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Conflict Terrorism Regional Stability

Evolving Conflicts: an Analysis of Ongoing Violence in the Middle East and North Africa

Free Syrian Army rebels preparing for battle. Image: Freedom House/Flickr

Since the start of the Iraq war, the Middle East has been descending into deeper levels of violence. Currently, most of the countries in the region are either suffering from internal conflicts or being affected by other conflicts. And much of the violence in the region is centred in the two least peaceful countries in this year’s Global Peace Index: Syria and Iraq.

The Global Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, measures peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators of the absence of violence or the fear of violence. This year’s GPI discusses the ongoing conflicts in the six Middle Eastern and North African countries most affected by conflict. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Israel and Lebanon had the highest number of conflict-related civilian and battle fatalities in the region in 2014, and in many cases, that number has been sharply on the rise.

These conflicts have global significance for a variety of reasons, not least because of their fluid nature and increasing intensity. While there is a lot of uncertainty about how events may unfold, what is clear is that the dynamics underlying these conflicts are complex. The fact that each conflict includes numerous state and non-state participants with different tactical and strategic interests only makes the path to peace less clear. The report highlights some of the more important drivers of violence and sets out some of the opportunities for building peace. It includes a detailed discussion of conflict in each country and addresses the following key themes:

Categories
Security Conflict

Long-term Declines in Violence, Short-term Declines in Peace

Photo: Paisley Scotland/flickr.

Steven Pinker, one of the world’s leading academics in peace and conflict studies, provides a sweeping summary of the history of violence and conflict since 10,000BCE in his book ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’. Using a wide array of case studies, historical evidence and statistics, Pinker concludes that, contrary to popular perceptions, since the dawn of civilization the world has become increasingly less violent.

For instance, the research of Manuel Eisner suggests that during the Middle Ages the rate of homicides in Europe lay somewhere between 20 to 40 per 100,000 persons, while in modern times estimates place the rate closer to 1 per 100,000. Similarly, we know that deaths relating to war have been trending downwards since 1946 as a consequence of a reduction in interstate and international armed conflict.

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Security Economy Conflict

The G20’s Ambitious Agenda for Economic Growth Leaves Out One Key Ingredient: Peace

Peace
Photo: Jabiz Raisdana/flickr.

At the recent G20 meeting in Sydney, representatives committed to increase growth by more than $2 trillion over the next five years through the adoption of ambitious and comprehensive structural reforms. However, research just released by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) suggests that while focussing on productivity and employment is vital for economic prosperity, so too are concerted efforts to increase peace.

The Global Costs of Violence Containment report provides one of the first estimates of the economic cost of violence and the fear of violence to the world economy. It finds that violence, and attempts to prevent and protect against it, cost the global economy upwards of US $9.46 trillion per annum or 11 per cent of Gross World Product.