Peace and Conflict

The 2005 version of the Peace and Conflict report, the third in the biennial series, is available as a free downloadable PDF. The report, subtitled "A Global Survey of Armed Conflicts, Self-Determination Movements, and Democracy", is written by Monty Marshall and Ted Robert Gurr based on global trends in armed conflict, self-determination movements, and democracy. The 2005 report adds sections on ethnic discrimination, political instability in Africa, genocide, and terrorism.

The trend in global conflict is a positive one. War is on the decline, at least within the last 15 years. The author's attach a caveat: "These positive trends are no warrant for unqualified optimism about the future of world peace. International cooperations is threatened by growing fractures in the world community." However, the idea that war is on the decline is a hopeful one. Has war become an inefficient means for countries to obtain the assets they seek? It's a theory some have offered as an explanation. Others theorize that the assets that countries once sought in war have evolved from physical assets (like oil) into more intangible assets (like intellectual capital). I don't know enough to offer my own explanation, though it seems entirely possible that conflict might evolve into different forms over time as the stakes of armed conflict become too high to justify the potential reward.

Not all the news is positive. Terrorism has supplanted superpower conflict as the primary security concern of the twenty-first century. High-casualty terorrist acts are up sharply since 9/11. Genocide and political mass murder remain a risk in over a dozen countries, and the inability of the UN to stop ethnic cleansing in recent years doesn't bode well for the world's capacity to halt future occurrences.