10 wars to watch in 2015

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Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, provides an overview of 10 conflicts the international community will face in 2015 (“10 Wars to Watch in 2015,” Foreign Policy, 2 January 2015):

The last year was a bad one for international peace and security.

Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people, and are harder to end than in years past.

The Arab world’s turmoil deepened: The Islamic State captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria, much of Gaza was destroyed again, Egypt turned toward authoritarianism and repression, and Libya and Yemen drifted toward civil war. In Africa, the world watched South Sudan’s leaders drive their new country into the ground. The optimism of 2013 faded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ebola ravaged parts of West Africa, and Boko Haram insurgents stepped up terrorist attacks in northern Nigeria. The international legal order was challenged with the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and war is back in Europe as fighting continues in eastern Ukraine.

Stabilizing the world’s most vulnerable areas should be a major, global foreign policy imperative — and not just a moral one, given that these regions often serve as a haven for terrorists and transnational criminals.

Solutions require a granular understanding of each conflict, its drivers, its protagonists, their motives and interests. Any response needs to be tailored to context. But we can offer a few general ideas based on the past year.

First, too often this year, policy has lacked a political strategy. This applies as much to the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State as it does to the Nigerians’ against Boko Haram. Military action won’t work alone; in fact, it often perpetuates underlying drivers of conflict — power inequalities, underdevelopment, state predation, identity politics and so forth. What keeps countries together are political settlements.

Second, talking makes sense more often than not.

Third, political inclusion should more frequently be a guiding principle of today’s leaders. Exclusion is a major driver in many of today’s wars — all main groups need a seat at the table to protect their interests.

Fourth, it is much better to prevent crises than to try to contain them later.

The 10 trouble zones Guéhenno discusses are:

  1. Syria, Iraq, and the Islamic State
  2. Ukraine
  3. South Sudan
  4. Nigeria
  5. Somalia
  6. Democratic Republic of Congo
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Yemen
  9. Libya and the Sahel
  10. Venezuela

Read the full article here: 10 wars to watch in 2015.

Photo credit: Freedom House, Flickr

Tags: Afghanistan, Armed Conflict, Democratic Republic of Congo, International crises, Iraq, Islamic State, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Libya, Nigeria, Sahel, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, United Nations, Venezuela, Yemen