“The world is more intense. There has been more insecurity, more violence and more war in NATO’s immediate areas. We live in a time that is less secure and less stable than what we have been doing for a long time. ” This is how NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed himself in an interview with NRK-tv just before Christmas 2015. The areas he was referring to are easy to spot; features from there have characterized the media image daily for a couple of years. Both east and south of the NATO area, war is on the doorstep of NATO countries – in Ukraine and in the Middle East.
And 26 years after barbed wire fences were torn between east and west in Europe and the Berlin Wall fell, barbed wire fences were erected again – in the country that first tore them down, Hungary .
- How has the general conflict picture developed in the last two years?
- Where do we find the vast majority of the major armed conflicts in the world?
- What characterizes the warriors of our time?
- What is meant by a vulnerable state?
Stoltenberg shares the perception of a more uncertain world in the last couple of years with several actors. Well-known research institutes such as the University of Heidelberg ( hiik.de ), SIPRI ( sipri.org ) and the Institute for Economics & Peace with their peace index point to the same trend. These too have registered a deteriorating security situation in the last couple of years, and that the unrest has moved closer to us.
2: The uncertainty is amplified
At the same time, dark economic clouds – sovereign debt crisis and euro crisis – hang over unusually many countries, thus reinforcing many people’s feelings of insecurity. Another signal of the increased insecurity is the approximately 60 million people who are on the run from war and other unrest – the highest number since World War II; 1 million of them have moved north across the Mediterranean and into Europe. This is where EU co-operation faces perhaps its biggest challenge to date, namely dealing with the refugee crisis. At the same time, the Security Council has never had as many formal meetings as in 2014. According to SIPRI, in the last couple of years the Security Council has become less of a conflict resolver and works more to prevent armed conflicts from spreading and mitigate their consequences.
Then it may be comforting that the climate summit in Paris suggests that the countries of the world are also able to cooperate when problems arise. The same applies to the nuclear agreement that was signed with Iran in the summer of 2015 . Perhaps the unanimous Syria resolution of the UN Security Council in December 2015 could also be the beginning of the end for the most deadly and destructive of conflicts of our time.
THE MEDIA’S HYPER PRESENCE in many violent conflicts ensures that the conflicts reach the outside world faster and to a far greater extent than before. The news feeds from war zones are extensive and make it difficult for the outside world to escape the images of war and suffering. What does it do to us and our sense of security to see and know that in some parts of the world there is war, unrest, suffering and destruction?
3: Selected conflicts – the most violent
In the front page map and article, we first and foremost summarize and condense politically related use of violence, that is, everything from minor, isolated episodes of violence during election campaigns via terrorist acts to full-scale war. Since, after all, what we can get in a small space is limited, the presentation is concentrated on the major incidents of violence – serious armed conflicts such as wars and limited wars. War is defined as more than 1,000 killed in one year. In a limited war, the death toll is between 100 and 1,000.
To some extent, we have also plotted some minor conflicts, or crises, characterized by occasional small-scale violence . For those who see our conflict images every other year in context, the latest and least violent markings can show how new, violent conflicts can be in the offing. But they can also point out that old conflicts can be scaled down without completely fading into lasting peace.
War differs from criminal violence in that war is often seen as the exercise of politics, but with the use of other means. The line between political and criminal use of violence is far from crystal clear. Apparently the same act of violence can have different purposes and motivations. When drug offenders shoot at each other and for their own gain and kill people who unintentionally get in their way, it is clearly criminal; when terrorists drop bombs on a market with the intention of creating fear and unrest to pressure the government in the country, it is considered politically motivated violence.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF VIOLENCE : The first type of organized violence refers to SIPRI as non-state violence ; we see a lot of this in Mexico. There is also non-state use of force when Taliban and IS soldiers in Afghanistan fight against each other in Afghanistan. The second type we see when Daesh / IS detonates bombs among unsuspecting civilians without weapons. It is described as one-sided violence .
However, we find the most common type of organized violence when state entities use violence against one or more non-state actors and the battle is over state power or actors who want to separate part of their country as their own state. This third type is referred to as state-based violence and is by far the most deadly.
4: More violence in some places than others
According to shoe-wiki, the violent conflicts are concentrated on a few continents, regions and countries. Most of the major and minor wars take place within the circle in the map, and this is how the situation has mainly looked for a long time. These wars and conflicts also account for the increased unrest and insecurity of the last couple of years and we find them in:
- Middle East(Syria, Iraq…)
- South Asia(Afghanistan, Pakistan…)
- North Africa (Libya…)
- Sub-Saharan Africa(Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Somalia Congo)
The increase in the last two years has primarily taken place in North Africa and the Middle East, with Syria as the dominant element in the picture.
