News headlines around the world inundate us with stories about terrorism, conflict, social unrest, plane crashes, natural disasters, global economic crises and more, always more. One might even think that 2016 was the worst year ever for humanity. But, was it? At Knoema, we let the data speak for itself. We have collected the most frequently updated and the most up-to-date statistics from reliable sources to take a practical view of the state of the world and how it has changed over the last year. By at least some measures, the world ended 2016 better than it ended 2015, with at least one notable exception.
Pakistan. We do not yet know if the total number of fatalities globally from terrorism decreased during 2016 because the only comprehensive database on terrorism - Global Terrorism Database - has not released 2016 data. What we do know is that the number of people internally displaced globally due to conflicts decreased by nearly 60 percent last year. In 2015, conflict displaced 7 million people globally; in 2016, this figure dropped to 3 million, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.
We also know that the Middle East and North Africa combined account for roughly half of all fatalities from terrorism globally. A review of data from just one country in this region, Pakistan—one of the world’s worst terrorism affected countries—shows reason for hope. Data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal suggests that the number of people killed by terrorists in Pakistan decreased by more than 50 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, shrinking from 3,682 to 1,803 total deaths.
Africa, Asia and Europe. The number of battle-related deaths in Africa and Asia decreased significantly in 2016 compared to the previous year. Data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project—commonly known as ACLED—indicates that the number of fatalities in armed conflicts in Africa continued to decrease in 2016, with total fatalities falling 18 percent from 36,000 to 29,000 deaths.
In 2016, there were several violent and deadly terrorist attacks in Europe, including July's Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, which generated extensive news coverage and social responses globally. That said, in 2015, terrorism-related fatalities in Western Europe constituted less than 0.5 percent of the total number of fatalities globally from terrorist attacks.
Police Shootings in the US. Last year, the media spotlight and the US presidential campaign highlighted serious social tensions over police shootings in the US, especially those involving black Americans. Data reveals, however, that the total number of people killed by police in the United States last year decreased slightly from 991 people in 2015 to 963 in 2016.
Plane Crashes Around the World. During 2016, the world experienced several heartbreaking aviation accidents, such as: the crash of the Russian Defense Ministry TU-154 into the Black Sea that killed all 92 passengers on board; the loss of 71 people—including 19 members of a Brazilian soccer team—to the LaMia Flight CP2933 crash in Colombia; and, the Egyptair Flight 804 crash into the Mediterranean Sea that claimed 66 lives. And, yet, stepping away from the headlines, we discover that fatalities from plane crashes decreased last year by 30 percent, from 898 total fatalities to 629, according to the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.
Mass Shootings in the US. Now we arrive at the notable exception: mass shootings in the United States. The number of people killed in this category of violent crime rose by 25 percent last year from 367 in 2015 to 458 in 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Few are likely surprised by this finding. In 2016, the world witnessed the deadly mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, that claimed 50 lives and wounded 53 others; the attack in Piketon, Ohio, which killed eight, and so many more.