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Armed conflicts hit post-WWII record in 2023

11-06-2024

OSLO: More armed conflicts took place in 2023 than in any other year since the end of World War II, a new study has found.

The Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) said 59 armed conflicts took place worldwide last year, led by the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Twenty-eight of the conflicts were in Africa, followed by Asia with 17 and the Middle East with 10. Just three conflicts were recorded in Europe and a single example in the Americas. Although the number of conflicts grew last year, the number of countries that experienced conflicts declined from 39 in 2022 to 34.

The increase in the number of conflicts can partially be attributed to the spread of ISIL (ISIS) across Asia and the Middle East and the involvement in general of a growing number of non-state actors. That has made the work of NGOs only more difficult, the report said.

“This development makes it increasingly difficult for actors like aid groups and civil society organizations to manoeuvre the conflict landscape and improve the lives of ordinary people,” said Siri Aas Rustad, PRIO researcher and the main author.

According to data collected by Sweden’s Uppsala University from nongovernmental and international organizations, the number of deaths in combat halved last year to 122,000 but the number still remained the third highest since 1989, and overall, the past three years saw more conflict-related deaths than any time in the past three decades. They were driven by the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the assault on Gaza.

“Violence in the world is at an all-time high since the end of the Cold War,” Rustad said.

“The figures suggest that the conflict landscape has become increasingly complex with more conflict actors operating within the same country.”

“The increase in state-based conflicts can be attributed in part to the Islamic State expanding across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and an increase in other non-state actors getting involved in conflicts, such as the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin group,” said Professor Rustad.

The data also shows that while the number of battle deaths fell last year, overall the past three years saw more conflict-related deaths than any time in the last three decades. The dramatic increase in battle deaths was driven by three conflicts: civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the bombing of Gaza. 2023 saw an overall 122,000 battle deaths, with over 71,000 people killed in Ukraine and some 23,000 killed in Gaza in less than three months of 2023.

Africa remained the region with the most state-based conflicts per year (28), followed by Asia (17), the Middle East (10), Europe (3) and the Americas (1). The number of conflicts in Africa nearly doubled compared with ten years ago, from 15 in 2013. In the past three years, Africa has seen more than 330,000 battle-related deaths.

The continued fall in the number of conflicts in the Middle East reversed, with an increase from eight to ten from 2022 to 2023. In 2022, slightly more than 5,000 battle-related deaths were recorded in the Middle East, the lowest since 2011. However, in 2023 the number was back up at almost 26,000. It is worth noting that almost 23,000 of these were registered in Israel and Palestine. This shows that while violence in the Middle East continues, it is now driven by a different conflict than previously.

“The Middle East figures give hope that extreme violence and complex conflicts such as in Syria can diminish. On the other hand, it is a continuous worry that we see new extremely violent conflicts emerging more often than previously,” said Professor Rustad. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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