The death toll from military conflicts worldwide is frighteningly high—over 237,000 battle-related deaths in 2022 alone, mostly from the wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia.
The war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region accounted for over 100,000 battle-related deaths in 2022, even more than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which accounted for more than 81,000 deaths, according to new conflict trends data released June 7 by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
“The war in Ethiopia resulted in more battle-related deaths in 2022 than the wars in Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, Mali and Burkina Faso combined,” said Siri Aas Rustad, Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
“While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominated global headlines, atrocities on an unprecedented scale were being committed in the shadows in Ethiopia.”
“There has been a worrying increase in state-based conflicts in the past decade, with over 50 such conflicts each year for the past eight years”.
According to the new figures, more state-based conflict, battle-related deaths took place in 2022 than any year since 1994. The wars in Ukraine and Ethiopia were the primary contributors to over 237,000 battle-related deaths in 2022.
PRIO’s Conflict Trends: A Global Overview, 1946-2022 report provides an analysis of the global trends in conflict covering the period 1946 to 2022, to help policymakers and practitioners better understand the contexts they are working in.
The study uses data collected annually by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program at Uppsala University, Sweden.
Meanwhile, the United Nations, which is mandated to maintain international peace and security, has failed in resolving some of the ongoing military conflicts and civil wars—including in Ukraine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia and Sudan—primarily because of the new cold war in the UN Security Council: China and Russia on one side, and the western powers, the US, UK and France, on the other.
Asked whether this deadlock would prevent the resolution of any of the conflicts worldwide in the near future, Therese Pettersson, Project Manager, Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, told IDN “Undoubtedly, the UN Security Council faces problems dealing with the current situation in the world, and deadlock definitely makes it harder to resolve some conflicts”.
However, she pointed out, the UNSC is not the only multilateral institution that could facilitate conflict resolution.
Other international bodies, such as the African Union, and the European Union, are all examples of organizations working to promote peacebuilding and security in conflict areas.
Furthermore, most conflicts do not end in UN-brokered peace agreements, but more often terminate under other circumstances, where fighting simply ceases, she declared
Despite the increase in battle-related deaths, says the new study, the number of state-based armed conflicts remained consistently high in 2022. Fifty-five active conflicts were recorded in 38 conflict-affected countries. Eight of these 55 conflicts were classified as wars—meaning over 1,000 battle-related deaths were recorded within the calendar year.
“We’re witnessing a worrying increase in state-based conflicts in the past decade, with over 50 such conflicts each year for the past eight years,” said Professor Rustad.
“This is partially because of the expansion of the Islamic State across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.” The terrorist group was involved in conflicts in 15 countries in 2022.
While the dominant type of state-based conflict is civil conflict, over the past decade these types of conflicts have become increasingly internationalized, which also contributed to more battle-related deaths. A civil conflict is regarded as internationalized if one or more third-party governments are involved by contributing or deploying combat personnel in support of the objective of either side.
“It has become more common for external states to send troop support to rebel groups fighting against other governments, which essentially means that state armies are fighting each other,” explained Therese Pettersson, Project Leader, Uppsala Conflict Data Program.
An increase in non-state armed group involvement in foreign conflicts has also taken place over the past decade, such as the Islamic State, as well as other actor including private militaries like the Wagner Group. These groups alter conflict dynamics within and across conflict-affected countries. For example, the increased activity of the Wagner Group in the Sahel region may lead to an increase in recruitment by local rebel groups.
With regards to non-state conflict, the latest figures show that 82 non-state conflicts took place in 2022, an increase from 76 in 2021. Despite the increase in the number of conflicts, battle-related deaths decreased to just over 20,000 – a decrease of some 4,000. This suggests that there was an increase in more low intensity non-state conflicts.
Africa was home to the greatest number of non-state conflicts, followed by the Americas. Mexico remained one of the most violent countries in terms of non-state conflicts, with more than 14,000 battle-related deaths recorded.
Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly met in a formal plenary June 7 to discuss “protracted conflicts in the GUAM area”—namely Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova—on a draft resolution submitted by Georgia focusing on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia.
For more information on the newly released study:
- Contact Michelle Delaney, Communication Director at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) | [email protected] | mobile 0047 941 65 579.
- Click here to download the whole PRIO report, Conflict Trends: A Global Overview, 1946-2022.
The Uppsala conflict data will be published in the July issue of Journal of Peace Research. For more information, contact Therese Pettersson, Project Leader, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, University of Uppsala, [email protected], +46 70-6496491.