World Risk Poll says that a third of the 125,000 people it surveyed across 121 countries said that they felt ‘less safe’. Globally, the number of people who felt ‘less safe’ increased to 34 per cent in 2021, from 30 per cent in 2019, according to the survey.
By Dann Okoth
A third of the world’s population feels less safe than they did five years ago, according to a new poll that identifies crime and violence as the greatest perceived source of risk in many lower-income communities.
About four in ten people in Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa, cited crime or violence as the greatest threat to their safety, according to the 2021 World Risk Poll, which interviewed 125,000 people in 121 countries.
Weak institutions, conflict and insecurity pose a major threat to sustainable development, according to the United Nations.
Globally, the number of people who felt ‘less safe’ increased to 34 per cent from 30 per cent in a 2019 survey. Those that felt ‘more safe’ remained unchanged at 27 per cent.
Despite the world living through a pandemic, fewer than one in ten people globally cited COVID-19 as posing the greatest threat to their safety, according to the report.
Sarah Cumbers, lead author of the analysis and director of evidence and insight at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, an engineering and research charity that commissioned the study, said that for much of the world’s population throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there remained everyday risks such as road crashes, violent crime and other health conditions that were more visible and just as likely to cause harm, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
“In such context, it is perhaps not surprising that these things ranked higher in people’s risk perceptions,” she told SciDev.Net.
Rising violent extremism
The survey results are an important reminder for policymakers and public health officials that strategies to control pandemic threats must be constructed in collaboration with communities, to avoid asking people to do things that put them at greater risk of harm from existing threats, Cumbers said.
In Latin America, 60 per cent of Venezuelans cited crime and violence as their most immediate risk, along with about 50 per cent of people surveyed in Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.
Widespread concerns about violence and a lack of job opportunities likely contributed to the high number of people looking to emigrate, according to the poll.
More than 35 per cent of Latin Americans said they would move permanently to another country if they had the opportunity — more than double the 16 per cent globally who said the same.
“Younger Latin Americans were particularly likely to name crime and violence as the greatest threat to their safety: 57 per cent of those aged 15-29 did so, against 35 per cent of those 65 and older,” the report says.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 42 per cent of people in southern Africa felt unsafe due to crime and violence, with 22 per of people in central and west Africa and 18 per of east Africans expressing concern over their safety from crime and violence.
Jeremiah Owiti, executive director at the Center for Independent Research, a private research and policy think-tank based in Nairobi, Kenya, said authorities and development partners must address rising crime and insecurity.
“There is concern particularly around rising violent extremism in places like Nigeria, the Sahel and even Somalia,” he said. “Such violence has the potential to disrupt development by scaring away investment.”
Needed to invest
Owiti said governments in the global South, and particularly in Africa, needed to invest in social sectors, education and public infrastructure to reduce the risk of serious harm from unsafe food or water. One in five people cited safety concerns relating to water and food in countries such as Sierra Leone, India and Afghanistan.
“Many of the common diseases can be tackled by vaccination campaigns and disease awareness, which comes through adequate education,” Owiti tells SciDev.Net. “There is need for a radical policy shift to commit resources in the right places to cushion our people from such risks.”
Tracey Brown, a director of the UK-based Sense About Science non-profit organisation, which worked with the research team and is making the results of the poll accessible to communities, said extreme events and economic and political instability are sources of worry for communities.
“There are many risks in the world that got very little attention in the last couple of years that people clearly were concerned about,” she told SciDev.Net.
Wandi Bruine de Bruin, a professor of public policy, psychology, and behavioural science at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, said people did not always view risk in the same way as experts.
“The psychology of risk suggests that people’s worries about risk are affected more by how bad a risk is than by how common it is,” said Bruine, who did not participate in the research.
This piece has been sourced from SciDev.Net.