Please see below selected recent conflict-related change.
- Many people probably experience anger much more frequently than they might admit. But if anger can risk becoming something quite dangerous, how can we manage or harness it into something positive? In a Psyche guide, professor of psychology Ryan Martin explained how our feelings of anger can become an energising force in confronting problems and the tools we'd need to do so.
- US officials became increasingly alarmed about a new type of killing machines called "hypersonic weapons". US General, Mark Milley, said that China's successful test of an advanced hypersonic weapon earlier this year was "very close" to a "Sputnik moment" – referring to the Soviet Union's surprise launch of the world's first artificial satellite in 1957, which raised fears that the US was lagging behind a formidable technological rival. Hypersonic weapons can easily evade missile defence systems, because they travel at five times the speed of sound, their flight patterns are unpredictable, and their low altitudes make them harder to detect.
- Water scarcity affects 40% of the world’s population, and BBC Future predicted the scale of conflicts will grow as demand does.
- HBR noted that conflict at work comes in many forms. Good conflict, the kind that is healthy, pushes us to be better as people and communities. Most organisations need more good conflict, not less. But sometimes, conflict can become malignant. It hijacks precious time, trust, and energy, turning allies against each other and distorting reality. This is what’s known as “high conflict,” the kind that takes on a life of its own, and eventually, leaves almost everyone worse off.
- A UN report claimed that military drones autonomously attacked human soldiers for the first time ever in 2020. In March 2020, soldiers fighting the civil war in Libya deployed Turkish-made Kargu-2 drones after coming under attack. The drones hunted down and engaged soldiers on the opposing side, and were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition.
- The School of Life warns that, in order to be able to defend oneself against an external foe, one has to be on one’s own side. And this is not - for some of us - as easy as it sounds. Without us necessarily even quite realising the fact, our entire personalities may be geared towards interpreting ourselves as bad, wrong, a mistake, and shameful. A first step towards dealing with an external enemy is realising that our personalities are built up in such a way that we’re going to have a big problem on our hands whenever we face opposition. We should expect to find this hard and we do. We therefore need to call for help, extend a lot of compassion to ourselves and devote all the critical care we’re going to need to get through the crisis. We then need to take on board that - unfortunately - the real enemy we’re harbouring is not so much currently outside of us (though they are there too) as inside of us.
- The next generation of drones will be too fast for human soldiers to cope with, according to a US general. General John Murray, head of Army Futures Command, told an audience that rules against AI soldiers may need to be relaxed in order to deal with the threat, noted New World, Same Humans.
- As the coronavirus pandemic curbed job opportunities for young professionals, applications to join the military soared around the world, while US service members enlisted for longer, reported The Wall Street Journal. In 2020, the UK hit its annual recruitment target for the first time in seven years. The likely reason? The pandemic ravaged the job market for young workers, making the military look like a stable and attractive employer in which to ride out the crisis.
- Chatham House explored crucial questions about modern conflict in a COVID-affected world through the lens of International Crisis Group’s annual report 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021. It examined what lessons in cooperation and coordination should the international community draw from the past year, asked whether, given technological advances in warfare capabilities, will conflict transcend into unconventional battlegrounds, and studied the key challenges for global security and democratic governance.
- According to new research from Yale University, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, disagreeing with someone takes up a lot of brain real estate, while finding a compatriot is a much less cognitively taxing endeavour. For this study, researchers gathered 38 adults to ask their feelings on contentious topics like same-sex marriage and cannabis legalization. They then matched each volunteer with people who either agreed or disagreed. Every subject had their brain scanned with functional near-infrared spectroscopy during these face-to-face discussions, during which time they were given a total of 90 seconds to discuss a topic in 15-second increments. Harmonious synchronisation of brain states occurred when volunteers agreed, similar to group flow.
- Weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, Elizabeth Barajas-Román, president and CEO of the Women’s Funding Network, was alarmed to learn that incidents of intimate partner violence were increasing in countries around the globe. Approaches that support organisations had previously relied on to reach people in abusive relationships, like running a hotline or providing safety planning in the workplace, were proving difficult to implement while people were stuck at home, often in close quarters with the person perpetrating violence. Barajas-Román wondered: how could survivors reach out and get the help they need in a safe way? The solution she landed on was Signal for Help, a simple hand gesture that people experiencing abuse could silently use during video calls to tell friends or loved ones that they’re in trouble.
