Report: Record Spike in International Violence Points to Chronic 'Conflict Syndrome'
Peace and Conflict 2008 is a biennial report produced by the University of Maryland Center for International Development and Conflict Management, Six years after 9/11, the level of international conflict is rising precipitously, with more countries involved in conflict than at any time since World War II, according to a new report from the University of Maryland.
The report says the rise in conflict -- a sharp spike beginning in 2005 (latest data available) -- may be a symptom of a dangerous "chronic syndrome" that resists treatment. The findings represent a reversal from a situation of unprecedented post-World War II peace reported in 2001.
Peace and Conflict 2008, a biennial report produced by the University of Maryland Center for International Development and Conflict Management, uses more than 100 statistical measures to assess the relative state of peace and conflict in each of the world's nations.
"Policy interventions that disregard the connections among symptoms invite a costly and perpetual game of Whac-a-Mole," says Jonathan Wilkenfeld, one of the report's lead authors and director of the University of Maryland Center for International Development and Conflict Management. "This syndrome, this merging of dangerous trends, presents policy-makers with a series of potential trap doors, but no clearly marked exits. What we see emerging is the potential for a generational conflict that will differ from the Cold War, but could well be as enduring and as destabilizing."
Among the report's main findings:
- CONFLICT SPIKE: More of the world's nations (one-third) are currently involved in conflict than at any other time in the past six decades; the historic low of 19 ongoing armed conflicts in 2004 was followed by an increase to 25 in 2005 (the latest data available); this represented an unprecedented one-year spike in inter-state violence attributable to a resurgence of previously settled or quieted conflicts;
- CIVILIAN DEATHS: Current conflicts represent a growing threat to civilians; the lethality of conflicts has risen for civilians but declined for armed forces;
- MIDDLE EAST DEMOCRACY: Democratization in the Middle East has led to increases in both conventional politics and terrorism;
- TERRORISM: Most of the 112 organizations representing minorities in the Middle East did not engage in terrorism during the years 1980 through 2004 (most recent data);
AT-RISK NATIONS: 25 countries are ranked at the highest risk for instability and conflict: 19 in Africa, two in the Middle East (Iraq and Lebanon), three in Asia (Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh, with Cambodia just below the threshold) and one in the Americas (Haiti, with Brazil and Bolivia not far behind);
- AUTOCRACY: A growing number of regimes (49 in 2005) were edging into autocracy, though democracy remains the norm internationally;
- INCREASED PEACEKEEPING: The number of active peacekeeping operations is more than double the number at any point during the Cold War;
- UN EFFECTIVENESS: UN peace-keeping forces were far more effective than critics allege -- about equally successful when compared to regional peacekeeping operations;
- FAILING STATES: State failure is not a local concern; the repercussions extend across the international community, as failing nations are more likely to be drawn into international crises.