Afghanistan + 7 more

Conflict Trends in Asia, 1989–2019

Originally published
View original


Palik, Júlia; Siri Aas Rustad & Fredrik Methi (2020) Conflict Trends in Asia, 1989–2019, PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

Executive Summary

Less conflict in Asia, but Afghanistan remains the most violent place in the world: Although there is a declining trend in the number of state-based conflicts in Asia – conflicts decreased from 16 in 2018 to 15 in 2019 – more people were killed in Afghanistan in 2019 than in 2018. The 15 statebased conflicts recorded in Asia in 2019 included one interstate conflict between Pakistan and India over the territory of Kashmir, which has been ongoing for decades, but is relatively low in intensity. Internationalized civil conflicts are also on the rise. In 2019, there were two internationalized civil conflicts, both in Afghanistan. At its peak in 2014, the Afghan government was supported by 49 external states.

Battle-related deaths continue to rise: Asia experiences a relatively large number of civil conflicts. The majority of these are low-intensity conflicts, with the notable exception of Afghanistan. In 2019, for the third consecutive year, battle-related deaths are on the rise. This escalation is largely attributable to the Afghan government’s conflict against both the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS). While in Afghanistan and in the Philippines, conflicts are spread out in most of the country, all other countries in the region experience certain geographical hotspots within their territories.

Record number of ceasefires over time, but declining number of peace agreements: In a regional comparison, Asia experienced the highest absolute number of ceasefires between 1989 and 2018. Most of these ceasefires were related to the peace process and a relatively high number of holidayrelated ceasefires were also recorded. In the post-1987 period, the number of peace agreements steadily increased and peaked in 1997 and 2006, when seven peace agreements were concluded. After 2006, we can see a declining trend in the number of peace agreements, accompanied by a slight decrease in the number of conflicts as well. In 2018, one peace agreement was recorded in Myanmar between the government and the New Mon State Party (NMSP), which was an extension of a 2015 Agreement that involved eight armed groups and the government. The last full peace agreement was concluded in 2016 between the government of Afghanistan and Hizb-i Islami-yi Afghanistan.

Declining number of and fatalities from non-state conflicts: Contrary to global trends, Asia experiences a general decline in the number of non-state conflicts, although there was a slight increase in the number of non-state conflicts from 2018 to 2019 (from two to three). This increase is due to a new communal conflict in Papua New Guinea between the Oi Kuru and the Libe Koi groups. The good news is that despite the recent increase in the number of non-state conflicts and the countries affected by non-state conflicts, battle-related deaths due to non-state conflicts are at a record low. The few non-state conflicts that are recorded in Asia are located in Afghanistan and related to the conflict between Taliban and IS.

Less – but more lethal – one-sided violence: One-sided violence shows a general declining trend in Asia. This is true for both one-sided violence perpetrated by governments and that carried out by non-state actors. The majority of one-sided violence is perpetrated by non-state actors, but in Afghanistan, the Philippines and Myanmar, the government is also responsible for conducting one-sided violence. The majority of conflict-related fatalities in Asia are also attributable to nonstate perpetrated one-sided violence. In 2019, fatalities from one-sided violence increased from the previous year. This escalation is attributable to one-sided violence perpetrated by the Taliban and the Government of Afghanistan. In terms of the location of one-sided violence events, these are related to areas that are already involved in state-based conflicts.