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Protracted conflicts continue to trap millions of civilians in a vicious circle of violence, displacement, loss of livelihoods, and poverty. Often, the key protagonists - who benefit economically from continued conflict - have little incentive for truce. This paper describes how current global conditions are undermining peace and security. It argues that activities related to the 'war on terror' have increased insecurity in many parts of the world - fuelling counter-insurgency, human rights abuses, arms trade expansion, and diminution of the humanitarian space. International commitment to end protracted conflicts is vastly inconsistent, while several global initiatives aimed at reducing conflict and poverty have been deprioritised since 9/11. Meanwhile, new threats such as environmental stress and disease are intensifying. The paper suggests a series of policy and practice changes in support of peace and security. However, these will only be achieved through genuine political commitment at all levels to effective multilateral action.
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    Insecurity in an Unequal World Ed Cairns Protracted conflicts continue to trap millions of civilians in a vicious circle of violence, displacement, loss of livelihoods, and poverty. Often, the key protagonists - who benefit economically from continued conflict - have little incentive for truce. This paper describes how current global conditions are undermining peace and security. It argues that activities related to the ‘war on terror’ have increased insecurity in many parts of the world – fuelling counter-insurgency, human rights abuses, arms trade expansion, and diminution of the humanitarian space. International commitment to end protracted conflicts is vastly inconsistent, while several global initiatives aimed at reducing conflict and poverty have been deprioritised since 9/11. Meanwhile, new threats such as environmental stress and disease are intensifying. The paper suggests a series of policy and practice changes in support of peace and security. However, these will only be achieved through genuine  political commitment at all levels to effective multilateral action. This background paper was written as a contribution to the development of From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World , Oxfam International 2008. It is published in order to share widely the results of commissioned research and programme experience. The views it expresses are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Oxfam International or its affiliate organisations.    Insecurity in an Unequal World From Poverty to Power - www.fp2p.org   1   1 The State of War There are four major problems described below. 1. There is a ‘rump’ of 30 conflicts, most of them very protracted, that have evaded the successful attempts to resolve other wars since the end of the Cold War. 1  These are major conflicts involving states. Inter-communal violence – from Gujarat in India to Karamoja in Uganda – is above and beyond. 2  Most of both these types of conflict are in countries on the margins of the global economy, where poverty is as entrenched as violence. In human terms, the world has around 25 million people displaced within their own countries 3  (and another 20 million also directly affected each year by war 4 ). A person displaced in 2004 had, on average, fled their home in 1990. 5  The world’s major new  war, in Iraq, 6  demonstrates a remarkable irony: it appears to have turned into a protracted conflict – the exact opposite of what US military strategy is designed to deliver: short, sharp victories won by overwhelming advantage and technical superiority. 2. Beyond these conflicts, there are new threats, outlined below, that may kill thousands more in future years. ã Environmental stress  feeds the tensions between communities as they compete for land to support their livelihoods. 7  This can increase inter-communal violence (as in Karamoja) and that violence can be exploited in much wider conflicts. Darfur, which erupted into major violence in 2003, was labelled the ‘first climate change conflict’ for this reason. 8  Such a situation can easily become a vicious circle as displaced people put new pressure on the environment and livelihoods are destroyed. Climate change causes environmental stress and is therefore also one cause of conflict along with local unsustainable behaviour. ã HIV and AIDS threatens to undermine some African states’ ability to function by killing whole swathes of public servants in health, education and security. It is one reason why states may be too ‘fragile’ to prevent conflict. Similarly, conflict spreads HIV and AIDS through sexual violence and the disruption of health services. 