It is essential that the United States, working with the international community, play an active part in preventing, managing, and resolving threats to international peace. In the post-Cold War world, these threats are numerous. They include ethnic and religious strife, fragile and undemocratic states, weak economies and growing economic disparity, political extremism, competition for scarce resources, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The resulting suffering and destabilization of societies make effective forms of conflict management imperative. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is dedicated to meeting this challenge in new and innovative ways.
This backgrounder is intended as a high-level overview of the phases and drivers of conflict,5 as well as the next decade’s top threats to peace. More in depth resources can be found on the Institute’s website (http://www.usip.org).
Conflict Fast Facts
The curve of conflict is a model that helps illustrate how conflicts tend to evolve over time. The curve below shows the different phases of conflict and corresponding types of third-party intervention. Understanding where a conflict falls in the cycle is essential to developing effective strategies for intervention, along with the timing of those strategies.
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Appendix E4 Backgrounder on International Conflict Overview It is essential that the United States, working with the international community, play an active part in preventing, managing, and resolving threats to international peace. In the post-Cold War world, these threats are numerous. They include ethnic and religious strife, fragile and undemocratic states, weak economies and growing economic disparity, political extremism, competition for scarce resources, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The resulting suffering and destabilization of societies make effective forms of conflict management imperative. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is dedicated to meeting this challenge in new and innovative ways. This backgrounder is intended as a high-level overview of the phases and drivers of conflict,5 as well as the next decade’s top threats to peace. More in depth resources can be found on the Institute’s website (http://www.usip.org). Conflict Fast Facts There are approximately 100 nascent, active, or post-conflict situations in the world today. In the 20th century, an average of 940,000 people died due to conflict every year. Since the start of this century, an average of 2,738 people have been driven from their homes by conflict every day. Over the past decade, 2 million children have been killed by armed conflict, 1 million orphaned, 6 million disabled, and 10 million impacted with severe psychological trauma. For every violent death in conflict, there are an estimated 10 “indirect deaths” due to war-exacerbated factors such as malnutrition. In 2006, 64.5% of the world’s population felt the effects of armed conflict. Billions of dollars are invested annually to sustain warfare capacity. There is no comparable investment in peacefare. I. Cycle of Conflict The curve of conflict is a model that helps illustrate how conflicts tend to evolve over time. The curve below shows the different phases of conflict and corresponding types of third-party intervention. Understanding where a conflict falls in the cycle is essential to developing effective strategies for intervention, along with the timing of those strategies. 4 Prepared by the U.S. Institute of Peace. Used with permission. 5 Throughout this document the term “conflict” is used as shorthand for violent conflict. 45
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Peacemaking ceasefire peace agreement outbreak of violence sporadic Conflict Prevention: Peacekeeping violence Crisis Response confrontation Post Conflict: Conflict - Stabilization Prevention: - State-Building - State-Building rising tension decreasing - Int’l Systems tension Core Conflict Management Skills All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without appropriately citing the United States Institute of Peace II. Drivers of Conflict Below is a summary of the extensive and frequently contentious literature on the drivers of large-scale political violence. These drivers have been divided into three categories: drivers of both intra- and inter- state conflict, drivers of intra-state conflict / civil wars, and drivers of inter-state conflict. It is important to note that the motivations of leaders and fighters can often be different, that conflicts often have multiple drivers, and that drivers change over time. Drivers of Both Intra- and Inter-State Conflict: Competition among social groups/ideological differences are often cited as drivers of conflict, typically focusing on tendencies of people to align with tribal, ethnic, or religious groups and to make sharp in-group / out-group distinctions. Collier and colleagues, for instance, find that ethnic and linguistic diversity within a society is correlated with onset of civil wars.6 Samuel Huntington’s controversial argument