12.1 C
Saturday, September 23, 2023
    HomeNewsAfricaCivil wars are getting longer and more difficult to resolve

    Civil wars are getting longer and more difficult to resolve

    - Advertisement -


    May 09, 2023

    Civil wars are getting longer and more difficult to resolve
    Sudanese greet army soldiers loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan. (AFP)

    The recent outbreak of fighting in Sudan has highlighted the terrible human and economic toll of civil wars. Sudan is hardly alone. Depending on how one defines civil war, there are between 10 and 100 ongoing today. According to the Geneva Academy, the Middle East and North Africa region has the highest number of civil wars, followed by Africa.

    Defining the term civil war is tricky, but generally it refers to a conflict that occurs mostly within the borders of a state and in which most of the belligerents are residents of that state. There are different types of civil war and each conflict has its own unique characteristics. A state may have more than one civil conflict at a time. Despite these variations, multiple research projects over the last 30 years have found commonalities among civil wars.

    Civil wars typically last much longer than wars between states and recent research suggests that the average duration of civil wars has been lengthening in recent years. The Economist recently reported that the average length of a civil war was nearly 20 years in 2021, compared to an average of 13 years in 1985. Other research by scholars and aid organizations has also found that civil wars are lasting longer.

    What factors are driving civil wars to last for so many years? The Economist identified several reasons, including complexity, criminality, climate change, deteriorating global norms and the spread of violent religious extremism. Research from other sources supports those findings and adds other useful points. For example, civil wars are more likely to end through clear military victory than negotiation so, when belligerent groups are unable to defeat and disarm each other, conflicts are more likely to last longer.

    An extensive body of research has demonstrated that civil wars are more likely to endure when there are multiple groups involved. Researchers have found that civil wars that end through negotiation tend to be shorter, but negotiating a durable settlement with multiple belligerents is very difficult. Even ending a war through clear military victory is more difficult when many armed groups are fighting.

    A problem is foreign involvement. Academic research has found that interventions by foreign countries in support of one or more parties in a civil war likely extends the length of the war and increases the death toll. One reason is that foreign powers, who do not bear the true costs of the war, can continue providing resources to belligerents who might otherwise have been unable to continue fighting. Foreign countries’ interests can also complicate negotiation efforts. During the Cold War, Soviet and US involvement in proxy wars contributed to their length; today, the involvement of global or regional powers plays a similar role.

    Long-running civil wars often devolve into war economies, in which armed groups have financial incentives to continue fighting. These actors can make money through extortion and other means. They often benefit from controlling natural resources such as mines or crops that are used for drugs. Once a war economy is entrenched, ending the war becomes even more difficult.

    Long-running civil wars often devolve into war economies, in which armed groups have financial incentives to continue fighting.

    Kerry Boyd Anderson

    Other factors contribute to some civil wars. Stanford University’s James Fearon, who has conducted significant research on the subject, wrote in 2004 that “‘sons of the soil’ wars that typically involve land conflict between a peripheral ethnic minority and state-supported migrants of a dominant ethnic group are on average quite long-lived.”

    When religious extremism intersects with armed conflict — such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and parts of the Sahel — armed groups often become increasingly brutal and unwilling to negotiate. Climate change is a major risk multiplier that contributes to the likelihood of a civil war occurring, as well as complicating efforts to resolve conflict.

    At times, the UN has played a significant role in helping to end some internal wars, but when there is paralysis in the UN Security Council its ability to take significant action is hampered. In general, when there is a lack of a willing, capable and trusted third party who can help lead negotiations and monitor agreements, resolving wars is much harder.
    It also can be difficult to determine when a civil war truly ends and another one begins. Is the current fighting in Sudan the start of a new potential civil war or is it the continuation of a series of internal conflicts? Did the current war in Yemen start in 2014 or is it the latest stage in a series of wars going back decades or longer? Similar questions could be asked of countries such as Myanmar, Lebanon and Ethiopia, among others. When is it a lasting peace and when is it a pause between wars?

    Just as experts have significant information about factors that make civil wars likely and make them longer or more brutal, they also have knowledge of ways to help end wars. Civil wars that end through negotiation are likely to be shorter, while there are historical lessons to help negotiators, such as including women and civil society voices and involving a third-party mediator that can provide some security during combatant demobilization.

    However, in situations where belligerents have the incentives and resources to keep fighting — especially if they receive foreign assistance — ending wars is extremely challenging. As always, civilians are caught in the crossfire, often left with little choice except to try to flee, as many Sudanese are attempting today.

    • Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 18 years of experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risk. Her previous positions include deputy director for advisory with Oxford Analytica.
    Twitter: @KBAresearch

    Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view

    source https://www.arabnews.com/node/2300556

    - Advertisement -


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Keep exploring...

    Complete Guide to Eid Prayer: Rituals, Cleanliness, Process, and More

    Eid Prayer is a significant festival in Islam, marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. One of the most important aspects...

    Eid Al-Fitr: A Comprehensive Guide to Recommended Acts on the Day of Celebration

    Eid Al-Fitr, often referred to as "Eid," is one of the most significant and joyous festivals in the Islamic calendar. It marks the end...

    Related Stories

    Iran congratulates Saudi Arabia on National Day – Middle East Monitor

    Iran has greeted Saudi Arabia on the kingdom’s National Day amid a rapprochement between...

    Remembering Saudi National Day – Middle East Monitor

    Unless otherwise stated in the article above, this work by Middle East Monitor is...

    The Misunderstood Reason Millions of Americans Stopped Going to Church

    The defining problem driving people out is … just how American life works in...

    Libya flood disaster displaced over 43,000 people — IOM

    By AFP – Sep 22,2023 – Last updated at Sep 23,2023 A young flood survivor receives a...

    Mideast faces prospect of ‘environmental catastrophe’: Iraqi PM

    Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia Al Sudani addresses the 78th Session of the...

    Muslims and Jews must join forces to fight climate change

    RABBI MARC SCHNEIER September 22, 2023  Follow We have just entered the month-long season of the Jewish...

    Repentant Boko Haram member kills wife over alleged infidelity

    By Ndahi Marama, Maiduguri A repentant Boko Haram member, Musa Dauda has killed his wife...

    Muslim girl turned away from school in France for wearing hijab files complaint with UN – Middle East Monitor

    A Muslim student, who had been turned away from school for wearing a kimono,...

    Explore More Articles

    Welcome to the enlightening realm of our Islamic Articles Page – a digital sanctuary where knowledge, spirituality, and the rich tapestry of Islamic culture converge. In an era where information flows ceaselessly and the world seems to spin faster each day, our platform stands as a steadfast beacon of wisdom and reflection.