9  Modern conflict is a story of one vicious circle upon another. ã Technology – and terror: ‘Terrorism’ kills relatively few; 10  weapons of mass destruction likewise. But WMD technology far outstrips governments’ power to control it. It may well be only a matter of a time until ‘terrorists’ use radiological weapons to kill very large numbers of people in a key global centre, with devastating effects on the global economy and, therefore, on poor people in developing countries. Beyond its immediate death toll, 9/11 killed tens of thousands of under-five-year-olds in developing countries through this economic impact. 11   1  Uppsala Conflict Data Programme. There is inadequate data, especially comparable year-on-year or very up-to-date data, on many security issues; a note of caution should be attached to most of the figures in this paper. 2  ‘One-sided violence’, like the deliberate slaughter of civilians, was as common as armed conflicts involving states in 2002 and 2003, according to the Human Security Report 2005, p 6. 3  Norwegian Refugee Council 2005. The number of refugees, or ‘conflict migrants’, has slowly declined  since the early 1990s 4  Hilary Benn, 2006 5  Report of the UN Secretary General on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2005. 6  Arguably Afghanistan as well. US troops are withdrawing in 2006 precisely because it is so protracted. 7  Richard Matthew, Mark Halle, Jason Switzer, 2002. 8  Oxfam GB staff 9  International Crisis Group, 2004 10  The figures are disputed. The more pessimistic ones appear to be less manipulated to show that the US is winning the ‘war on terror’. ‘Significant, high-casualty’ terrorist attacks increased eightfold between 1982 and 2003, and by almost 50 per cent between 2001 and 2003, according to Alan Krueger of Princeton University, ‘Faulty Terror Report Card’, Washington Post, 17 May 2004. Since 2003, the thousands of deaths from suicide bombs in Iraq would increase these figures substantially. 11  World Bank, 2001    3. Civilians are targets or ‘collateral damage’ in conflicts. Very large numbers 12  of children, women and men are already being killed – because civilians are the actual targets or increasingly accepted ‘collateral damage’ of conflict. This is not an accident; it happens because: ã Relatively weak rebels and insurgents know they will make a far greater impact from spreading fear among civilians than fighting better-armed government soldiers ã In their struggle to defeat them, governments are apparently accepting increasing restrictions on human rights and hence, civilian casualties Sexual Violence In violent environments, the abuse of women and children flourishes, though young men suffer disproportionately in some ways too. Sexual violence, particularly against women and girls, is a method of warfare. In 2005, the UN reported that one region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had 25,000 attacks a year. 13  Women are far more vulnerable to violence when they have fled their homes, and so it is likely that the four-fold increase in the number of displaced people since the early 1970s has led to a dramatic increase in sexual violence. 14   4. The wider ‘collateral damage’ including the destruction of livelihoods, breakdown of basic services and state capacity all feed the vicious circle of war and poverty that fuels most modern conflicts. Countries with the lowest GDP per capita are almost four times more likely to suffer conflict than those with per capita GDP of $5000 or more. 15  Poor countries are locked into a ‘conflict trap’ 16  whereas most other conflicts that are not rooted in poverty are resolved. This is one of the important reasons why the rump of 30 wars still exists. Conflicts can also sustain poverty by simply being very costly. The $5.6 billion monthly  bill for the US war in Iraq is one very expensive opportunity cost, 17  while poor countries frequently spend on arms rather than on health and education. In 2003, India spent $1 billion on a military radar system while it had a $50 million shortfall in funds to fight polio. 18  Less directly, the focus of donor governments’ post-2001 on their security can squeeze the resources to reduce poverty. 19  Altogether, to the extent that aid, debt and trade 20  are part of the solution to poverty, they are also part of the solution to conflict. 12  Human Security Report 2005, op.cit. p 30. In 2002, different figures for the number of civilian deaths from armed attacks or battles ranged from 19,000 to 172,000. There are higher figures based on WHO research, and Oxfam has used them widely; but these seem to be increasingly questioned. They suggested that 300,000 were the average number of people killed in armed conflicts each year through the intentional use of firearms. Oxfam ‘killer facts’ of 500,000 a year, one a minute, were based on other WHO-based figures on deaths in ‘peaceful’ countries as well. 13  UN Secretary General, op. cit , p 4 14  Human Security Report 2005, op. cit. , p 8 15  Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, 2004, p 20. 16  World Bank, 2003. 