What is the political context?

Policy-makers have become increasingly aware that armed violence undermines development and aid effectiveness and hinders the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2000, world leaders came together to sign the United Nations Millennium Declaration and mark a strong committment to the eradication of the many dimensions of poverty, to the right to peace and security, to gender equality and to sustainable human development. To provide relevant and robust measures of progress towards these committments, the Millennium Declaration was translated into eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be met by 2015.

The MDGs, with their focus on establishing clear targets and indicators for reducing underdevelopment, also address risk factors often associated with armed violence onset and severity. Although the linkage between armed violence and development is not explicit in the MDGs, they offer entry-points for development agencies to consider. Progress towards the achievement of the MDGs has been limited so far, particularly in countries affected by endemic armed violence. According to the UN, 22 of the 34 countries least likely to achieve the MDGs are in the midst of — or emerging from — armed conflict.

At the Millennium +5 World Summit of 2005, heads of state acknowledged in the outcome document that development, peace, security, and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. In a 2009 report, the Secretary-General recognizes that armed violence undermines development and constitutes an impediment to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

A number of other international conventions and agreements target different aspects of armed violence and make repeated reference to the negative impact of armed violence on sustainable human development. Some focus on controlling the availability of illicit small arms and light weapons while others emphasize the protection of human rights and vulnerable groups. Important instruments include the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA) of July 2001; the World Health Assembly resolutions on the prevention of violence; and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.