- Evidence emerged of a significant fall in the number of civilians harmed in conflicts around the world during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data collected by the research charity, Action on Armed Violence, showed a 58% decrease in the number of civilians killed and injured by explosives between April and July 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. There’s been a drop in reported violent events in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. In Syria, the number of civilians killed or injured fell by 78%. Libya is one of the few countries to have seen a rise in civilian harm in recent months, with 479 civilians being killed or injured over the four-month period in 2020, compared with 431 in 2019. The director of Action on Armed Violence said the global response to the pandemic appeared to “stay the hand” of militaries and extremist groups.
- July 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the world's first nuclear bomb test in the New Mexico desert. "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the US-led Manhattan Project, said soon after the successful detonation in Los Alamos. Less than a month later, the US dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing an end to World War II.
- The editor of China’s state-controlled Global Times tweeted that China was “fully capable of destroying all Taiwan’s military installations within a few hours”. President Xi Jinping is set on what he calls reunification, “by all necessary means”, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile the Rand Corporation has produced a report for the Pentagon urging it to prepare for an “ascendant” China “able to contest all domains of conflict across the broad swathe of the [Indo-Pacific] region by the mid-2030s” and Foreign Affairs published a warning that China’s “civil-military fusion” (43 military-controlled universities, a dozen state-run think tanks, six quasi-private venture capital firms investing in dual-use tech, reported Tortoise Media.
- Mexico recorded 11,000 disappearances in 2019-20, bringing the country's total number of disappeared people to 73,000 since the government declared "war" on criminal groups in 2006. Mexican president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 pledging to tackle a long-standing violence epidemic fueled by drug cartels and gangs, but killings and crime have surged under his watch.
- Countries around the world spent a total of $1.9 trillion on weapons in 2019, the highest mark on record for SIPRI, an arms watchdog. The US, which accounted for nearly 40% of that, spends more than the next nine countries combined.
- Further reading:
- More than half of young adults surveyed by the Red Cross think a nuclear attack will happen in the next 10 years.
- The increasingly urbanised nature of conflicts means that siege warfare is likely to become increasingly prevalent. The tragic effects of this are being seen in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. In a briefing, Chatham House explained how international humanitarian law applies to sieges.
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- Deaths from terrorism fell globally for the fourth consecutive year in 2019, decreasing by 52% since 2014, according to the Global Terrorism Index.
- A national effort in Colombia to remove improvised explosives resulted in 391 municipalities now being declared mine-free. More than 700 of Colombia's 1,122 municipalities once had landmines, the result of a decades-long armed conflict between leftist guerillas, criminal factions, paramilitary groups, and the government.
- For a time, deaths from armed conflict fell around the world, but now, driven by the complex interaction of global power politics and local ideologies, the world is seeing its bloodiest years since the 1980s, leading to evolving ideas abut the possible future of war.
- Contrary to popular belief, war is not declining, according to analysis of the last 200 years of international conflict. In fact, the belief that war is disappearing has lulled us into a false sense of security, according to a professor of political science at The Ohio State University, whose book, Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Age, warns that we really don't get how big a threat war is, and that the process of escalation that led to two world wars in the last century are still there.
- Violence and corruption have ruined Afghanistan's economy and the country was by 2019 the most dangerous in the world. Warlords and criminal networks have squandered foreign aid intended to stimulate businesses and jobs. For the first time, unemployment for youth has topped 40, according to Gallup. As more people struggle to get by day-to-day — 90% of Afghans recorded experiencing financial hardship, the highest in the world - a destructive cycle of poverty and violence has become a key part of the Afghan experience.
- Ongoing violence in Syria has displaced 13 million Syrians, according to a UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
- The US tested a new medium-range cruise missile that flew more than 300 miles. This marked the first time the US has tested a weapon that would have violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War era pact that was officially abandoned three weeks ago, sparking fears of a new global arms race.
- Worldwide terrorist attacks fell by 33% in 2018 compared with 2017, to the lowest level since 2011, according to Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (JTIC) Global Attack Index.
- With more protracted and urbanised conflicts, the character of warfare is changing in a manner that is having a greater impact on children. Aside from physical harm, they face the trauma of family separation and displacement, are vulnerable to sexual abuse and recruitment as soldiers and suffer severe disruption to their education.