17  Human Security Report 2005, op. cit , p 36 18  Oxfam, Guns or Growth? Assessing the Impact of Arms Sales on Sustainable Development, 2004, p 3 19  What was the outcome of US critiques of Paying the Price on this? The January 2006 change in USAID’s Administrator and relationship with the State Department appears to make aid a tool of ‘transformational diplomacy’ to improve ‘good government’ and, hence, security: ‘New Direction for US Foreign Assistance’, Office of the Spokesman, US State Department, 19 January 2006 20  There seems some evidence that trade improves security and that shocks can undermine it. But it seems clearer that conflicts undermine the ability to trade – part of the whole ‘conflict trap’ – and that the post-2001 US security requirements may do so too. There seem to be few specific policy ideas to make trade ‘conflict-sensitive’ beyond just making it fair. Hilary Benn, ‘Trade and Security in an Interconnected World’, in Human and Environmental Security , ed. Felix Dodds and Tim Pippard, 2005; ‘Designing Conflict-Sensitive Trade Policy’, International Institute for Sustainable Development and IUCN – the World Conservation Union, 2005 Insecurity in an Unequal World From Poverty to Power - www.fp2p.org   2     Africa and War  Africa has not always seen more conflicts than any other continent: this is a new situation in the last twenty years arising from the ‘conflict trap’ of poverty and war. Before that, politics (anti-colonialism and then the Cold War), more than poverty, had been the root of modern war. Though many of  Africa’s conflicts had the same ideological elements, they are rooted in continuing poverty and that has prevented resolution. By 2000, 100,000 Africans a year were being killed in conflicts, more than in all the rest of the world conflicts combined. 21  For most  of the twentieth century, however, Europe, and later South-East and East Asia, dominated global warfare 2 The state we are in The cycle of war and poverty, the ‘conflict trap’, not only keeps countries in conflict, it also makes it far more difficult to get out of conflict if the underlying poverty, poor governance and other grievances are not dealt with – even when ‘peace’ is signed. Forty per cent of countries collapse into war again within 5 years of peace deals, 22  partly because of inadequate post-conflict development and peacekeeping. A state of ‘peace’ is all too often a fiction: the Democratic Republic of the Congo has supposedly been at peace since 2003. In contrast with the deeply entrenched old wars, and despite the combined efforts of  Al-Qaeda  and US neo-conservatives, there are very few new  wars. The fashion for ‘conflict-prevention’ since the 1990s has in a sense been misplaced: preventing new conflicts – in Iran or between Ethiopia and Eritrea, for example – is important, but far more human suffering is caused by the continuation of old wars. The real challenge is therefore: why is it so difficult to resolve conflicts ? And then, when it appears that the conflict has been resolved: why is it so difficult to prevent peace processes collapsing into violence ? In other words, why does that rump of 30 conflicts remain? There is no short answer or template to apply to every conflict in the world but the main reasons include the following: ã  Many conflicts are no longer contests in which both sides are trying to win; they are economically more lucrative to keep going forever  . This is often true for all sides: the leaders and, in more modest ways, some of the ordinary fighters. 23  In the process, they kill and impoverish most men, women and children. Conflicts make economic good sense for at least two reasons: o Poverty : the lack of peaceful ways to earn a livelihood makes a violent one attractive and; o Globalisation : the increased opportunities to profit from exporting natural resources, and drugs, from war-torn areas to international markets (linked to the growth in organised international crime).   ã The struggle against terrorism has become another vicious circle with terrorism, the ‘global war on terror’ and other brutal counter-insurgency fuelling each other  . ‘Liberal’ counter-insurgency, in which the poverty or grievances of all sides are tackled, has often been successful. But from Colombia to Uganda to Iraq, there are now counter-insurgency strategies that abuse civilians, fail to defeat their enemies, and show no good prospects of resolving the violence. This is not entirely new; viewed from the US or Europe, the impact of the ‘war on terror’ looks bigger than it is. For example, Colombia’s conflict has evolved from wars, in turn, on ‘communism’, ‘drugs’ and now ‘terror’. US military support has fuelled the abuses of the army and paramilitaries (fighting the equally abusive guerrillas) for decades. 21  Bethany Lacina and Nils Petter Gelditch, Monitoring Trends in Global Combat: a New Dataset of Battle Deaths 2005 22  Human Security Report, op. cit , p 9 23  There has been a long debate about the relative importance of leaders’ ‘greed’ and popular ‘grievance’ in causing and sustaining conflicts. See Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffle, ‘Greed and Grievance in Civil War’, World Bank, 2001. The truth seems to be that it is both. See Mats Berdal, King’s College, London Insecurity in an Unequal World From Poverty to Power - www.fp2p.org   3
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