The independent resource on global security

2. Armed conflicts and peace processes

Contents

Overview, Ian Davis

I. Tracking armed conflicts and peace processes in 2017, Ian Davis

II. Armed conflict in the Americas, Marina Caparini and José Alvarado

III. Armed conflict in Asia and Oceania, Ian Davis, Richard Ghiasy and Fei Su

IV. Armed conflict in Europe, Ian Davis and Ian Anthony

V. Armed conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, Ian Davis

VI. Armed conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, Ian Davis, Florian Krampe and Neil Melvin

In contrast to historical patterns, contemporary armed conflicts tend to be concentrated in urban areas and affect more civilians in terms of casualties than the military. In the first 11 months of 2017 at least 15 399 civilians were killed by explosive weapons, the vast majority in cities, which is an increase of 42 per cent compared with 2016. The number of forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2016 was 65.6 million, and it seems likely that these record numbers continued into 2017, especially in light of a new displacement crisis in Myanmar and protracted displacement crises in many other places, including Afghanistan, Central America, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Armed conflicts also contributed to increased food insecurity in 2017, with seven countries recording crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in at least a quarter of their people: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Lebanon, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

 

The Americas

In the Americas, there were positive signs that the ongoing peace process in Colombia might soon bring the only active armed conflict in the western hemisphere to a close. However, in several countries in Central and South America (including El Salvador, Mexico and Paraguay) the levels of political and criminal violence remained high. Cities in the Americas are some of the world’s most dangerous, and there is an escalating crisis of forced displacement especially from northern Central America.

 

Asia and Oceania

Five countries in Asia and Oceania were involved in active armed conflicts in 2017: Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Pakistan and the Philippines. In Myanmar, the forced displacement of the Rohingya caused spillover effects in Bangladesh, while in other places such as the Philippines, state security forces committed widespread violence with impunity. In Afghanistan and the Philippines, the Islamic State (IS) is a growing threat, while other parts of Asia and Oceania continued to be affected by instability from a variety of causes. Most notably, tensions are rising in North East Asia, which is one of the world’s most militarized regions, chiefly due to the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes of North Korea. On a more positive note, ongoing peace processes in Nepal and Sri Lanka contributed to growing stability in those two countries. 

 

Europe

Two armed conflicts were active in Europe in 2017: in Nagorno-Karabakh (involving Armenia and Azerbaijan) and in Ukraine. Some unresolved conflicts, although inactive, seemed as intractable as ever: Cyprus, Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), Moldova (Trans-Dniester) and Kosovo. In the background, tensions remained heightened between Russia and members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the West in general, and there were allegations of Russian interference in Western domestic politics. European states also continued to prioritize combating terrorism.

 

The Middle East and North Africa

There were seven active armed conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa in 2017: in Egypt, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Libya, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. Many of these conflicts are interconnected and involve regional and international powers as well as numerous substate actors. Key regional developments included the continuing fallout from the Arab Spring, the regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the territorial losses of IS. 

Egypt is facing its worst human rights situation in decades and open civil war in the Sinai. Iraq has the daunting task of reconstruction in the areas once held by IS—especially in Mosul, which suffered widespread destruction—and achieving genuine political reconciliation between and within the Shia, Kurdish and Sunni communities. The complex war in Syria involving regional and international powers has led to the displacement of half the population—over 5.4 million refugees and over 6.1 million internally displaced persons—and 6.5 million people with acute food insecurity and a further 4 million at risk of the same. Neither the United Nations-mediated peace talks nor the parallel Astana negotiations made much progress. In Yemen, the Saudi Arabian-led coalition maintained its partial blockade of Houthi-controlled territories with devastating humanitarian consequences: at least 17 million people, or 60 per cent of the population, faced acute food insecurity.

 

Sub-Saharan Africa

There were seven active armed conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa in 2017: in Mali, Nigeria, the CAR, the DRC, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan. A number of other countries experienced post-war conflict and tension or were flashpoints for potential armed conflict, including Burundi, Cameroon, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Two broad developments can be identified in sub-Saharan Africa. First, many conflicts overlap across states and regions as a result of transnational activities of violent Islamist groups, other armed groups and criminal networks. In many countries, and especially those in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions, these overlapping conflicts are linked to extreme poverty, instability, economic fragility and low resilience—situations that are further exacerbated by climate change, corruption, inadequate economic policies and mismanagement. Second, there appears to be a growing internationalization of counterterrorism activities in Africa, led primarily by two external state actors: France and the United States. 

English