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The President's Take

15 Years of Tracking Conflict Worldwide

This month we mark the fifteenth anniversary of our monthly global conflict tracker, CrisisWatch. In his introductory commentary, our President Rob Malley notes some examples of conflicts where CrisisWatch has continually pointed out both mounting costs and moments of possible resolution.

How rapidly hope can give way to horror. In Afghanistan, our analyst travelled to the city of Ghazni, about 150km south of the capital Kabul, during the short-lived ceasefire over the religious Eid al-Fitr holiday in early June, where he witnessed Taliban and government fighters embracing warmly. Only weeks later, he returned to scenes of death and devastation after a violent Taliban takeover and an ensuing Afghan/U.S. counteroffensive. So much of the story of the conflict is contained in that quick, heart-breaking sequence: the brutality, endurance and cost of a war for which ordinary citizens continue to pay the highest price; but also the real possibility of – and enormous popular thirst for – a political settlement, were sufficiently smart and courageous diplomacy brought to bear. According to some estimates, the war is on track to exact more battle deaths than any other conflict this year. The pace of killing seventeen years after the U.S. toppled the Taliban should suffice to give pause – and propel the main protagonists to change course.

Beyond Afghanistan, developments worth noting include, in Uganda, the government’s arrest of pop singer-turned-opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, alongside other opposition parliamentarians and their apparent beating in detention, which sparked protests and a heavy-handed response by security forces. In Yemen, indiscriminate strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition caused the deaths of dozens of children – and upped pressure on Western capitals to stop enabling (or, worse, being complicit in) this tragic war. In Venezuela, the country’s decline is leading to an economic meltdown, a catastrophic humanitarian situation, and an enormous exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries.

These crises, and more, are covered in today’s instalment of CrisisWatch whose fifteen-year anniversary we mark this September. The first edition came out on 1 September 2003. Since then, like clockwork, our team has published on the first working day of each month without fail. There have been changes since those early days. We have altered the product’s format and will continue to experiment with ways to make it more accessible, valuable and informative. The number of conflicts or potential conflicts covered has risen – from just 60 to some 80 today. But our methodology and goals have remained constant: to provide an unbiased resource to track the evolution of crises the world over; to shed light on ongoing conflicts; to highlight risks of degradation but also opportunities for peace making; and to prod officials as much as ordinary citizens to learn and do more.