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Global Conflict and Disorder Patterns: 2020

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Prof. Clionadh Raleigh- ACLED

In the past 10 years, the world has witnessed a decline in global cooperation and security. This downturn is manifest through multiple internationalized wars and massive humanitarian crises, rising nationalism from global powers, transnational terror organizations using sophisticated recruitment techniques, cyber-attacks orchestrated by marginalized states, sustained levels of violence in nominally ‘post-conflict’ countries, and a drastic rise in the number of non-state violent agents. An intensification of violence and risk has accompanied these notable shifts. Drawing on the ACLED dataset of almost a million political violence and protest events across over 100 countries, we can discern four broad patterns that summarize the current conflict landscape and indicate how disorder is likely to evolve in the future:

(1) Political violence is rising and manifesting as disorder in multiple forms. It is persistent and dynamic, consistently adapting to changing political circumstances and opportunities, rather than dissipating. For these reasons, it is best to understand political violence not as a failure of states, but as a volatile and flexible feature of political systems.

(2) Political violence is rising most quickly in developed states: Russia, Mexico and Turkey are key examples of how specific forms of political violence find an outlet in relatively wealthier states. Continued conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan demonstrate the intractable nature of wars in states with inconsistent government control and capacity across territory. Conflict is most persistent in poorer states, but even in these environments, it is a tool of the powerful, rather than the poor and aggrieved.

(3) The fallout from many externally imposed peacebuilding and stabilization efforts, forced elections, and corruption is unprecedented levels of militia and gang violence. Rather than a descent into chaos, this trend is tied directly to the domestic politics of states and the economic benefits of conflict. The form and intensity of such conflict adapts to political competition within states. As a result, we should expect a continued rise in militias, gangs and violence across most states.

(4) Finally, demonstrations are increasing drastically -- but most peaceful protests have no effect on political structures and elite politics. State security forces continue to intervene violently in protests, and mobs—often hired by politicians—are responsible for a significant and deadly increase of rioting in South Asia and beyond.