups, terrorist acts and mob violence. Political violence includes war and related violent conflicts, state violence and similar acts carried out by larger groups. Economic violence includes attacks by larger groups motivated by economic gain – such as attacks carried out with the purpose of disrupting economic activity, denying access to essential services, or creating economic division and fragmentation. Clearly, acts committed by larger groups can have multiple motives.  

In January 2004, Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi had taken a proposal for an International Day of Non-Violence from a Hindi teacher in Paris teaching international students to the World Social Forum in Mumbai. The idea gradually attracted the interest of some leaders of India's Congress Party ("Ahimsa Finds Teen Voice", The Telegraph, Calcutta) until a Satyagraha Conference resolution in New Delhi in January 2007, initiated by Indian National Congress President and Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance Sonia Gandhi and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called upon the United Nations to adopt the idea.  

On 15 June 2007 the United Nations General Assembly voted to establish 2 October as the International Day of Non-Violence.  The resolution by the General Assembly asks all members of the UN system to commemorate 2 October in "an appropriate manner and disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness."  

The United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) in New York City prepared a special cachet to commemorate this event, following a request from the Indian Ambassador at the Permanent Mission of India to the UN. The boxed pictorial cachet design was prepared by the UNPA and was limited to cancellation at UNPA's NY location (not Geneva and Vienna). The UNPA has indicated that all outgoing UNPA mail between 2 and 31 October carried the cachet.  

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