that fault lines between civilizations will be a major source of conflict in the early 21st century also fits this general category at the global level.7 Some have argued that competition for resources and greed contribute significantly to political violence. Thomas Homer-Dixon’s research program has found that demographic and environmental stresses tend to promote civil violence. For example, Jared Diamond and others have argued that population density and resulting scarcity of arable land created conditions that led to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.8 More broadly, according to Michael Klare, “Historically, many wars have been fought over the possession or control of vital resources: water, arable land, gold and silver, diamonds, copper, petroleum, and so on.”9 This driver also manifests when parties or individuals engage in violence to enrich themselves. 6 Paul Collier, Anke Hoeffler, and Dominic Rohner, Beyond Greed and Grievance: Feasibility and Civil War. CSAE WPS/2006- 10 (August 2006). Available on-line at: http://www.csae.ox.ac.uk/workingpapers/pdfs/2006-10text.pdf. 7 Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998). 8 Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York, NY: Viking Press, 2004). 9 Michael Klare, “Resource Conflict,” Compiled for the Peace and World Security Studies Program (PAWSS). Available on-line at: http://pawss.hampshire.edu/topics/resource/index.html. 46
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Other research suggests that militarization increases the risk of wars. Countries with high military expenditures relative to GDP are more likely to experience civil wars, but the direction of causality is uncertain. Researchers have likewise observed a correlation between arms races and war, but it is difficult to judge whether an arms race has an independent, causal effect on war. Drivers of Intra-State / Civil Wars: Early research into civil wars focused on grievances that emanate from different group characteristics, ideology, or material conditions. On the latter, for instance, Ted Robert Gurr argues that: “The potential for collective violence varies strongly with the intensity and scope of relative deprivation among members of a collectivity.”10 However, grievances alone seldom lead to armed conflict. Much of the recent empirical work supports the centrality of feasibility. A significant amount of this research concerns measures of rebel groups’ ability to finance operations and recruit participants, and on the capacity of states to counter rebel movements effectively.11 Researchers have also found elite struggles for power and resources can drive violent conflicts. Efforts by "bad leaders" to gain and consolidate power are associated with many of the most deadly internal and international conflicts. Underlying conditions affect the overall risk of conflict, but individual actions represent important proximate drivers of violence.12 Researchers have noted the relationship between endowments of certain natural resources and civil wars. Recent studies have concluded that oil and diamond production are “robustly correlated with civil war onsets.”13,14 Other studies have suggested that heavy reliance on agriculture or exports of other primary commodities may increase risk of civil war, possibly through vulnerability to price shocks.15 There is also evidence that the following social factors increase the likelihood of civil war (although they are not necessarily the underlying drivers): - High proportion of population who are males aged 15-29 - High youth unemployment - Mountainous terrain (presumed to make it easier to organize guerilla campaigns) - Low per capita income - Low growth of per capita income Drivers of Inter-State Wars: The dominant paradigm to explain major inter-state wars is the “realist” school of international relations. From the realist perspective, war results from the anarchic nature of the international 10 Ted Robert Gurr, Why Men Rebel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 24. 11 For example, Fearon and Laitin hypothesize “that financially, organizationally, and politically weak central governments render insurgency more feasible and attractive due to weak local policing or inept and corrupt counterinsurgency practices.” See James Fearon and David Laitin, “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 97, no. 1 (February 2003), pp. 75-6. 12 Michael E. Brown, "The Causes and Regional Dimensions of Internal Conflict." In Michael E. Brown (Ed.), The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996), pp. 571-602; Daniel L. Byman & Kenneth M. Pollack, "Let Us Now Praise Great Men." International Security, 25:4 (2001), 107-146. 13 Michael Ross, “A Closer Look at Oil, Diamonds, and Civil War,” Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 9 (2006), p. 295 14 Michael L. Ross, “What Do We Know about Natural Resources and Civil War?” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 41, no. 3 (May 2004), p. 352. 15 See Michael Ross, “A Closer Look at Oil, Diamonds, and Civil War,” Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 9 (2006); also, Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, “Greed and Grievance in Civil War,” World Bank, DECRG (2002). Available at http://econ.worldbank.org/programs/conflict. 47
