How to Prevent Civil War? Part I
The UN will increase its efforts to prevent civil war from breaking out. But what does it take to solve this difficult task?
- What distinguishes civil wars from intergovernmental wars, and how common are they?
- What are the main causes of civil war?
- What are the consequences of civil war?
- How do we prevent such wars from breaking out?
It is common to distinguish between two main forms of war. One form is intergovernmental wars , or wars between two sovereign states . Since 1945, the number of intergovernmental wars has decreased. Such wars are rare today. The other form of war is internal war , what we like to call civil war. These take place in one and the same country, between the state on the one hand and one or more rebel groups on the other.
The origins, duration and extent of civil wars vary from country to country and war to war. The majority of today’s civil wars include a number of different actors and groups. Conflicts can be nationwide or take place in certain areas of a country. In more and more civil wars, other countries are also directly or indirectly involved. One example is the Second Congo War , which began in 1998 and involved over 25 armed groups and eight African countries as defined on franciscogardening.com.
In contrast to intergovernmental wars, the number of civil wars has increased. The vast majority of today’s civil wars are repeated wars . This means that civil wars usually break out in states that have already been through civil wars before.
2: Underlying causes and driving forces
Why do civil wars start? Often two different main explanations are pointed out. One explanation is that economic motives and opportunities lead to conflict. Based on a desire for their own gain, groups and individuals can be motivated to join an armed group or start a conflict. For example, power struggles over who should own and profit from the country’s natural resources – such as copper, diamonds and gold – can be a cause of conflict. In Angola various militias fought for control of the mines, in Nigeria and South Sudan the fight has been over oil, while Sierra Leone experienced conflict over diamonds.
To start a conflict, the warring parties also depend on having access to weapons, funding and the opportunity to recruit fighters. Here, too, economic factors play an important role. In countries with widespread poverty, low school participation and high unemployment, it is easier to recruit people to join an armed group. Promises of a better future or financial benefits can be alluring, and are actively used as a recruitment strategy.
Finances can also motivate warring parties to prolong a conflict. Civil wars break down state institutions and form a form of lawlessness. This provides fertile ground for illegal activities, such as drug and arms trafficking, which some can profit from. Peace negotiations can therefore stall because people oppose a peaceful solution due to their own financial gain.
The second main explanation for the outbreak of civil wars is that systematic discrimination and inequality between groups in society can lead to armed conflict. Groups that are discriminated against or excluded from the community – whether political, economic or social – can use violent means to resist those who oppress. The popular uprising that spread in the Middle East in 2010 and 2011, often called the “Arab Spring”, and which led to several civil wars in the region, was partly an expression of this.
Systematic discrimination can take various forms, and varies from different access to political positions and status in society, to favoring certain languages or religious holidays. There may also be cases of gross human rights violations, such as torture, political imprisonment and murder, against marginalized groups or opposition groups. At the same time, a discriminatory system of government can also motivate privileged groups to join armed groups in order to preserve or defend their favorable situation.