An Israeli military armoured vehicle rolls in an area bordering the Gaza Strip on June 9, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. LEHTIKUVA / AFP

International news

The year 2023 marked a significant increase in global violence, with a record number of 59 state-based conflicts, the highest since 1946. This alarming trend was highlighted in the latest conflict trend analysis report by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

While the number of conflicts surged, the number of countries experiencing these conflicts dropped from 39 to 34, indicating a concentration of violence in fewer nations.

Siri Aas Rustad, Research Professor at PRIO and lead author of the report, stated, “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.”

The PRIO report, titled "Conflict Trends: A Global Overview," analyzes global conflict data from 1946 to 2023, using information collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Uppsala University. The findings reveal a significant rise in state-based conflicts due to the expansion of groups like the Islamic State across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and the involvement of other non-state actors such as Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin.

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

Despite a slight drop in the number of battle deaths last year, the past three years have seen more conflict-related fatalities than any time in the last three decades. Key drivers of this increase include the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the bombing of Gaza. In 2023 alone, there were 122,000 battle deaths, with over 71,000 in Ukraine and approximately 23,000 in Gaza.

Africa remains the region with the highest number of state-based conflicts, totaling 28, followed by Asia with 17, the Middle East with 10, Europe with three, and the Americas with one. The number of conflicts in Africa has nearly doubled over the past decade, with more than 330,000 battle-related deaths in the past three years.

The Middle East, which saw a slight reduction in conflicts from 2021 to 2022, experienced an increase in conflicts from eight to ten between 2022 and 2023. The region recorded nearly 26,000 battle-related deaths in 2023, a stark rise from just over 5,000 in 2022. Notably, almost 23,000 of these deaths occurred in Israel and Palestine, indicating a shift in the region's conflict dynamics.

Professor Rustad commented, “The Middle East figures give hope that extreme violence and complex conflicts such as in Syria can diminish. On the other hand, it is a continuous worry that we see new extremely violent conflicts emerging more often than previously.”

The report underscores the evolving and intensifying nature of global conflicts, highlighting the need for comprehensive strategies to address the root causes of violence and support conflict-affected populations. Policymakers and practitioners are urged to leverage these insights to better understand and navigate the complex global conflict landscape.

As the world grapples with these challenges, the call for effective intervention and support for peace-building efforts has never been more critical.