The President of the International Crisis Group (ICG), Jean-Marie Guéhenno, has recently published ’10 Wars to Watch in 2015′ – the organisation’s annual look at likely crises in the coming year – in Foreign Policy, available at this link and available on the ICG website here. The 10 conflicts and crises identified as likely to be the most dangerous in 2015 are:
- Syria, Iraq, and the Islamic State
- South Sudan
- Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- Libya and the Sahel
The Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) has also recently published the results of a public opinion survey conducted in the US on conflicts that could erupt or escalate in the coming year: the report and an overview can be accessed here and an interactive guide to US conflict prevention priorities can be accessed here.
At the start of the SCID Course, when considering conflict prevention and the causes of conflict, students are asked to identify place where they think conflict may arise or escalate in the next 12 months – these predictions are returned to later in the course. Reflecting on recent conflicts and conflict predictions can help in the analysis of conflict trends and dynamics, as well as present potential conflict prevention and peacebuilding opportunities. As Guéhenno concludes his reflection of the conflicts in 2014 and predictions for 2015:
The picture that emerges from this survey of conflicts is grim. There is, however, one glimmer of hope — the increasing fragmentation of the world also means that there is no overarching divide. Even if the deepening crisis between Russia and the West is unsettling Europe, the last remnants of the Cold War are disappearing as Cuba and the United States normalize their relations. Many conflicts can now be dealt with on their own merits, and the growing role of regional powers — while adding complexity and, in some cases, new antagonisms — also creates opportunities for more creative diplomacy.
This is no time for the “old powers” to retrench, but they do have to acknowledge that successful peacemaking in 2015 will depend on working with a much broader array of countries than they have in the past (Guéhenno, 2014: n.p.).
Despite the availability in the public domain of many such predictions and tools to help analyse where conflict might erupt or escalate, there is often surprise at the outbreak of new conflicts and crises. Similarly, despite the many tools that do exist to help determine where conflict, violence or insecurity may erupt or escalate, conflict prevention rarely appears to be a priority – in spite of the obvious human and financial benefits of preventing conflict. Some of the tools and resources are linked to in the SCID Course materials and copied below. There are many insightful reflections on the causes of conflict and conflict prevention in the SCID discussion boards – the value of them often lies in their specificity and being informed by in-depth experience in and understanding of a particular region or place. As those engaged in peacebuilding begin to increasingly value the role of local communities in building peace, at least in theory, a community-based bottom-up approach to conflict prevention might also be worth considering (utilising existing local peace committees e.g.) – informed by but not limited to some of the predominantly quantitative data contained in the resources listed below.
- Heidelberg Institute’s Annual ‘Conflict Barometer’ – available here.
- Vision of Humanity’s ‘Global Peace Index’ – available here.
- The World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators – available here.
- The Fund for Peace’s Fragile States Index – available here.
- The UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) – available here.
- The biennial publication of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM) of the University of Maryland, ‘Peace and Conflict’ – available here.
- The Minorities at Risk (MAR) project at the University of Maryland’s CIDCM – available here.
- Datasets of the Uppsala Conflict Data Project (UCDP) of the Department of Peace and Conflict Research of Uppsala University, Sweden – available here.
- Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) Facts on International Relations and Security Trends (FIRST) system – available here.
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Country Risk Classification – available here.
- The Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) Human Rights Dataset – available here.
- The University of North Carolina’s Political Terror Scale – available here.
- The International Crisis Group’s (ICG) monthly ‘Crisis Watch’ – available here. You can also access an interactive conflict risk alert map (below) –
I look forward to continue discussing the way in which conflict can be prevented from breaking out and escalating. Eleanor
Thank you for a very interesting topic. I believe predicting conflict is not an easy task, especially that preventive tools such as early prevention is not yet a priority, and due to the lack of cooperation between international, regional and national agencies. We are all aware of what happened in paris last week and the brutal attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine and the attacks that followed, however, and what i consider as a bad sign, is the public response on those attacks, such as anti-islam protests in different areas around Europe. Such response is more than enough to activate ‘inactive terrorist cells’ in that region, which can result in more terrorist acts. What i mean is whats going on in Europe at the moment can be in some measures addressed as a conflict. I would really like to hear your response.
Hi Wissam, thank you very much for your comment. You make a very good point. The conflict risk factors and conflict prevention tools previously listed often overlook factors within the wider international community and responses to perceived threats to peace, instead focussing (and placing responsibility) on the conflict-affected or conflict-vulnerable state and sometimes its regional neighbours.
Responses to security threats can also exacerbate or reignite conflict. More broadly, those engaged in formal efforts to fight terrorism, build peace or respond to risks/threats can also have a role in activities which terrorise or undermine peace, which is often overlooked. Your point also highlights the fact that it is often hard to distinguish between the causes and consequences of conflict (as well as triggers, catalysts and root causes). Much depends, of course, upon perceptions and definitions of security and risk/threat, which are subjective. The example you give also highlights that mainstream responses to terrorism and political violence can often play into the hands of those that seek publicity, to instil fear, to mobilise others and legitimise their cause. Conversely, it could be suggested that threats to security can often serve those who seek to consolidate power and influence through extending the reach of the state in response to such threats. Either way, I think you are absolutely right to consider responses to terrorist attacks and other security threats as key factors in analysing conflict dynamics and determining the threat landscape. It is also important, as you suggest, to analyse the complexity of insecurity and risk when considering terrorist attacks and (formal and informal) responses to them.
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Great post Eleanor, indeed ICG does an impressive job by predicting conflicts. I would certainly add the potential threat for conflicts due to terrorist groups such has Boko Haram, AQMI and Al-Shabab! Another issue is prevention of those potential conflicts, where civil society has a major role to play in 2015!
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Predictions seem exceedingly difficult given the lack of data we have from which to create it, let alone standardised values behind the data.
In reviewing the HIIK Conflict Barometer, I was struck by Japan and Uzbekistan. Both were given a “mixed” conflict status value, but Japan was given a higher potential/value than Uzbekistan. (Even though the mixture for Uzbekistan was weighted with an actual ‘in crisis’ status.)
I actually find the information disturbing given that Uzbekistan’s separatist movement (Karakalpakstan) declared in June they are seeking greater autonomy and, additionally, Russia has a vested interest in the region which could translate to Russia’s advantage should it choose to gain control by proxy. The greed and grievance issues within Uzbekistan are also significantly higher than Japan. And Japan, as far as I can tell, does not have significant greed vs grievance issues, does not propagate mass human rights violations, and does not have a meddling third party potentially wishing to destablise it for proxy control purposes. Japan might have more issues openly on the table, but I don’t see loss of life as a high likelihood, wherein we know it occurs frequently in Uzbekistan.
Accordingly, I am left wondering whether the values created by KIIK were predicated on the relative ease by which they could collect information from Japan versus Uzbekistan. And just how pervasive the problem is within the reporting communities and how accurately the statisticians accommodate the different data sets.