go to top
Troops ride in a vehicle near central Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the site of an emerging conflict. Troops ride in a vehicle near central Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, March 2, 2018 (AP photo by Ludivine Laniepce). The country's emerging conflict is outpacing the government's response.

Who Will Intervene in the World’s Hot Spots?

Friday, Aug. 7, 2020

As conflicts and crises persist around the world, there is growing uncertainty about how—or if—they will be resolved. The international order is fraying, generating uncertainty about who will intervene and how humanitarian responses might be funded.

There are interminable conflicts, like the situations in Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, which have produced years of violence, countless thousands of deaths and even more refugees. Then there are the emerging hot spots, including Mali and Burkina Faso, and any number of potential flashpoints, including in the South China Sea, which is dogged by territorial disputes. Even situations where there was some tenuous hope of reconciliation—such as the Central African Republic, where 14 armed groups signed a peace deal early last year—are in danger of unraveling.

At the same time, the nature of terrorism is also changing. The Islamic State is in the midst of a tactical shift following the loss of its caliphate in western Iraq and Syria, and more recently the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group appears to be transitioning to guerilla-style tactics and dispersed terrorist attacks, while shifting its focus to new theaters of operation, like Southeast Asia. But it is unclear if Western powers have the appetite for mounting the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns needed to meet these new challenges.

Until recently in Syria, a broad range of players remained engaged in the fight against terrorism, but that is one of the few recent examples where the international community has shown a willingness to intervene. And even there, the commitment of some actors, namely the United States, is now flagging. Syria is also a case study in how the traditional powers are undermining the ability of the United Nations to respond to crises, further weakening the post-World War II international order. The resulting vacuum has introduced opportunities for regional organizations, including the African Union, to fill the gaps, both in terms of stemming conflict and responding to disasters. But it is not yet clear if they will.

Meanwhile, emergencies due to conflict and natural disasters are proliferating at a rate that is outstripping the available resources to mount a response. Persistent conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo hampered the response to the Ebola outbreak in the region, even as that response has sown distrust and fueled new violence. South Sudan’s conflict, motivated in part by access to resources, has produced persistent food shortages that tipped over into famine last year. Refugee numbers are swelling, even as climate change is set to generate new crises. The coronavirus pandemic will only exacerbate all of these, while stretching thin the available resources for addressing them.

WPR has covered the world’s conflicts and crises in detail and continues to examine key questions about how they will evolve. How will the conflict in Syria be resolved, and can more humanitarian crises be averted while the fighting lasts? Who will intervene to prevent emerging conflicts? As the effects of climate change accelerate, will famines become more frequent? Below are some of the highlights of WPR’s coverage.

Our Most Recent Coverage

How Internal Squabbling Paralyzed Europe’s Most Vital Security Organization

Renewing the mandates of the OSCE’s four top leaders earlier this summer was widely seen as a mere formality. But then, a letter of protest from Azerbaijan turned a routine decision into a political power struggle that toppled the organization’s senior leadership team and left the OSCE in shambles.


[SPECIAL OFFER: Want to learn more? Get full access to World Politics Review for just $1 and read all the articles linked here to get up to speed on this important issue.]


Persistent Conflict and Crises

Across the globe, there are a handful of years-long conflicts that show no signs of drawing to a close. In some situations, like Syria, Libya and Yemen, that is because the fighting on a local level is a proxy for battles between other countries. Places like South Sudan and the Central African Republic were, until recent fragile peace agreements took hold, torn by rivalries among key domestic actors amid global disinterest. And then there is Afghanistan, where the United States is seeking to extricate itself from its “forever war.”

Emerging Conflicts

Alongside persistent conflicts, new hot spots are emerging, including across West Africa. For a variety of reasons, from Islamic extremism to crackdowns on separatist efforts, countries across the region have seen an escalation in armed violence. The result is massive displacement, which is stretching humanitarian resources.

Terrorism

The United States and other Western nations have demonstrated a diminished appetite for continuing to fight transnational terrorist networks, including al-Qaida and the Islamic State, in distant lands. But the threat of violent extremism may actually be spreading, as the ISIS-claimed terror attacks in Sri Lanka last year illustrated. Meanwhile, future efforts to counter insurgencies will have to adapt to emerging technologies, which are lowering the bar to entry, as well as the evolving, flattening structure of terrorist networks.

Humanitarian Responses

The United States is leading a withdrawal from international cooperation efforts, which have been central to organizing and maintaining disaster and humanitarian responses. Washington is attempting to undercut U.N. agencies that help coordinate these efforts, leaving regional actors and international agencies scrambling for funding. This comes at a particularly dangerous time, as the effects of climate change are going to become more severe, to say nothing of the coronavirus pandemic, which will make humanitarian assistance even more urgent in vulnerable countries.


[SPECIAL OFFER: Want to learn more? Get full access to World Politics Review for just $1 and read all the articles linked here to get up to speed on this important issue.]


Not yet ready to subscribe? Download our latest free report instead to get a taste of WPR's in-depth news and expert analysis.

From spyware wielded by autocrats to expanded surveillance by police states under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic, new technologies are helping authoritarian governments entrench their power and target their critics. They are also amplifying the spread of disinformation. Yet many democracies are also using these same technologies in troubling ways. Our latest WPR report provides a comprehensive look at how these state-of-the-art tools are being harnessed by different governments around the world. Download your FREE copy of Surveillance, Control and Disinformation Technology to learn more today.

Download our this free report and better understand the use of technology by governments around the world.

With your copy of Surveillance, Control and Disinformation Technology you’ll also gain free registration to the WPR newsletter, delivering uncompromising news and analysis directly to your inbox. Your FREE registration includes access to select articles, early announcements, and periodic discounts on our full-service subscription.

For years, activists, academics and watchdogs have characterized the spyware industry as out of control, with technology outpacing the laws designed to constrain the industry’s activities. In January 2020, the nefarious potential of such technology was vividly demonstrated when the heir to the Saudi kingdom apparently used Israeli-made spyware to breach the personal phone of the world’s richest man, who owns a leading American newspaper and runs one of the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies.

Meanwhile, the growing prevalence of facial recognition technology in authoritarian countries like Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which use it to monitor activists and suppress dissent, has raised increasing alarm among human rights advocates. Perhaps the most egregious example is in China, where the government has used facial recognition technology to racially profile Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that is concentrated in Xinjiang province, and forcibly lock them up in internment camps. But authoritarian countries are not alone: This technology is now being harnessed for law enforcement and surveillance purposes in many democracies.

Download Surveillance, Control and Disinformation Technology today to take a deeper look at these trends and get a glimpse at what the future may hold.

In this report, you will learn about:

  • How surveillance technology is helping authoritarian governments stifle dissent
  • The Bezos hack and the dangers of spyware in the hands of autocrats
  • The troubling rise of facial recognition technology in democracies
  • How police states are expanding under the cover of COVID-19
  • Whether the U.S. is prepared to deal with disinformation in the 2020 presidential campaign
  • Why tech giants aren't doing enough to combat misinformation online
  • Why Russia's attempt to create its own tightly controlled internet could backfire

Download this free report and better understand the use of technology by governments around the world.

With your copy of Surveillance, Control and Disinformation Technology you’ll also gain free registration to the WPR newsletter, delivering uncompromising news and analysis directly to your inbox. Your FREE registration includes access to select articles, early announcements, and periodic discounts on our full-service subscription.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2019 and is regularly updated.

What are your thoughts about responding to persistent conflict and crises? We would like to hear them. Scroll down to comment.