According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, “Armed Conflict” is defined in two distinct ways. International Armed Conflict exists when two or more states resort to armed force amid conflict. Non-international Armed Conflict exists when a prolonged bout of armed confrontations occurs between governmental armed forces along with the forces of one or more armed groups, and this can also be determined as conflict between multiple groups formed within the same state. Armed confrontation must reach a minimum intensity and be organized to some extent.1
Although armed conflict seems ungovernable, the IHL, or International Humanitarian Law, works to set limits on the behavior regarded as acceptable of the parties involved in said conflict. Breaches of the IHL are known as war crimes, causing real human suffering and civilian harm.2
Post-Cold War hopes of a world without conflict have not yet become true, with internal armed conflict growing in frightening measures.
Armed Conflict can occur for a variety of reasons. One factor common among most instances of internal armed conflict is the presence of a weak government. Weak governments cannot contain the outbreak of brutality, that a well-organized, legitimate government could have more easily prevented.
States that suffer from internal armed conflict also seem to have experiences from extreme inequalities among social classes, possibly leading to another cause of armed conflict. Although poverty in a state may seem like a possible source of hatred and strife, these social inequalities tend to cause more armed conflict. This is because social inequalities tend to reflect in politics, closing many doors to a peaceful resolvefelt by an oppressed group.
Extreme nationalism in the form of hate media can often bellow the embers of conflict, exaggerating the issues of the state and further increasing the chance for conflict to break out. Although not directly a cause, the ease of weapons trafficking can contribute to the onset of conflict. Estimates show that around 500 million light weapons are in circulation throughout the world, many of which are contributing to armed conflict. One specific example of armed conflict common in sub-Saharan Africa is the fight for natural resources, such as diamonds and gold. These fights can potentially be tied to political ambitions, elevating the intensity of armed conflicts. For example, UNITA, a rebel group operating in Angola, controls a large portion of diamond production in the nation, producing an estimated revenue of 3.7 billion dollars through the sale of said diamonds between 1992 and 1998.4 These diamonds are more commonly known as“blood diamonds”, as their profits are used to finance and maintain UNITA’s armed forces.5
The effects of war and conflict stretch further beyond just the deaths accrued in the fighting itself. Forced migration, the destruction of infrastructure, and the creation of long-term refugees are just a few long-term effects of war. However, as important as these seem, perhaps the largestbiggest consequence of armed conflict is development. Civilians suffer greatly from internal and external conflict, causing death and disability to large portions of a nation’s population.6 One fairly obvious consequence of armed conflict is the creation of displaced persons, or refugees. The graph below estimates the number of women and children who have been displaced by armed conflict, revealing a steady growth in the number of refugees worldwide.
Landmines planted in many war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan and Angola, are difficult to locate and can kill children who are unable to read warning signs, causing them to mistake the mines for toys.3
The graph below reveals another important effect of armed conflict, undernourishment. As estimated through simulation modeling, the imaginary country described in the graph goes through 3 different scenarios, one without conflict, one with minor conflict, and one with major conflict. As you can see over time, even after the conflict is over, the undernourished population remains much higher than the baseline of 20%.8
Unfortunately, armed conflict, both internally and externally, occurs for a variety of different reasons. Because of this, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint and prevent armed conflict from ever taking place. However, many steps can be taken to promote stability and prevent conflict in high-tension regions of the world.
Conflict prevention, according to the Global Peace Operations Review, can be fundamentally categorized into three “styles”. Operational Prevention is when an envoy or ambassador is sent to a violent area and is tasked with using diplomacy to stop the violent conflict. Structural Prevention, however, looks at the political economy of a place, and how altering it could make that nation more resistant to conflict. Lastly, Systemic Prevention aims to solve the conflict using “herd immunity”; a web of global treaties and laws that guard against violence, potentially stopping the conflict from ever forming. 9
One example of a group working to prevent conflict and promote peace is the GPPAC. This organization attempts to work as locally as possible, establishing infrastructure and acquiring funding to keep peace centered around local ownership. 10
The promotion of peace throughout the world is a big deal, so much so that the UN has it listed as their 16th sustainable development goal. 127 countries around the world have passed right-to-information laws that help civilians understand the conflicts they have been trapped in. According to the UN, the main thing that needs to be done to promote world peace is to allow individuals to express their views.11
1 “How is the Term “Armed Conflict” Defined in International Humanitarian Law?” (PDF). International Committee of the Red Cross. March 2008. Accessed 13 July 2022
2 “Armed Conflict.” Amnesty International, 1 June 2021, https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/armed-conflict/.
3 Chapter XV Armed Conflict – United Nations. https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/rwss/docs/2001/15%20Armed%20Conflict.pdf.
4 United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network, Workshop on Small Arms Trafficking in Africa, 9 August 1999
5 “Blood Diamonds.” NOT INTRO, BUT PUT RIGHT BEFORE TALKING ABOUT HOW DEBEERS IS TRYING TO IDENTIFY CLEAN DIAMONDS FOR SALES, http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297a/Blood%20Diamonds.htm
6 “The Consequences of Internal Armed Conflict for Development (Part 1).” SIPRI, https://www.sipri.org/commentary/blog/2015/consequences-internal-armed-conflict-development-part-1#:~:text=War%20kills%2C%20and%20its%20consequences,institutions%20can%20be%20permanently%20damaged
8 Development Consequences of Armed Conflict. https://havardhegre.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/development-consequences-of-armed-conflict.pdf
9 “Conflict Prevention: Global Peace Operations Review.” Conflict Prevention | Global Peace Operations Review, https://peaceoperationsreview.org/conflict-prevention/
10 “Locally-Led Peacebuilding Action.” GPPAC, https://gppac.net/what-we-do/locally-led-peacebuilding-action
11 “Locally-Led Peacebuilding Action.” GPPAC, https://gppac.net/what-we-do/locally-led-peacebuilding-action