The worldwide review of political, military and humanitarian trends in current conflicts.

ACS 2017The Armed Conflict Survey provides in-depth analysis of the political, military and humanitarian dimensions of all major armed conflicts, as well as data on fatalities, refugees and internally displaced persons. Compiled by the IISS, publisher of The Military Balance, it is the standard reference work on contemporary conflict.

The book assesses key developments in 37 high-, medium- and low-intensity conflicts, including those in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Israel–Palestine, Southern Thailand, Colombia and Ukraine.

The Armed Conflict Survey features essays by some of the world’s leading experts on armed conflict, including Mats Berdal, Elizabeth Jean Wood, Julia Bleckner, Nelly Lahoud, Carrie Manning and William Reno. They write on the following:

  • Whither UN Peacekeeping?
  • Conflict-related sexual violence
  • The Islamic State’s shifting narrative
  • The changing foundations of governance by armed groups
  • Rebel-to-party transitions

The authors’ discussion of principal thematic and cross-national trends complements the detailed analysis of each conflict at the core of the book.

The Armed Conflict Survey also includes maps, infographics and multi-year data, as well as the IISS Chart of Conflict.

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  • Editor’s Introduction

    Fatalities in the world’s conflicts declined for a second successive year in 2016, to 157,000, from 167,000 in 2015 and 180,000 in 2014. The war in Syria remained the world’s most lethal, with a further 50,000 deaths there bringing the total since 2011 to around 290,000 – more than twice the number recorded in Bosnia’s four-year fratricidal conflict in the 1990s. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan claimed 17,000 and...
  • Chapter 1, Part I: Whither UN Peacekeeping?

    United Nations peacekeeping – the deployment of military and police contingents, drawn from member states and authorised by the Security Council, to mitigate, contain and help create the conditions for overcoming violent and protracted conflict within the international system – has long been viewed as the UN’s flagship activity, its most concrete and visible contribution to international peace and security. Measured in terms of overall troop numbers and money expended...
  • Chapter 1, Part II: Conflict-related Sexual Violence

    Scholars, advocates and policymakers now understand that sexual violence against civilians is not an inevitable by-product of war. Rather, it varies widely in form, frequency and targeting – not only across conflicts but also among armed actors within conflicts.1 Some armed actors effectively prohibit their members from engaging in sexual violence against civilians; some adopt rape or different forms of sexual violence as organisational policy (sometimes for military purposes); others...
  • Chapter 1, Part III: The Islamic State’s Shifting Narrative

    In early 2014, cities and towns in Iraq and Syria were falling like dominoes into the hands of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In June that year, the group proclaimed itself a ‘caliphate’, a global ‘Islamic state’, dropping ‘Iraq’ and ‘the Levant’ from its name. However, the size of the territory controlled by ISIS peaked before the group celebrated its first anniversary. During its winning streak...
  • Chapter 1, Part IV: The Changing Foundations of Governance by Armed Groups

    How and why armed groups govern civilians owes much to the particularities of specific conflicts. Nevertheless, there has been a systemic change in the past 50 years. Global political changes have altered who supports armed groups from outside conflict zones, and for what purpose. This shift has had important effects on armed groups’ motivations and resources for civilian governance. Broad changes have also occurred in the character of the states...
  • Chapter 1, Part V: Rebel-to-party Transitions

    Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the overwhelming majority of negotiated peace agreements have based their political settlements on electoral politics. In more than half of these cases, rebel groups formed parties to participate in post-war politics.1 Thus, rebel-to-party conversions have been a key feature of post-conflict peacebuilding for more than two decades. What challenges do rebel groups face in attempting to make this change? What conditions...
  • Chapter 2: Maps, Graphics and Data

    The Armed Conflict Survey provides in-depth analysis of the political, military and humanitarian dimensions of all major armed conflicts, as well as data on fatalities, refugees and internally displaced persons. Compiled by the IISS, publisher of The Military Balance, it is the standard reference work on contemporary conflict. The book assesses key developments in 36 high-, medium- and low-intensity conflicts, including those in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Israel–Palestine, Southern Thailand...
  • Chapter 3: Middle East

    Egypt Despite reports of a decrease in violence in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt failed to quell the jihadist insurgency in the region in 2016. There, the security forces often faced deadly attacks by Wilayat Sina (Sinai Province), an affiliate of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, that dominated the insurgency throughout the year. Elsewhere in Egypt, radicalised cells of Muslim Brotherhood members and anti-coup operatives became more...
  • Chapter 4: Sub-Saharan Africa

    Central African Republic Central African Republic began 2016 on a surprisingly positive note, holding peaceful presidential and legislative elections in January and February. Despite isolated security incidents, logistical challenges and some allegations of irregularities, the vote proceeded in a calm, orderly manner. Following the nearly three-year political transition and suspension of electoral activity under President Catherine Samba-Panza, the elections were widely perceived as a major step towards stability. Faustin-Archange Touadéra...
  • Chapter 5: South Asia

    Afghanistan The international community had little confidence in Afghanistan’s prospects for 2016. In his final report to the UN Security Council on 15 March, Nicholas Haysom, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said that ‘survival will be an achievement’ for the Afghan government in 2016, given the country’s strengthened insurgency, troubled peace process, low economic growth, political divisions and reliance on financial donors. Nonetheless, the government did survive...
  • Chapter 6: Asia-Pacific

    China (Xinjiang) The conflict in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang saw little change on the ground in 2016. Recorded fatalities fell to just nine – from around 200 in 2015 and 400 in 2014. This apparent trend could have reflected a significant reduction in the threat to civilians from terrorist activity and armed clashes. Yet even as the conflict seemed to stabilise, the authorities continued to strengthen their counter-terrorism...
  • Chapter 7: Europe and Eurasia

    Armenia–Azerbaijan (Nagorno-Karabakh) The overall dynamics of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh remained largely unchanged in 2016. Negotiations on conflict resolution were deadlocked. In the first three months of the year, Armenia and Azerbaijan continued to regularly accuse each other of using heavy weaponry and violating the ceasefire along the Line of Contact. In a dramatic escalation, on 2 April fighting broke out in Aghdara, Tartar, Agdam, Khojavend and Fuzuli – territory...
  • Chapter 8: Latin America

    Central America (Northern Triangle) The Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador strengthened their institutional capacity to fight corruption in 2016, establishing new agencies and implementing reforms to reduce criminal groups’ influence on politicians, business leaders and security personnel. Although the conflict there caused the deaths of around 16,000 people in the year, this was around 10% fewer than in 2015. Endemic violence and intimidation by powerful gangs...
  • Chapter 9: Explanatory Notes

    The Armed Conflict Survey provides analysis and data on active armed conflicts involving states and non-state armed groups across the world. The data in the current edition is accurate according to IISS assessments as at January 2017, unless specified.
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Armed Conflict Survey 2017

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