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The Maastricht Diplomat

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World Peace? Yeah Right!

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

After reading up on the Arab Spring, and the Syrian Conflict, I became curious as to the Yemeni civil war, the conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan, the ongoing fighting in DRC and CAR and then wondered where else there was any armed conflict going on. I must admit, that I was, and still am, very shocked to see how little countries are actually at peace (no participation in either internal or external conflict). Basically, how many countries have soldiers actively fighting for another country or their own, as opposed to the very few countries who don’t. 

Per region, the numbers (as they are on October 15th 2016) are already very consternating: In Africa, the hotspots of conflict are Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan. Most of these countries’ conflicts consist of the government fighting Islamists or rebels, except in the CAR where it is mainly Muslims against Christians (without the actual interference of the government). On top of these 10 African countries, there are 19 more where the government is fighting militia, guerillas, terrorists, separatist and anarchists. There are 214 groups currently participating in an armed conflict with at least one of these 29 African countries. 

In Asia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand are where the worst conflicts take place, with a very recent Coup d’état and death of the Thai King. Asia counts 16 countries in conflict with a total of 168 rebels/Islamists/guerillas/separatists. The Middle East contains 7 fighting States (mainly Iraq, Israel, Syria and Yemen) who are fighting a total of a staggering 244 groups of rebels, terrorists, militia, Islamists, or specifically ISIS. 

Where Europe is concerned, the numbers are not as high, but still worrisome: 12 countries at war with 80 known groups, and most are internal conflicts. These countries are France, Italy, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Turkey, Georgia, and Northern Ireland! How close to home is that? And this list leaves out the countries that have envoys of their armies in other countries beyond Europe’s borders to help governments or rebels wage war there. Dagestan, Chechnya and Nagorno-Karabakh are entities that are recognized as States by some countries, but not all, and they are struggling with Russia, Islamists and secessionists. Of course, the severity and impact of these conflicts are not of the same caliber as those in other countries in the world, but they are conflicts claiming lives nonetheless.

The Americas, like the Middle East, have also got 7 countries with registered conflicts, although the nature of the conflicts is rather different. Here the primary opponents of the government forces are usually drug cartels and narcotics traffickers, seconded by terrorist groups, and rebels. The three American Countries most involved in such conflict are unsurprisingly Columbia, Mexico, and the USA (who also have a hand in many conflicts in other countries, such as in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, in what they claim to be a global fight against terrorism).

This means there is a total of 71 Countries involved directly in a conflict on their soil, against at least one of the 733 (!) groups of militia, guerrilla, terrorist, separatist, anarchist, Islamist, or rebels out there! Now this could not seem to be too alarming, considering 733 groups doesn’t give an estimate of how many combatants per group (which isn’t possible to obtain anyhow)  and taking into account that that would mean 124 countries are “at peace”. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. This list does not take into account how many countries, like the US, also are involved in cross-border conflicts. As for the damage done by these 733 groups, it is immeasurable, as well as the total count of lives lost. 

The 2016 Global Peace Index shows that the world becomes less and less peaceful every year, staying in line with the decade-long decline. A very worrisome fact, since the UN’s primary objective is to maintain world peace. Now of course, there is currently no “World War” as we had between 1914 -1918 and 1939 – 1945. That doesn’t change the fact that the amount of internal conflicts worldwide only keep growing, and countries increasingly interfere with other countries internal wars. In other words, since 2015, 79 countries saw their state of “non-peace” or their level of conflict-participation worsen respectively increase in 2016, as opposed to 81 states whose situation somewhat improved. However, unfortunately, the size of deteriorations largely exceeded that of the improvements: Deaths by terrorist attacks went up by 80%, and only 69 out of 196 countries had no terrorist attack to report! As for the cost of the violence, in 2015, 13.6 trillion (!) in GDP purchasing power parity was spent, equating to 1’876$ for every person in the world! Imagine what could be done with merely half of that money to help developing countries? To help rebuild conflict-ridden States? To help areas affected by natural disasters such as Haiti? To help with all the refugees? World hunger?

Now for the precious few countries that score the lowest on participation in all forms of conflict. This means they are basically not involved in any conflict, or none that is noteworthy (economic issues with neighboring countries, resolved diplomatically). The list reads Botswana, Switzerland (worldwide neutrality, non-NATO, non-EU), Chile, Mauritius, and Uruguay. The closest runners up are Brazil (1.030) and Singapore (1.069). That’s 5 countries. There are 195 countries in the world.

Welcome to reality.


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