- Future Today Institute (FTI) believes that the future of our global security will depend on code, not combat. Using AI techniques, a military can “win” by destabilising an economy rather than demolishing countrysides and city centres. Countries, interest groups or independent actors could manipulate technology in order to inflict strategic pain points, to manufacture chaos and to cripple markets or companies.
- The School of Life believes there are many reasons to believe that one of the dominant problems in the world today is an excess of anger. We know about the shouty and their tantrums, their lack of reason, their unwillingness to compromise. Furthermore, it threatens to get a lot worse; we seem locked into a set of dynamics (political, technological, environmental) which promises an ever less patient, ever less serene and ever less forgiving future. But it may be rather more realistic, albeit odd sounding, to insist on the very opposite: that whatever the impression generated by a public and vocal angry cohort, the far more common yet (by nature) invisible problem is a contrary tendency, a widespread inability to get angry, a failure to know how rightly and effectively to mount a complaint, an inarticulate swallowing of frustration and the bitterness, subterranean ‘acting out’ and low-level depression that follow from not allowing any of our rightful sorrows to find expression.
- Further reading:
- A New York Times report claimed in 2019 that more than 128,000 people have disappeared into Syria's government prison system, where torture, rape, and summary executions are rampant, since the start of the civil war in 2011. Some 14,000 people are believed to have been tortured to death, with one officer proudly calling himself "Hitler".
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- Over the first two months of 2019, the murder rate in Brazil dropped by 25% compared with the same period last year.
- However, since the turn of this century, more than 2.5 million people have been killed in the homicide crisis gripping Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Igarapé Institute, a research group that tracks violence worldwide. The region accounts for just 8 percent of the global population, yet 38 percent of the world’s murders. It has 17 of the 20 deadliest nations on earth.And in just seven Latin American countries — Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela - violence has killed more people than the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen combined, according to the New York Times.
- Underpinning nearly every killing is a climate of impunity that, in some countries, leaves more than 95 percent of homicides unsolved. And the state is a guarantor of the phenomenon - governments hollowed out by corruption are either incapable or unwilling to apply the rule of law, enabling criminal networks to dictate the lives of millions.
- China launched almost 400,000 metric tons of new warships, submarines, support ships, and other naval vessels between 2015 and 2017, according to data compiled by the International Institute for Strategic Studies – about twice the output of US shipyards over the same period. China has the world's fastest growing navy.
- In 2018, violence in Afghanistan killed 3,804 civilians, according to a new report from the United Nations, the highest annual total on record. Rebel groups like the Taliban and Islamic State were responsible for two-thirds of the total. Fighting has escalated even as peace talks gradually move forward.
- Chatham House warned that many people in humanitarian crises suffer and die from chronic diseases, which now account for 7 in 10 of all deaths worldwide. Conflicts contaminate the air and water, reduce access to nutritious food and create stressful living conditions. This makes people sicker and more susceptible to chronic illness. At the same time, health workers flee, hospitals are targeted and there are medication shortages.
- Between 2012 and 2017, Russia's weapon sales in Africa doubled, and it ships more arms there than China and the US combined, reported GZEROMedia.
- There were zero attempted coups d’état in the world in 2018, just the second year without a coup attempt in the past 70 years. (The other was 2007, noted GZEROMedia.)
- Civilian gun ownership increased by 32 percent globally in the decade through 2017, rising to a total of 857.3 million guns, according to the Small Arms Survey research project. Firearm possession has increased steadily in Europe, in part in response to heightened perceptions of insecurity, though European gun-wielding still lags behind the global average. noted GZEROMedia. The UN estimates there are up to 18 million guns in Libya, a country of 6.5 million people.
- Military operations are taking place with increasing frequency in densely populated areas. Such operations result in loss of life and harm to civilians, as well as damage to civilian objects. In order to protect civilians, it is imperative that armed forces and groups comply with the rules of international humanitarian law on the conduct of hostilities, including the rule of proportionality, which prohibits attacks which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof. Chatham House analysed the key steps that belligerents must take to give effect to the rule, with a particular focus on the expected incidental harm.
- Chatham House examined the International Crisis Group’s Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2019, and asked what common trends and themes connect some of the challenges to international security, what are the overarching regional and geopolitical rivalries driving conflict and what implications for international security will the Trump administration’s America First policy have for a rules-based international order, especially considering Russia and China’s increasingly assertive foreign policies?
