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Alert 2021! Report on conflicts, human rights and peacebuilding

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Executive Summary

Alert 2021! Report on conflicts, human rights and peacebuilding is an annual report analyzing the state of the world in terms of conflict and peacebuilding based on three main axes: armed conflict, tensions, gender and peace and security. The analysis of the most relevant events in 2020 and the nature, causes, dynamics, actors and consequences of the main scenarios of armed conflict and social and political tension around the world allows for a regional comparative vision and also allows identifying global trends and elements of risk and preventive warnings for the future. Furthermore, the report also identifies peacebuilding opportunities or opportunities to scale down, prevent or resolve conflicts.
In both cases, one of the main objectives in this report is to make available all of the information, analyses and identification of warning factors and peace opportunities for decision-makers, those intervening for the peaceful resolution to conflicts, or those giving a greater political, media or academic visibility to the many situations of political and social violence in the world.

As for the methodology, the contents of this report mainly draw on a qualitative analysis of studies and information made available by many sources –the United Nations, international organizations, research centres, communication media or NGOs, among others– as well as on field research in conflict-affected countries.

Some of the most relevant conclusions and information in the Alert 2021! report are listed below:

During 2020 there were 34 armed conflicts, the same number as the previous year. Most of the armed conflicts were concentrated in Africa (15) and Asia (nine), followed by the Middle East (six),
Europe (three) and America (one).

  • In 2020 there were two new cases: Ethiopia (Tigray) and Armenia-Azerbaijan (Nagorno Karabakh).

  • The outlook for armed conflict in 2020 was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN secretary general’s appeal for a global truce received a limited and uneven response from the armed groups involved in conflicts. The ceasefires were short-lived and/or did not become entrenched and most of the actors involved in armed conflict continued to favour military methods.

  • In 2020, the impacts of clashes between armed actors and the indiscriminate and deliberate use of violence against civilians were amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, which further aggravated the precariousness and lack of protection of many populations affected by armed conflict. Cases such as Syria and Yemen highlighted the added burden of the pandemic on health systems severely damaged by years of violence.

  • The vast majority of armed conflicts were internationalized internal –28 contexts, equivalent to 82%–, 9% were internal and 9% were international.

  • 2020 saw a significant increase in high-intensity armed conflicts, which accounted for almost half of the cases, at 47% of the total.

  • The 16 cases of serious armed conflict in 2020 were: Cameroon (Ambazonia / North West and South West), Ethiopia (Tigray), Libya, Mali, Mozambique (north), Lake Chad Region (Boko Haram), Western Sahel Region, DRC (East), DRC (east-ADF), Somalia,
    South Sudan, Afghanistan, Armenia-Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh), Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

  • According to OCHA, a total of 235 million people need humanitarian assistance in 2021, an increase of 40% compared to the estimates for the previous year and mainly attributable to COVID-19.

  • Crossfire, the use of light weapons, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the excessive use of force by state agents would have caused more than 10,000 victims among boys and girls, including 4,019 deaths and 6,154 minors affected by mutilations, according to UN figures.

  • UNHCR’s annual report published in June 2020 confirmed the exponential growth trend of forced displacement in the last decade: at the end of 2019 there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people, compared to the 70.8 million recorded at the end of the year previous.

  • 26 million of the total number of displaced persons were refugees –20.4 million under UNHCR’s mandate and 5.6 million Palestinians under UNRWA’s mandate– and 45.7 million were in a situation of internal forced displacement.

  • The United Nations denounced the use of sexual and gender-based violence in 19 contexts in 2019 and pointed out the responsibility of 54 armed actors, most of them of non-state character, although it also denounced the involvement of state security forces from various countries, including the DRC, Myanmar,
    Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Syria.

  • During 2020, 95 socio-political crises were identified around the world, one more case than in the previous year. This increase is significantly lower than that registered in 2019 compared to 2018, when the number of tensions increased by 11 cases.

  • The highest number of socio-political crises was concentrated in Africa, with 38 cases, followed by Asia (25), the Middle East (12 cases) and Europe and Latin America (10 in each region)

  • Despite the fact that the increase in the number of socio-political crises in 2020 was almost imperceptible, six new cases of tension were identified.

  • Of the 16 socio-political crises of maximum intensity, half were concentrated in Africa –Chad;
    Mali; Nigeria; Ethiopia; Ethiopia (Oromiya); Kenya;
    Rwanda-Burundi; and Morocco-Western Sahara, four in the Middle East –Iran-USA, Israel; Egypt;
    Iraq; and Israel-Syria-Lebanon–, two in Asia –ChinaIndia and India-Pakistan– and two in Latin America –Mexico and Venezuela.

  • 73% of the socio-political crises were linked to opposition to the internal or international policies of certain governments or to the political, social or ideological system of the State as a whole; 39% to demands for self-government and/or identity; and 31% to disputes for control of territories and/or resources.

  • 14 of the 34 armed conflicts that took place throughout 2020 occurred in countries where there were serious gender inequalities, with high or very high levels of discrimination, six in countries with medium levels of discrimination and nine armed conflicts took place in countries for which no data is available.

  • The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic was exacerbating the impact of sexual violence in conflict.

  • In the decade between 2010 and 2019, at least 100 million people in the world were forcibly displaced from their homes, and most of them did not achieve a solution to their situation.

  • 48% of the refugees were women.

  • 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the approval of resolution 1325 by the UN Security Council and 25 years of the Beijing Platform for Action. These were two anniversaries of enormous importance in the women, peace and security agenda, which should have led to evaluate the progress and pending challenges in the implementation of the commitments acquired in these two decades.

  • 13% of the people who negotiated, 6% of those who carried out mediation tasks and 6% of those who signed peace agreements were women.
    Seven out of ten peace processes still did not include women mediators or signatories. Seven United Nationsdeployed peacekeeping missions still did not have a gender advisor on their staff.

  • At the end of 2020, 18 countries in situations of armed conflict had a National Action Plan on resolution 1325, 11 of them in Africa.

  • Alert 2021! identifies four opportunities for peace in Sudan and South Sudan, Papua New Guinea (Bougainville), on the EU gender, peace and security agenda and in Syria.

  • The report highlights four risk scenarios regarding the worsening of violence against women caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as in Peru, the Middle East and North Africa, and in relation to the dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.