But why should we keep criminal violence out of the conflict picture? Are not such criminal acts of violence also an expression of societies where politics has failed – for societies where states are unable to provide welfare or maintain law, order and order? If we had expanded the picture of violence to include at least some of the criminal violence – at least the one that affects the total outsiders – the picture above could be somewhat different. Murder statistics show that large countries in America such as Brazil, Mexico and the United States and smaller countries such as Honduras, Venezuela, Belize and others. has very high homicide rates; this also applies to some countries in Africa.
And the risk of being killed is far higher in parts of Mexico than in Afghanistan. Why is it that five to eight times more people per 100,000 inhabitants are killed in criminal violence in America than in Europe and Asia? And why in the United States is there on average one major shooting massacre every day with 4 or more deaths? Globally, between 400,000 and 500,000 people die annually (437,000 in 2013 according to UNdof.org) as a result of criminal violence, most with light firearms and stabbing weapons.
5: First and foremost civil war, but…
As we have written in several previous HHD conflict pictures: War in our time means civil war . Hardly any wars are intergovernmental anymore – wars between two or more states as we know them from the last centuries and then most often with a formal declaration of war as a start and a peace agreement as a conclusion. But also this distinction must be nuanced ; in many cases it becomes almost impossible to categorize a conflict. The international elements, the input and the effects are difficult to distinguish from the domestic ones. In a world with far more cross-border movements, more interdependence and vulnerability than before, it has become far more difficult to determine whether a violent conflict is a clear civil war or a clear intergovernmental war.
A conflict can begin as a limited civil war to eventually escalate and attract both soldiers, money and weapons from outside. When various parties in a civil war are supported from outside, we see that the war extends beyond the original country of civil war and has a regional and international profile . The war in Syria began as a civil war, but was also in many ways inspired by external events, cf. the Arab Spring. This war has long since acquired an international and, in fact, also major political character. Different external actors support different actors in the national Syrian battlefield. They thus contribute to making the war more protracted, deadly and destructive than the Syrians would have been able to do on their own – based on the resources that existed in the country when the fighting began.
6: Obligation to intervene against abuse
In a number of contexts, we emphasize the importance of human rights (the 1948 Declaration and various conventions) and the obligation to protect a vulnerable civilian population – may intervene by force – against rulers who largely abuse their own people. This emphasis has helped to bring Norway into war – humanitarian intervention, most recently in Libya in 2011.
Right now, the situation in Burundi is beginning to resemble dangerously similar to the situation before the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Can the international community prevent an ominous situation from escalating this time, if necessary by military force? If so, will it be wise politics?
For many reasons, at least Western countries today seem less willing than a few years ago to deploy military force. In addition, operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya have suffered too many setbacks. Many see Western involvement and intervention in these countries as an accomplice to the high level of tension and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. And thus also a responsibility for the extensive flow of refugees and migrants to Europe in 2015, which arouses unrest and insecurity in our part of the world as well.
In step with stuck military situations in a number of central conflicts – but with struggles and suffering civilian populations – in recent years it is often pointed out that military power alone can rarely resolve conflicts. A political solution and negotiations are needed, has become a basic attitude. Conflict actors still seem to think that before negotiations can begin, it is important to get the best possible starting point on the ground. It thinks they will strengthen them at the negotiating table.
7: Collapse in Vulnerable States
It may seem like a recipe for armed conflict when a state is no longer able to enforce law and order in its own territory, or when the rulers have completely lost the trust of the population. It may be a minority group that has for a long time felt neglected by the ruling party, or a head of state has decided not to comply with a clear election defeat or set aside a constitution to question its own power. If persistent undemocratic practices go hand in hand with inadequate economic development and even recessions with austerity, it could bring a state to the brink of state collapse. There is often talk of a failed state. Then it will take little before the cup overflows for people who only see hopelessness and / or too hard-pressed rulers with small funds and unstable state institutions.
The Fund for Peace has for many years published an index – the Fragile States Index . There, states are measured and ranked according to how they are placed on a number of indicators in many areas of society:
- Social indicators: population pressure, refugees, conflict between groups, brain drain
- Economic indicators: economic inequality and poverty / economic downturn
- Political and military indicators: state legitimacy, public services, human rights, rule of law, security, non-cooperating elites, outside involvement
The higher the score a country has received, the more vulnerable and vulnerable the country is to open conflict – if not everything is at war.
Severe and increasing drought in the Sahel belt , together with extensive violence by the terrorist organization Boko Haram, has brought almost all the states in this area – Nigeria and neighboring countries – high up on the annual index for vulnerable states. This does not bode well for the conflict picture in 2016.