- The Atlantic warned that the origins of future wars are already here, being laid in policies and ambitions, rivalries and resources, greed and grievances. The technologies that will be used to dominate and destroy are already in use or development. They will bring more conflict to cities, where casualties will multiply, along with chaos and fear. War is always bad, but it’s going to become much worse.In the present, war’s terror arrives more silently. Soon, the missiles raining down will be hypersonic, traveling in excess of five times the speed of sound, and evading detection and interception in the process.
- The Financial Times also believes that the war of the future will look completely different to conventional ideas of battle. Jammers could block satellites that militaries depend on for intelligence and navigation. Cyber warfare could target electricity grids, water networks, financial systems, hospitals and the families of military commanders. As attacks on infrastructure become more likely, scientists hope that quantum computing will offer the best chance of defence; in the nearer term, quantum navigation could relieve militaries of reliance on GPS satellites and space.
- Some developed countries now have their own information warfare capability, the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group. Many governments seem willing to weaponise information, warned Exponential View. This poses a risk to international stability and trust on the internet, and societies should prepare for the age of information warfare. A recent example was how the gilets jaunes protests in France in late 2018 were amplified as Facebook promoted local news on its platform.
- Since 2000, fewer than 100,000 people have died in conflicts worldwide per year. That is about one-sixth the rate observed between 1950 and 2000, and one-fiftieth the rate between 1900 and 1950, the period that included both world wars.
- According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, 254 armed conflicts have been fought since 1946 of which 114 are classed as wars (defined as more than one thousand battle-related deaths per annum). Since the end of the Cold War, the numbers of armed conflicts have dropped dramatically. Of the 33 armed conflicts listed in 2013, only seven were classed as wars – a 50 per cent reduction since 1989. However, in How to Prevent the Third World War, Chatham House reminded us that we are faced with stark reminders of the fragility of our international system when it comes to the prevention of conflict and war.
- Researchers created an artificial society to investigate religious conflict. The model found that two xenophobic groups that are in regular contact create “periods of mutually escalating anxiety”. In practice, such a policy would create moral concerns about separating and confining groups based on identity, as well as whether dividing groups based on religion should be a goal in any society, noted Quartz.
- Nearly 30 percent of anti-Semitic attacks on Twitter are being generated by automated bots, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Evidence suggest bots are increasingly responsible for driving divisive online conversation. The individuals behind the bots remain unknown.
- Foreign contractors prolong wars, warned Quartz. Intended to save money and boost local economies, contractors make wars more expensive, less democratic, and more dangerous.
- Turkish President Erdogan argued that the ongoing instability in the Middle East is a product of the flawed peace brokered after WWI, in which Western powers carved up the region in unsustainable ways. The lesson Erdogan draws from World War I: the West must stop interfering in Turkey and the Middle East, reported GZEROMedia.
- Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi commemorated the sacrifice of his countrymen in a “conflict in which India was not directly involved.” His statement and participation in the celebrations in Paris were for GZEROMedia a reminder of the many non-Europeans – including soldiers from 70 nations that had not yet gained independence – who gave their lives in a conflict from which they had little to gain.
- A study reported by The Economist found that US Thanksgiving dinners in 2016 that were more likely to include a mix of Trump and Clinton voters were between 20 and 50 minutes shorter than dinners that were more likely to have been purely partisan gatherings. Since then, the discomfort of cross-party dialogue has only grown.
- Further reading:
- NATO was set to launch the combat phase of its biggest military war game in decades, an exercise that will involve 50,000 personnel, 10,000 vehicles, 250 aircraft, and 65 ships. Thirty-one countries, the 29 NATO members, plus Finland and Sweden, would take part.
- The physical effects of conflict can last for generations: the demilitarised zone that stretches for 155 miles along the 38th parallel between North and South Korea is estimated to hold up to 2 million landmines. Teams from the two countries began their first joint-clearance operation in more than a decade,
- Mental effect, such as the stress of conflict, can also last for generations, warned Quartz. Data from the US civil war suggests trauma can be can be inherited by the offspring of prisoners of war.
