The number of deaths due to armed conflicts is on the rise, and geopolitical violence hasn’t been this bad in decades according to a new report.
In an expansive, 70-page note on the geopolitical outlook and its impacts, Tina Fordham and her team at Citi noted 2014 was the most violent year globally in two decades.
“Due to the escalation of several conflicts and the extreme violence in Syria, the number of battle-related deaths in 2014 was the highest during the post-Cold War period,” said the note. “When looking at deaths from organised violence (including state- based conflict, conflict between non-state actors and one-sided killings of civilians), 2014 saw around 126,000 fatalities. By comparison, the death count in organised violence had not exceeded 100,000 since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.”
Fordham said that the number of death also coincides with a steady increase in armed conflicts. In 2014 there were 40 recorded armed conflicts in 27 locations, up from 34 the year before based on the most recent data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program.
“This is the third consecutive year in which the number of conflicts recorded has risen and is the highest number of conflicts reported since 1999.” said the note. “Although the number of conflicts is lower than during the immediate post-Cold War period, it points to an upward trend in the number of armed conflicts in the past 10 years.”
Fordham and her team noted that a possible reason behind the increase in deaths is the type of conflicts taking place. Instead of wars between nation-states, more than 50% of current conflicts are based on extremist ideologies.
“A further consequence of the growth of extremist-fuelled conflicts is that they are more difficult to resolve, a feature which adds to our concern about the capacity of diplomacy to reduce these new, higher levels of conflict,” said the note.
This is especially relevant in Syria, Fordham noted, as ISIS is a perfect example of an extremist group, or “non-state actors who lack a seat at the negotiating table”, that prevent conventional diplomacy from succeeded.
Fordham and her team also highlighted International Crisis Group’s “Top Conflicts to Watch” for 2016. They said the list was compiled “according to humanitarian impact” and that 50% of them involved extremist groups:
- Syria and Iraq
- Turkey-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)
- Lake Chad basin – Nigeria
- South Sudan
- South China Sea
These conflicts, and many others, are driving up instability in the world, concluded Fordham, and underlie a worrying trend in the destabilization of the geopolitical situation.
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