The World At War In 2020

Apart from the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple regions across the world are mired in armed conflict.


Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) data reveals that a huge portion of the globe have recorded reports of armed clashes between state forces and rebels in 2020. The chart above highlights the regions as of 2 May where these reports have been received.

ACLED is a US-based crisis mapping, non-profit organisation established to collect data from all reported political violence and protest events all over the world.

Patterns & Trends

In their paper, Global Conflict And Disorder Patterns: 2020, some of the insights gained from the ACLED data are discussed. In their data analysis, four broad patterns on the current conflict landscape have been observed:

  • Political violence is rising quickly. This increase is highly pronounced in Mexico, Russia, and Turkey — all of which are developed nations. On top of this, continued conflict is observed in poorer countries — Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia — where they are also the most persistent. This shows that the political violence of the modern world is no longer limited to low-income countries.
  • Political violence is adaptive. Conflict takes many forms over the world. It can range from election violence, attacks against the press, politicised mob violence, organised crime, political assassinations, and cyber-encouraged lone-wolf attacks — to name a few. With this, inspecting power dynamics and the ways violence is incentivised in countries is a great source of insights for its eradication.
  • State building is increasing risks for citizens. Attempts to recentralise power are creating challenges for civilians. Achieving stability by protecting security of the state does not necessarily coincide with the security of the people since those in power may use violence to maintain their political leverage.
  • There is a dramatic spike in demonstrations. Protests and riots experienced an increase in the year 2019 compared to the previous year. The results have been mixed so far. On one hand, this successfully removed leaders like in the case of Sudan and Algeria. On the other, there is also an increase (22%) in fatalities due to mob violence.
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War in a pandemic

Armed conflict combined with a global pandemic is claiming even more lives in the world.

An increase in civilian fatalities has been recorded in Myanmar, setting up 2020 to be a far worse year for the country compared to 2019.  Chaos also ensued in Guinea as the current regime has used the pandemic as a way to silence their opposition and restrict information from the press.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for political conflict.  There are different motivations, incentives and behaviours which can lead to violence.

As ACLED noted, however, the latent characteristic of all these forms of disorder is that they adapt to the local political environment. With this, there is a need to reshape this environment to one which incentivises peace and sanctions those who utilize violence for their own benefit.

Violence is more common and widespread than we think. The sooner we accept this reality, the quicker we can proceed to better understand the structures which propagate violence and begin their complete dismantlement.

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