Making Sense of Violence in our Homes, Communities, and Cities

What We Read in 2021


By Daniel Mack and Bojan Francuz, Pathfinders’ Grand Challenge on Halving Global Violence / Pongmanat Tasiri

As the COVID-19 pandemic continued for the second year in a row, flaring up in different parts of the world throughout 2021, so did different forms of violence. Today, it is clear that realizing the SDG targets for violence reduction by 2030 (including SDG16.1 ) may become even more challenging for some types of violence .

Yet, researchers and commentators in the violence prevention community are starting to make sense of these global violence trends in light of increased — though still imperfect and geographically limited — data (on homicides, gun possession, reports of domestic violence, etc.).

This year, in addition to launching the Halving Global Violence Task Force and firmly planting our mobilization efforts in the UN Secretary-General’s recently launched Our Common Agenda, Pathfinders turned to the Task Force and other leading violence researchers for insights and analysis of this moment in the global violence landscape. Our Task Force members and advisors, as well as the broader violence reduction community, were certainly very busy. Below are some of the standout pieces written in the past year.

In 2021…

…we were reminded that following a business-as-usual approach to violence prevention would fail to save 1.4 million lives between 2019 and 2030.


With COVID-19 in its second year, experts analyzed its impact on crime in Latin America,* political violence, violence dynamics in cities, and drivers of conflict in Nigeria, Colombia, and Afghanistan. They also shared suggestions on preventing violence in urban spaces,* and ways to cope with changing dynamics of criminal organizations.*


Efforts to maintain tenuous peace, in Libya,* and contain potential for large-scale violence, in Afghanistan,* were also high on the agenda. Ethiopia* was also in the spotlight as violence gripped parts of the country.

Political violence and fragility

The violence prevention community in the U.S. was busy shaping* the nation’s approach to dealing with fragile countries,* and looked inward to better understand political violence within the country.


We are closing the year with updates on how the global arms industry is continuing to grow its profits, and received suggestions on how to improve treaties regulating the trade in arms.


We have wrestled with the links between climate change and violence, in our cities,* and are attempting to gain a firmer grasp on how it may lead to conflict.

(*indicates publication by a HGV Task Force Member or Expert Advisor.)

Looking ahead and forecasting trends has always been a treacherous undertaking. The global pandemic has made this effort even more challenging — even our leading experts were reluctant to offer predictions during the Andrew Mack Dialogue on Peace and Security (starts at 1.20).

Yet, going forward, achieving ambitious goals of violence reduction will require disproving doubters and investing in moonshot ideas grounded in data and informed by evidence and good politics. That’s Pathfinders’ raison-d’être, and HGV Task Force is a vehicle to get us there.

For a more detailed (but not exhaustive) database of publications from HGV-affiliated experts and more general violence data resources, please visit this page.