Violence and Injury Prevention

Guide to United Nations resources and activities for the prevention of interpersonal violence

ISBN 92 4 159027 0


The United Nations Millennium Declaration states that men, women and children have the right to live their lives in freedom and without fear of violence, oppression and injustice. Achieving this right will require the prevention of interpersonal violence in all its forms. This Guide to United Nations Resources and Activities for the Prevention of Interpersonal Violence seeks to help achieve the right to freedom from violence by describing the resources and activities of the many different United Nations agencies working to address the problem. The Guide demonstrates how each agency brings to the field its own competencies and its own thematic focus, as determined by its mission and objectives. It shows what the different agencies do to help identify the gaps where further action is needed, and highlights the areas of potential synergy. The Guide describes the programmes, publications and databases that make these resources more readily available to prevention partners at global, regional and national levels. Finally, it provides contact details for focal points within each agency to make communication easier.

Incidents of collective violence such as terror attacks, genocide and war command huge media interest and massive international investment in attempts at prevention. By contrast, interpersonal violence in families, communities and institutions is barely present in domestic and international public awareness. Yet, homicides due to interpersonal violence substantially outnumber war-related deaths, and for every homicide there are thousands of non-fatal cases. These cause a wide spectrum of physical and psychosocial problems, including brain damage, physical handicap, mental disorders, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide and, in some instances, more interpersonal violence. The economic costs of interpersonal violence are equally ignored yet equally staggering, amounting in many countries to losses worth one or more percentage points of their annual gnp. In addition, there are the intangible social costs of interpersonal violence, including the erosion of social trust, exacerbation of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the increased readiness not only to tolerate high levels of interpersonal violence but to actively engage in it. Finally, the occurrence of interpersonal violence is linked to other forms of violence. For instance, war is a risk factor for post-war increases in interpersonal violence; violence against women predicts self-directed violence amongst those previously victimized; and being abused as a child anticipates the perpetration of violence and victimization in adolescence and adulthood.

Because interpersonal violence arises from within the very families, communities and societies that should be a source of security and belonging, its prevention is a particularly daunting challenge. A complicated web of factors at all levels – individual, family, community and society – contributes to producing interpersonal violence. Some of the causes include harsh discipline, poor monitoring and supervision of children, witnessing violence, drug trafficking, access to fi rearms, alcohol and substance abuse, crime and corruption, gender and income inequalities, and norms that support violence as a way of resolving conflicts. Preventing interpersonal violence requires dealing with these risk factors, not one by one, but ideally through action at multiple levels simultaneously. All of these different causal levels, and all of the groups most vulnerable to interpersonal violence, are accommodated within the work of the various United Nations agencies. This Guide aims to make these links more visible and, in doing so, to enhance the possibilities for preventing interpersonal violence by improving global cooperation around the goal of achieving local-level empowerment for interpersonal violence prevention.