Conflicts in 2014 Dominated by Transnational Groups
26 Mar 2015
Conflicts in the Middle East and Maghreb and the activities of ISIS and Boko Haram dominate the 2014 Heidelberg Conflict Barometer. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the key findings.
The Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research published their latest Conflict Barometer on 18 March 2015. The organisation has been collecting and analysing conflict data for twenty-five years, producing its first Conflict Barometer in 1992. The Barometer is an annual analysis of global conflict, including non-violent and violent crises, wars, coup d'états and peace negotiations.
The latest Heidelberg Conflict Barometer shows that in 2014 the global number of political conflicts increased by six, rising to 424 worldwide. Among these, 223 conflicts saw the use of violence, a decrease of six compared to 2013, while the number of highly violent conflicts decreased by five to 46. The number of non-violent conflicts increased in 2014 by twelve from the previous year, to 201.
The data behind the Conflict Barometer is quantitative research based on the concept of political conflict, comprising of conflict actors, conflict measures and conflict items. System and ideology are named as one of the key conflict drivers, defined as when a conflict actor aspires for a change of the ideological, religious, socio-economic and judicial orientation of the political system.
The report breaks wars and conflicts down to a regional level and notes that of the 21 regional conflicts classed as 'war', a number of former crises escalated to war in 2014: Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Libya (opposition groups), Syria (inter-opposition violence) and Yemen ( Houthi rebels).
As in previous years the most frequent conflict drivers are ideological.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the report finds that wars continued in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and the Central African Republic. The Barometer singles out the conflict in Nigeria between Boko Haram and government forces, and how the violence is now affecting the neighbouring countries of Niger and Cameroon.
In the Middle East and Maghreb the report notes that nine wars were recorded, including those in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Libya, noting that the most prominent of these was the war in Iraq involving ISIS. The Middle East and Maghreb also has the highest number of conflicts of any region, with 74 recorded in 2014. The Barometer notes that conflict dynamics in Syria and Iraq were particular marked by territorial advances by ISIS and opposition groups in Syria. As in previous years the report finds that the most frequent aims pursued by conflict parties were systemic or ideological.
The Barometer tracks the progress of ISIS in Iraq, strikingly illustrated here, mapping how the conflict in the country has grown from non-violent crises and violent crises at the start of 2014, to a limited war and war by the close of 2014. Likewise the Barometer tracks the progress of the conflict between Syrian opposition groups, showing the changes in intensity of the conflict in 2014, illustrated here.
There were 424 conflicts in 2014, compared to 83 in 1945.
In terms of regions, Asia and Oceania had the highest number of conflicts in 2014, with 127, sub-Saharan Africa had 104, the Middle East and the Maghreb had 74, Europe had 67 and the Americas had 52. The report also finds that there has been a steady upward trend in conflicts measured, with 83 in 1945 compared to 424 in 2014.
There are some interesting findings in the report on changes in individual conflicts; for example the Barometer finds that the conflict in the Philippines changed from a limited war to a dispute in 2014. This also shows how the dynamics of a conflict can change quickly, with intense fighting now increasing between government forces in the southern Philippines and the breakaway Islamist group the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, following the attempt to capture a number militants resulted in the deaths of 44 police commandos on 25 January 2015.
The report notes that the highest number of negotiations and treaties took place in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Central African Republic government unsuccessfully negotiating a treaty between the Antibalaka and Seleka militias. International organisations also played a key role in peacekeeping during 2014. The report measured a total of 27 missions supported by the United Nations, with 16 of these peacekeeping missions the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Assessing the intensity of each conflict, the Barometer measures weapons, personnel, casualties, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs), and destruction. Each of these are brought together and given a score, which is then interpreted to whether the conflict is 1. Dispute, 2. Non-violent crisis, 3. Violent crisis, 4. Limited war, 5. War.
The Heidelberg Conflict Barometer helps us to build up a clear picture and an increased understanding of conflict situations worldwide. Reports such as the 2014 Global Terrorism Index have found similar findings on the dominance of groups like Boko Haram and ISIS.
Highly violent conflicts (wars) in 2014 as measured by the Heidelberg Conflict Barometer, which involve the role of religion:
- Central African Republic: conflict involving the mostly Christian Antibalaka and Muslim Séléka.
- Nigeria: conflict involving the salafi-jihadi group Boko Haram.
- Nigeria (farmers – pastoralists): sectarian violence in the Middle Belt.
- Somalia: conflict involving the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab.
The Middle East and Maghreb
- Afghanistan: conflict involving the Taliban.
- Israel: conflict involving Hamas and the Palestinian Territories.
- Iraq: conflict involving ISIS.
- Libya: conflict involving a number of militia and opposition groups.
- Syria: conflict involving a number of Islamist Groups, also in the Kurdish regions.
- Syria: conflict involving a number of opposition groups.
- Yemen: conflict involving the Shia Houthi movement.
- Yemen: conflict involving the jihadi group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.
Asia and Oceania
- Pakistan: conflict involving a number of Islamist militant groups, including the Pakistan Taliban.
Highly violent conflicts (limited wars) in 2014 as measured by the Heidelberg Conflict Barometer, which involve the role of religion:
- Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Uganda: conflict involving the Christian cultic Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
- Mali: conflict involving a number of Islamist groups.
The Middle East and Maghreb
- Algeria: conflict involving groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
- Egypt: conflict in the Sinai Peninsula involving a number of Islamist groups
- Lebanon: conflict involving a number of Sunni militant groups.
- Yemen: conflict involving the jihadi group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Shia Houthi movement.
- Yemen: conflict involving the Shia Houthi movement and Sunni tribal forces.
Asia and Oceania
- China: conflict in the Xinjiang region involving Uighur militants.
- Pakistan - India
- Philippines: conflict in Mindanao involving a number of Islamist extremist groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
- Russia: conflict involving Islamist militants in the northern Caucasus.
The Heidelberg Conflict Barometer 2014 can be read in full here.
Sign up to receive the Roundup
Sign up to the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' Roundup to receive weekly updates with the latest commentary, analysis and news on the role of religion in conflict zones. Sign up here.