The independent resource on global security

2. Major armed conflicts



I. Introduction

II. Conflicts that escalated in 2002

III. Conflicts on the way towards settlement in 2002

IV. Conclusions


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Eight of the 21 major armed conflicts ongoing in 2002 have been selected—Chechnya (Russia), Colombia, Israel–Palestinians, Nepal, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Sudan—to allow for a more thorough and analytical discussion. The first four conflicts, which intensified substantially during 2002, underlined the continuous evolution in the methods of war fighting. The latter four are cases of conflict that came close to achieving a resolution in 2002.


This was the first full year in which the effects of the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA could be properly assessed and, although no definite conclusions can be drawn at this time, there is evidence that they have had a direct impact on most of the conflicts examined. In Africa, the USA, concerned by possible links between cells of the al-Qaeda network and Islamic fundamentalist organizations in the region, paid a greater level of attention to developments in the conflicts in Sudan and Somalia. This resulted in the application of considerable pressure on the warring parties in both conflicts to come to a negotiated settlement. By the end of 2002, there were prospects for resolutions to both conflicts.


External influences, such as diplomatic pressure or promises of military, foreign, and humanitarian aid, played a large role in changing the dynamics in both groups of conflicts. War-weariness, financial disincentives arising from the fighting and some internal pressure were also important reasons for the parties involved in the Sri Lankan and the Sudanese conflicts to agree to negotiations.



Appendix 2A. Patterns of major armed conflicts, 1990–2002


In 2002, there were 21 major armed conflicts in 19 locations throughout the world. The number of major armed conflicts and the number of conflict locations in 2002 were lower than in 2001, when there were 24 major armed conflicts in 22 locations. The conflict between India and Pakistan continued to be the only active inter-state conflict. The vast majority of the conflicts in 2002 occurred in Africa and in Asia. In the 13-year post-cold war period, there were 58 different major armed conflicts in 46 different locations. The number of major armed conflicts in 2002 was the lowest since 1998.

Full text Appendix 2A [PDF].



Appendix 2B. Definitions, sources and methods for the conflict data


Full text Appendix 2B [PDF].


Sharon Wiharta (Indonesia) is a Research Associate on the SIPRI Projects Conflicts and Peace Enforcement, and Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. Prior to joining SIPRI, she worked at the Center for International Affairs at the University of Washington in Seattle. She contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook in 2002.


Dr Ian Anthony (United Kingdom) is SIPRI Research Coordinator and the Leader of the SIPRI Internet Database on European Export Controls Project. In 1992–98 he was Leader of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Project. His most recent publication for SIPRI is A Future Arms Control Agenda: Proceedings of Nobel Symposium 118, 1999 (2001), for which he is co-editor (with Adam Daniel Rotfeld). He is also editor of the SIPRI volumes Russia and the Arms Trade (1998), Arms Export Regulations (1991) and SIPRI Research Report no. 7, The Future of Defence Industries in Central and Eastern Europe (1994), and author of The Naval Arms Trade (SIPRI, 1990) and The Arms Trade and Medium Powers: Case Studies of India and Pakistan 1947–90 (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992). He has written or co-authored chapters for the SIPRI Yearbook since 1988.


Mikael Eriksson (Sweden) is a Research Assistant on the Uppsala Conflict Data Project at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University. He is currently working on the Uppsala Conflict Data Project and the Stockholm Process on the Implementation of Targeted Sanctions.


Margareta Sollenberg (Sweden) is a Research Assistant on the Uppsala Conflict Data Project at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University. She has been editor of States in Armed Conflict since 1994 and has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since 1995.


Professor Peter Wallensteen (Sweden) has held the Dag Hammarskjöld Chair in Peace and Conflict Research since 1985 and was Head of the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University in 1972–99. He has most recently published Understanding Conflict Resolution: War, Peace and the Global System (SAGE, 2002) and Conflict Prevention through Development Co-operation (Uppsala, 2001). He has co-authored chapters in the SIPRI Yearbook since 1988.

Sharon Wiharta and Dr Ian Anthony