OSLO: More armed conflicts took place worldwide in 2023 than any other year since the end of the Second World War, according to a Norwegian study published on Monday.

Last year saw 59 conflicts of which 28 were in Africa, the the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (PRIO) showed. But the number of countries which experienced conflicts declined from 39 in 2022 to 34.

The number of deaths in combat also halved to around 122,000 over the previous year, according to data collected by Sweden’s Uppsala University from NGOs and international organisations.

That number remained nonetheless the third highest since 1989, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. “Violence in the world is at an all-time high since the end of the Cold War,” said Siri Aas Rustad, PRIO researcher and the main author of the report covering trends during the period 1946-2023.

28 armed conflicts were registered in Africa, 17 in Asia, 10 in Middle East, three in Europe and one in the Americas

“The figures suggest that the conflict landscape has become increasingly complex, with more conflict actors operating within the same country,” she explained. According to PRIO, the increase in the number of conflicts can be partially attributed to the militant Islamic State group spreading across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the involvement of a growing number of non-state actors such as the Al Qaeda-affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM).

“This development makes it increasingly difficult for actors like aid groups and civil society organisations to manoeuvre the conflict landscape and improve the lives of ordinary people,” Rustad said.

While the number of combat deaths decreased last year, the accumulated number for the past three years is the highest for a three-year period in 30 years. A total of 28 armed conflicts were registered in Africa, followed by Asia with 17, the Middle East with 10, Europe with three and the Americas with one.

Violent times

“Violence in the world is at an all-time high since the end of the Cold War. The figures suggest that the conflict landscape has become increasingly complex, with more conflict actors operating within the same country,” said Siri Aas Rustad, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and the lead writer of PRIO’s Conflict Trends: A Global Overview report.

Last year saw the highest number of state-based conflicts since 1946. In addition, the past three years were the most violent in the last three decades, according to new conflict trend analysis.

The report provides an analysis of the global trends in conflict covering the period 1946 to 2023, to help policymakers and practitioners better understand the contexts they are working in. The paper uses data collected annually by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Uppsala University.

122,000 battle deaths

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.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2024

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