Download PDF Armed Conflict Survey 2016 Press Release

LONDON, UK, 5 May 2016 – Across the world, 167,000 people died in armed conflicts in 2015, the latest edition of The IISS Armed Conflict Survey concludes, while governments retook territory from insurgents, often with the help of allies.

Fully one-third of all fatalities occurred in Syria, where the death toll was 55,000. This was lower than 2014, but still accounted for 66% of fatalities in the Middle East and North Africa, and 33% of global fatalities, according to the new data published by The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Conflicts in Mexico and Central America accounted for 21% of global fatalities, with a combined death toll in excess of 34,000. Meanwhile fatalities fell sharply across sub-Saharan Africa – despite a ramp-up in deaths in Nigeria's war with Boko Haram – as de-escalation and/or conflict resolution took hold in Somalia, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The largest year-on-year increase in fatalities was seen in Afghanistan, which registered 15,000 deaths as a direct result of the conflict. This compares with just 3,500 in 2013, underlining the deterioration in security since the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) began its drawdown in earnest. Six conflicts – Syria, Iraq, Central America, Mexico, Afghanistan and Nigeria's battle with Boko Haram – accounted for nearly 80% of conflict fatalities globally.

Responding to territorial gains made by ISIS and other groups, states went onto the offensive. Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of the IISS, said: '2015 was the year that, for better or worse, the state struck back in many of the world's largest armed conflicts, making territorial gains in the face of considerable resistance'. He cited Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen as examples. 'Often this was achieved with the help of foreign allies,' he added, pointing to Russia's intervention in Syria, the role of Iranian forces in Iraq, and offensives by African Union forces in Nigeria and Somalia.

One of the consequences of increased military pressure on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has been a displacement effect, Dr Chipman said, pointing to the group’s growing foothold in Libya. Yet he noted that Islamic State has struggled to achieve the same level of control there as in its home region. 'Its fighters there are seen as outsiders,' said Dr Chipman, 'and society lacks the sectarian divisions on which the jihadists have fed in Iraq and Syria.'

The number of refugees and internally displaced people has surged from 33m in 2013 to 43m in 2014 and 46m by mid-2015, Dr Chipman said. Preventing forced displacement requires effective pressure on conflict parties to follow the Geneva Conventions, securing better access to conflict zones for humanitarian relief, and greater political action to de-escalate and resolve conflicts, Dr Chipman concluded.


The IISS Armed Conflict Survey (ACS) 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 with essays by some of the world's leading authorities on armed conflict. The ACS draws on data from the IISS Armed Conflict Database, the authoritative online source of data and independent analysis on current and recent conflicts.


The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is a world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict. The IISS was founded in 1958 with a focus on nuclear deterrence and arms control. Today, it is also renowned for its annual assessment of countries’ armed forces (The Military Balance) and for its high-powered security summits, including the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue (The Asian Regional Security Summit). The IISS has offices in London, Washington DC, Bahrain and Singapore.


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