- The last 100 years have been marked by diplomatic breakthroughs in a number of seemingly intractable conflicts, noted Chatham House: the Cold War came to an end, systems of apartheid were dismantled in South Africa and a peace process was set in motion in Northern Ireland. Yet new conflicts continue to arise while old ones persist and global leaders today are still confronted with finding resolutions to equally complex and sensitive diplomatic challenges.
- More than 17,000 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the civil war began there in 2015.
- Russia and China began the Vostok-2018 joint military exercises in eastern Siberia, the largest war games in decades. The exercise included 300,000 Russian troops - one third of the country’s armed forces.
- Further reading:
- WW1 killed roughly 16 million people. WW2 around 55 million. But while the global population rose from 3 to 7 billion between 1960 and 2010, the number of war related deaths fell to 180,000 per year during the Cold war, 100,000 per year during the 1990s and 55,000 per year between 2000 and 2010, noted The Economist.
- The number of deaths caused by terrorist attacks worldwide has declined in recent years, according to reports compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, reported GZEROMedia. In 2017, terrorism-related deaths fell nearly 25% compared with the previous year. And since 2014, the global numbers have fallen a full 64%.
- Since 2000, annual defence spending by countries in Asia Pacific has more than doubled to $450 billion today, led by China who will spend more than $200 billion on defence this year. But that still pales in comparison with the US, which recently passed a $717 billion defence spending bill into law for 2019, noted GZEROMedia.
- Governance, peace and security challenges are often at the heart of violence-induced displacement in Africa. The African Peace & Security Architectureand the African Governance Architecture are two key instruments that the AU uses to tackle this issue on the continent, but how effective are these instruments in addressing violence-induced displacement and what can be improved, asked the ECDPM.
- The United States signed foreign arms deals worth $46.9 billion during the first half of the fiscal year. That already exceeds the $41.9 billion in weapons deals agreed to during all of fiscal 2017.
- US special operations forces have carried out missions in 133 countries so far this year. America’s shadow wars continue to expand with little transparency or oversight from elected officials, warned GZEROMedia.
- The Future of Information Warfare report from CB Insights covers malware, from fake media, to computational propaganda, weaponised memes and more.
Is it possible that morals, religions and ideologies, rather than causing violence, actually help in limiting warfare by facilitating humans to build larger social groups. All too often ideas and values are used to justify or interpret warfare but perhaps it is subconscious desires, shaped by millions of years of evolution, that drive people to fight and, what is more, enjoy doing so. What might this mean for traditional conflict avoidance, counterterrorism and conflict resolution policies, asked Chatham House?
International partners face increasingly complex and intractable conflicts, which pose huge policy challenges. As conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya rage on, posing huge challenges for the international community, is it time to rethink its approach to reducing conflict and building peace, asked Chatham House?
In almost every one of 27 countries recently polled by IPSOS for the BBC, people said that their countries have grown more divided over the past decade and it looked at what people said was the most polarising issue in their country.
- Our World in Data analysed conflicts in which at least one party was the government of a state and which generated more than 25 battle-related deaths are included. The data refer to direct violent deaths. Deaths due to disease or famine caused by conflict are excluded. Extra-judicial killings in custody are also excluded.
- Latin America suffered 38 percent of the world’s criminal homicides last year, despite accounting for just 8 percent of the world’s population. Rapid urbanisation, corruption, drug trafficking, and a huge influx of US guns all contribute.
- Every minute eight people flee to escape conflict and persecution, according to the UN.
- It will be political conflict - not economics - that drives markets in 2018 and beyond - Ray Dalio quoted in Financial Times
- Financier Ray Dalio warned in 2018 that the proportion of the vote captured by populist candidates had risen from about 7 per cent in 2010 to 35 per cent in 2017. This swing has apparently only ever happened once before, in the 1930s, just before the second world war.
- Violence has been in decline over long stretches of time and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence - Steven Pinker
- Archaeological studies show that societies in the past were very violent. Often more than 10% of deaths were the result of one person killing another. Ethnographic evidence also confirms that violence is very common in nonstate societies and drastically higher than in modern state societies.
- Why is violence declining? One important change may be improving literacy, while countries with higher educational attainment in the past are more likely to have democratic - and generally therefore peaceful - political regimes today.
- As the Theory of Democratic Peace predicts, there has been a corresponding decline of war deaths.
- Start the Week discussed how World War II still grips the public imagination, arguing that no other period in history has presented greater dilemmas for both leaders and ordinary people.