The CONIAS Risk Intelligence Conflict Radar in September 2022

November 29th, 2022

The year 2022 is the year of a turning point – at least insofar as political risks are finally getting the attention they have long deserved. If they had been considered earlier, Germany and many other countries and companies would have been much better prepared for the current situation.

Number of political wars and conflicts as of September 2022

Gaining an overview of the current conflict situation

MBI CONIAS has been supporting its customers for years in gaining an overview of the current risk situation. This involves analyzing which of the current political conflicts pose a threat to one's own interests and where there are still safe geographical areas for maintaining and further developing the supply chain or other activities. Today, we provide an insight into the current conflict situation with our conflict radar, which our paying customers already received weeks ago: The global conflict situation as of September 30th, 2022.

For many, the number of armed conflicts this year is alarmingly high: In addition to the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has overshadowed everything else, we have observed almost 60 other armed conflicts so far – 49 within states and a further nine between states. However, some of these wars are part of a conflict system that other overviews would simply call civil wars in country A or country B. Myanmar, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria are affected by these intrastate conflicts. But Ethiopia, Pakistan and Israel must also be counted among the countries impacted by intrastate warfare – albeit to varying extents and durations.

However, even interstate wars are not always fought on the same scale as between Ukraine and Russia. Thus, we currently count nine more wars or limited wars between states. Wars continuously change their form and extent. Even so, we include conflicts in which heavy weapons are used and larger military units conduct operations in this category. Similarly, increased use of kamikazes or shooting drones over a longer period of time also leads to classification as a warlike conflict. This category includes conflicts such as the renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, disputes between the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also the conflict between Israel and Iran.

Violent conflicts below the threshold of war are difficult to interpret and pose a particular risk potential

While (ongoing) wars represent clear stop signs and prohibit all economic and tourist activities, violent conflicts below the threshold of war are more difficult to interpret: In many countries, the threshold of violence is quickly crossed without causing serious difficulties in daily life. In other conflicts, however, there is such a strong influence behind the term violent conflict that it comes very close to some warlike conflicts. We will revisit this issue in a subsequent report.

A total of 477 violent conflicts have been observed to date, 21 of them interstate. A large number of these conflicts can actually be classified as social conflicts. In other words, these are conflicts in which groups with the same interests often unite rather spontaneously in order to then jointly emphasize their demands. These demands are usually directed against the state (without immediately demanding a change of government or system) and are to be understood more as particular interests. These can be, for example, demands from farmers for compensation payments after a poor harvest or employees in the transportation sector demanding higher wages. But demonstrations against corruption or demanding a stronger package of measures from the state could also be included in this area of social conflict – as long as they do not demand the replacement of the government by a majority. This type of conflict is characterized by the fact that the actors involved are typically only weakly organized and therefore normally have no weapons or only very simple weapons (e.g., stones they find on the street). Such kinds of violent conflicts can be found, for example, in Pakistan, Colombia, South Africa or Mexico – in fact, everywhere in the world, albeit to varying degrees.

However, violent conflicts below the threshold of war can also conceal conflicts that have been established for decades, are carried out by highly specialized actors and come very close to forms of conflict that one would describe as war. Examples of this are conflicts that the public likes to refer to as ethnic conflicts or clan rivalries. This form of violence is particularly prevalent in large territorial states with reduced statehood, where the state has difficulty enforcing its monopoly on the use of force in the more remote areas as well. Examples include Somalia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and Ghana, to name just a few. Here, it is usually only the number of armed men and the light armament that make these appear to be conflicts below the threshold of war. Members of the various groups, however, may perceive these conflicts as wars simply because of the frequency of attacks or the low sense of security.

Interstate conflicts involving the use of force – below the threshold of war – pose a particular potential threat. After all, the UN Charter prohibits all of its 193 member states from using force to resolve conflicts with other states. We currently count 20 such disputes. Many of them are limited to certain sections of a border and are carried out in a somewhat ritualized manner with occasional exchanges of fire, without seriously endangering human lives. New additions in recent years, however, have been conflicts between Ukraine and Belarus, Afghanistan and Iran, or Ethiopia and Sudan. They all represent potential for further escalation and will continue to be monitored by us on a monthly basis.

Peaceful conflicts must not be neglected under any circumstances

Last but not least, we also observe a total of 564 conflicts that were resolved peacefully this year. Among these, 435 were intrastate and 129 were interstate conflicts. But the word peaceful should by no means mislead us into classifying these conflicts as unimportant or less noteworthy. Some of these conflicts may never be settled with violence, but the way in which they are currently being resolved peacefully already has a massive impact on the prosperity and development potential of entire nations. Clearly, conflicts such as those between China and the USA, the USA and North Korea, China and Taiwan and, of course, the relations between NATO and Russia, particularly over Ukraine, fall into this category.

However, internal conflicts that are carried out completely or predominantly without violence this year also have the potential to massively damage the image and reputation of states and must therefore be monitored. Examples of this are how German citizens treat their Jewish fellow citizens, the problem of open or hidden racism (black lives matter) in the USA and how LGBTQ+ groups are treated in many (Eastern) European or Muslim states.

Almost 1,100 ongoing political conflicts – and counting every month. Too many to monitor them all yourself, too serious the damage they can cause. Talk to our CONIAS Risk Intelligence experts, we will find the right tool to gain control over political risks for your company. For more information, feel free to contact our team of experts.

About the author:
Dr. Nicolas Schwank
Chief Data Scientist Political Risk
CONIAS Risk Intelligence
Michael Bauer International GmbH