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system, in which states can only attain security by accumulating power, which in turn threatens other states. Extending this basic framework, Stephen Van Evera’s book, Causes of War, focuses on “causes related to the character and distribution of national power.” He articulates five hypotheses: War is more likely when states fall prey to false optimism about a favorable - outcome. War is more likely when a significant advantage lies with the first side to - mobilize or attack. War is more likely when the relative power of states fluctuates sharply—that is, - when windows of opportunity and vulnerability are large. War is more likely when resources are cumulative—that is, when the control of - resources enables a state to protect or acquire other resources. War is more likely when conquest is easy.16 - “The absence of war between democracies comes as close as anything we have to an empirical law in international relations,” according to Jack Levy.17 The inverse of this so-called democratic peace theory implies that lack of democracy helps explain inter-state wars. Though this observation points clearly in favor of policies to promote democratization, Mansfield and Snyder have found that while peace between democracies holds for mature, stable democracies, states transitioning to democracy “become more war-prone, not less, and they do fight wars with democratic states.18 Some scholars have argued that misperceptions are important causes of war, particularly when they concern “the adversary’s capabilities or intentions.”19 Drawing on psychology and organizational theory, studies suggest that these kinds of misperceptions are quite common in governments, militaries, and the individuals who lead them, especially in high-stress crisis situations. Among the various kinds of disputes that can lead to war between states, disputes over territory appear to be especially combustible. Vasquez and Henehan, for example, found that territorial disputes “have a higher (conditional) probability of going to war than policy or regime disputes,” and account for the majority of wars between 1816 and 1992.20 III. Most Significant Challenges to Peace over the Next Decade During a series of workings sessions conducted with USIP staff, the above drivers of conflict were coupled with an assessment of the current geo-political landscape to identify the following contemporary threats to peace: Environmental degradation / climate change - Lack of water - Reduced food supplies / marine resources - Competition for energy / environmental resources Weapons of mass destruction - Increasing ability to acquire, develop, and transport 16 Stephen Van Evera, Causes of War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), p. 4. 17 Jack S. Levy, “Domestic Politics and War,” in Robert I. Rotberg and Theodore K. Rabb, eds., The Origin and Prevention of Major Wars (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 88. 18 Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder, “Democratization and War,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 1995). 19 Jack S. Levy, “Misperception and the Causes of War: Theoretical Linkages and Analytical Problems,” World Politics, Vol. 36, no. 1 (October 1983), pp.76-99. 20 John Vasquez & Marie T. Henehan, “Territorial Disputes and the Probability of War, 1816-1992,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 38, no. 2 (March 2001), pp. 123-138. 48
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- Increasing incentives to develop; increasing willingness to use - Continuing erosion of WMD non-proliferation regimes, and incipient erosion of nuclear deterrence Weak economies / Fragile states / Undemocratic states - Subject to popular unrest or power grabs - Islamic radicalism, particularly when combined with undemocratic societies with weak or oil- dependant economies and with few opportunities for the population - Disproportionate number of unemployed people under the age of 30 in developing countries prone to conflict Weak international institutions / lack of will to act - Lack of international institutions with the (perceived) legitimacy to mediate disputes/hold offenders accountable - Inability to mobilize preventive action / lack of will to act - Declining U.S. power and resultant incentive to others to challenge existing power relationships Clash of civilizations/ideologies Growing number of disenfranchised - Widening gaps between rich and poor - Radicalization and empowerment (e.g., WMD, global reach) of disenfranchised and otherwise alienated groups Global population movements (e.g., refugees, legal and illegal immigration) Perverse effects of globalization - Localized problems cascading catastrophically (including but not limited to pandemics) - Increased awareness on the part of the disenfranchised, stimulated by pervasive mass media / internet 49
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