Just four of 15 major conflicts in 2010 in Africa: SIPRI


Just four of 15 major conflicts raging around the world last year were located in Africa. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says in its latest yearbook, released yesterday these are the ongoing insurgencies in Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda, although the latter two were no longer being waged on the territory of those states.

The others were the US “War on Terror”, Peru, Afghanistan, India (Kashmir), Myanmar (the Karen insurgency), Pakistan, Philippines, Iraq, Israel (Palestinian territories) and Turkey (“Kurdistan”). The demilitarisation thinktank says in a summary only four of the major armed conflicts in 2010 were over territory, with 11 being fought over government. Except for the year 2007, conflicts over government outnumbered those over territory in every year of the period 2001–10. For the seventh year running, no major interstate conflict was active in 2010. Over the decade 2001–10, only two of the total of 29 major armed conflicts have been interstate, SIPRI says.

In the past two decades the relationship between natural resources and conflict risk has re-emerged as a key issue in international security, SIPRI warns. “The current debate about the linkage between natural resources and the onset, duration and termination of conflicts around the globe focuses on three distinct perspectives: economic theories of violence; environmental factors, especially linked to climate change, as risk multipliers for conflict; and resource geopolitics.
“These approaches highlight the direct and indirect ways that resource issues can cause conflict. For example, both resource scarcity and resource dependence can interact with social and institutional vulnerabilities to create the conditions for conflict. Key elements of this include informal or illicit trade and violent criminal groups pursuing illegal exploitation of and trade in natural resources.”

SIPRI avers national over-dependence on natural resource revenues is also closely associated with
state weakness, even failure, producing conditions under which armed groups can emerge. The rise of dynamic and large consumer markets in Asia—principally China and India—has also raised the
priority of resource issues on the international security agenda. Record levels of demand and commodity prices have led international organisations, governments, businesses and civil society to launch various initiatives designed to mitigate the interactions between resource issues and conflict.

Other responses include the creation of conflict monitoring and early warning systems and efforts to incorporate resource management into peacebuilding agendas. Several high-level initiatives have
been established to regulate illegal resource trade, most notably the Kimberley Process for ‘conflict
diamonds’. Provisions in national legislation, such as the Dodd-Frank Act in the United States, are designed to obstruct trade in “conflict resources”.

However, efforts to manage the different aspects of natural resources and their relationship to conflict and security—notably the effort to regulate trade while still ensuring market access—have highlighted the complex balance required in such initiatives. Thus, more effective global resource
governance frameworks should be part of the international effort to weaken and eventually break the links between resources and conflict.