Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

Global Overview

Outlook for This Month September 2018

Resolution Opportunities

Trends for Last Month August 2018

Improved Situations

Conflict in Focus

In August, the Syrian regime and its allies upped attacks in the north west, pointing to an imminent offensive on rebel-held Idlib province, home to nearly three million people. Fierce militia fighting erupted in Libya’s capital and could escalate in the coming weeks. The UN’s consultations with Yemen’s belligerents in September could re-energise peace talks; but failure could trigger more violence. In DR Congo, the government’s determination to bar the main opposition contenders from December’s presidential poll could provoke more protests, while Zimbabwe’s elections left the country even more divided. Uganda’s detention of a popular challenger sparked protests, which the authorities put down with force. Mob violence rose in eastern Ethiopia, and Chad responded with force to a rebel attack. In Chechnya, boys reportedly carried out attacks on police after pledging allegiance to Islamic State. The exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries presented a growing regional threat, with the government’s new economic reform package making things worse. A forthcoming referendum in Macedonia could bring the country another step closer to resolution of its longstanding name dispute with Greece.

CrisisWatch Digests

In Syria, the regime and its allies seemed to be preparing for an all-out offensive in the north-western province of Idlib, the armed rebellion’s last stronghold. A day after dropping fliers urging civilians to surrender, a wave of airstrikes in Idlib and neighbouring Hama and Aleppo provinces killed at least 29 people. The regime says it must root out jihadists, but the region is also home to almost three million people, mostly civilians. To avoid a massive death toll, Crisis Group urged Turkey and European countries to tell Russia that an assault on Idlib could work against its main goal: the Assad regime’s full rehabilitation. Turkey, Russia and Iran should resume talks to find a less dangerous way to neutralise the most hardline jihadists.

Intense fighting erupted in Libya’s capital Tripoli between militias linked to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), and the violence could escalate further in September. Clashes broke out late August between fighters of the Seventh Brigade, a militia formed by the GNA’s defence ministry in 2017, and a coalition of armed groups operating under the GNA’s interior ministry. UN consultations with Yemen’s warring parties in early September could increase their commitment to restart peace talks, but if discussions collapse in acrimony, fighting could escalate. Meanwhile, infighting between Yemeni forces in the Saudi-led coalition intensified and coalition strikes killed more civilians, including at least 50 children.

DR Congo’s president, Joseph Kabila, revealed that he would not stand in December’s presidential poll, thus abiding by the constitution. But, as we argued, the regime continues to keep electoral preparations skewed in its favour, notably by barring the main opposition contenders. Publication of a final candidates list – due on 19 September – that lacks opposition champions could trigger another bout of violence. In the coming months, international actors should keep up rigorous scrutiny of the electoral process and push the regime to relax its repression. Zimbabwe’s contested elections and the military’s crackdown on opposition supporters, killing six, have undermined the government’s legitimacy and deepened political divisions.

In sharp contrast to the recent positive stories coming out of Ethiopia – a drive toward more liberal domestic policies and more friendly regional relations – mob violence rose, especially in the eastern Somali region, where youth and the region’s police targeted ethnic minorities. After one of the strongest Chadian rebel groups based in southern Libya attacked a military post in northern Chad, the government answered the rebels’ proposed prisoner swap with airstrikes. Meanwhile, the Ugandan government may have shot itself in the foot by arresting a singer-turned-opposition politician known as Bobi Wine. Hugely popular among young people, his arrest and alleged beating in detention brought supporters out on the streets, whom security forces scattered with force, killing at least one.

In the North Caucasus, Chechen authorities reported that the perpetrators of a series of attacks targeting police on 20 August ranged in age from eleven to sixteen. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks and released a video purportedly showing the young attackers pledging allegiance.

Preparations are underway in Macedonia for a referendum on 30 September on whether to accept the new country name that the government agreed with Greece in June, ending a long-standing dispute. A “yes” vote would pave the way for implementing the deal, which unblocks Greece’s veto on Macedonia, starting the accession process for the EU and NATO.

In Venezuela, President Maduro – the target of an apparent assassination attempt early in the month – introduced an economic reform package, including a new currency and a 35-fold increase in the minimum wage. Observers predicted it will worsen the country’s spiralling economic and humanitarian crisis, and intensify the exodus of Venezuelans to neighbouring countries – already prompting a growing backlash. Peru and Ecuador announced entry restrictions in August and Venezuelans came under attack in Brazil; the UN warned the region may be heading for a “crisis moment”.

China (internal)

Rapporteur to UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 13 Aug cited reports China’s expanding network of political “re-education” centres in Xinjiang region may now hold up to a million people in “counter extremism centres”. Describing “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”, rapporteur said “another two million have been forced into so-called re-education camps for political and cultural indoctrination”; also cited cases of seemingly arbitrary detention, mass surveillance and confiscation of travel documents, among other security measures. Rapporteur said national security laws have become “imprecise and over-broad” and now “enable abusive, arbitrary, and discriminatory prosecutions and convictions”. Statements by U.S. officials and 17 Aug reporting by Wall Street Journal and other media corroborated assessment and noted that Uighurs outside China said that some relatives have died in detention or soon after release. Responding to allegations, Chinese official acknowledged camps’ existence for first time but described them as “vocational training centres”; official denied they held a million people but did not provide alternative figure. CERD’s concluding observations 30 Aug expressed alarm and called for China to end detentions and release detainees. Commentary in state media Global Times 12 Aug argued that measures are necessary transitional phase to eliminate terrorism and stabilise region.


Chinese Premier Li and Japanese PM Abe 12 Aug exchanged congratulatory messages commemorating 40th anniversary of China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship; comes ahead of planned visit by Abe to Beijing in Oct. Japan’s Ministry of Defence 28 Aug published “Defence of Japan 2018 White Paper” saying “China’s rapid modernization of the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], enhancement of operational capabilities, and unilateral escalation of activities, without sufficient transparency, are generating strong security concerns”; China 29 Aug said it firmly opposed paper which was “full of slanders”. Japan’s Defence Ministry 31 Aug proposed largest budget in country’s history, with 2.1% rise and doubling of spending on missile defence.

Korean Peninsula