For information only – not an official document

8 December 2023

Fifty-two people lost their lives to homicide globally every hour in 2021, says new report from UN Office on Drugs and Crime

VIENNA, 8 December (UN Information Service) – More people were killed due to homicide than armed conflict and terrorism combined in 2021, with an average of 52 victims per hour around the world, according to the Global Study on Homicide 2023 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 

“Every year, we witness the loss of thousands of lives to homicide – a sombre reminder of our collective failure to fulfil the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals to significantly reduce all forms of violence by 2030,” said Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC. “The complex web of factors fuelling homicide deaths worldwide, from gender-based violence against women and girls, to organized crime and gang violence, to poverty and inequality, shows that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I hope that this new Global Study will help inform evidence-based, preventive policies and responses, to address the root causes of this violence and save human lives.” 

Homicide accounted for an annual average of around 440,000 deaths worldwide over 2019-2021, a higher number than conflict-related or terrorist killings combined. 2021 was an exceptionally lethal year with 458,000 deaths, a spike linked, in part, to the economic consequences of COVID-19 and a rise in organized crime and gang-related and sociopolitical violence. 

Available data for 2022 shows that – despite a surge of more than 95 per cent in conflict deaths between 2021 and 2022 – the global burden of homicide was nonetheless twice as large as the burden of conflict deaths. 

The Global Study on Homicide offers a comprehensive examination of intentional homicide trends and patterns around the world. The study analyzes the complex dynamics behind the numbers while looking at regional and subregional trends; homicides related to criminal activities, interpersonal homicides and socio-politically motivated homicides; criminal justice responses; and the impacts of climate change, ageing populations, inequality, urbanization and technological shifts. Furthermore, a special section examines how organized crime is driving homicide trends in Latin America and the Caribbean.  

Organized crime responsible for 22 per cent of homicides 

Organized crime/gang group-related homicides constitute around 22 per cent of intentional homicides globally, and 50 per cent in the Americas. Competition among organized crime groups and gangs can lead to sudden and sharp increases in intentional homicides, as seen in Haiti and Ecuador.  

Homicide rates vary by region 

The Americas had the highest regional homicide rate per capita in the world (15 per 100,000 population, or 154,000 people) in 2021, while Africa had the highest absolute number of homicides (176,000, or 12.7 per 100,000 population). The homicide rates in Asia (2.3), Europe (2.2), and Oceania (2.9) fell well below the global per capita average of 5.8 per 100,000 population. 

Firearms were used in an estimated 75 per cent of killings recorded in the Americas in 2021. In contrast, firearms were used in 17 and 18 per cent of homicides in Europe and Asia, respectively. 

Men account for 81 per cent of homicide victims, but women are more likely to be killed by family members or intimate partners 

Men are the most likely victims and perpetrators of homicide, constituting 81 per cent of all homicide victims and 90 per cent of suspects brought into formal contact with police for homicide. Yet, women experience a higher risk of violence at home. Although they represent 19 per cent of homicide victims in total, they account for 54 per cent of all killings in the home and 66 per cent of all victims of intimate partner killings. Meanwhile, 15 per cent (71,600) of homicide victims in 2021 were children.  

Journalists, human rights defenders, aid workers, and more face considerable risk 

Deliberate killings of human rights defenders, environmental defenders, community leaders, journalists, and aid workers represent nine per cent of global homicides. The threat has increased for humanitarian aid workers, who witnessed a higher average number of fatalities over the period 2017-2022 than 2010-2016. 

The future of homicide 

Effects of demographic, economic, technological, and climatic “megatrends” on homicide rates will likely vary per region.  Based on projections until the year 2100, Africa emerges as the most vulnerable region, due to its younger population, persisting inequality, and climate-related shocks and stresses.

Read the Global Study on Homicide 2023 here

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For further information, please contact: 

 Brian Hansford
 Chief of Advocacy Section
Email: unodc-press[at] 

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