EIRP Proceedings, Vol 15, No 1 (2020)

Strategies for Preventing Major

Conflicts at Global Level

Nicolae-Florin Prunu1

Abstract. The vast majority of the world is living in peace and trans-border wars are increasingly rare. Yet half the world has the potential to become violently unstable due to a combination of growing inequality, increasing unemployment, rising prices of food, falling water tables, abuses of elite power, outdated institutional structures, organized crime, terrorist groups, limited access to natural and social resources, and inadequate legal and governance systems. Globalization, migration, geopolitical shifts, changing nature of power, and increasing access of individuals to natural, technological and social resources, have raised the world’s vulnerabilities to new levels and are changing the security paradigm. The diplomatic, foreign policy, military, and legal systems to address the new asymmetrical threats have yet to be established. The UN, NATO, and other security structures are based on the nation-state as the primary decision-making entity, which has become increasingly inadequate.

Keywords: Security; globalization; vulnerability; asymmetrical threats

1. Introduction

According to the Global Peace Index, the world has become less peaceful in the last decade. Although the trend towards peace has improved in 81 countries and deteriorated in 79, the overall average has declined as the magnitude of the deterioration has been greater than the improvements - mainly due to developments in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. The total economic impact of violence on the world economy has been estimated at $ 13.6 trillion for 2019, equivalent to 13.3% of world GDP. Meanwhile, UN peacekeeping spending totaled $ 8.27 billion, representing just 1.1% of the estimated $ 742 billion in economic losses from armed conflict.

2. The Image of Potential Conflicts Globally

2.1. Terrorist activity is also on the rise, according to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index. Although scores in 66 countries have improved, while 53 countries have deteriorated, the overall score has deteriorated by 6% compared to 2018, due to increased terrorism in many countries. However, 72% of all terrorist deaths occurred in only five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. Terrorism has been dominated by four groups: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The phenomenon of single actors adds a new dimension to the global security landscape, not only from a security point of view, but especially from an ethical and legal point of view. The 123 million young people between the ages of 15 and 24 who are illiterate are a growing problem of unemployment. The vast majority of them are in South and West Asia (62 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (48 million). The 2018 fragile states index, compiled by the Peace Fund, shows that of the 177 countries listed on the basis of their susceptibility to destabilization, 125 are in an “alert” or “warning” category, of which eight are in the “alert” category Very high”.

Civilians make up the majority of victims in the international fight against violent extremism, and the changing nature of transnational terrorism makes it difficult for governments to ensure security in their countries. However, lone wolves and attacks in small groups are some of the symptoms of the failures of our social and international systems to keep up with a better informed, highly connected, technology-savvy, more demanding and interrelated world. The combination of thinking and feelings with the capacity of new technologies and the availability of data has become the most powerful weapon, available to almost everyone interested. Recent studies reveal a higher prevalence and success rate of lone wolf attacks than other types of terrorism. Access (possibly through organized crime) to nuclear materials could one day give people the ability to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction (SIMAD: Single Individual Massively Destructive) - from biological weapons that could kill millions in an epidemic of low-powered nuclear bombs.

To prevent this, three areas should be developed:

1) networks of nanotechnology sensors and other advanced technologies for detecting these threats;

2) mental health and education systems for the detection and treatment of persons who may use such weapons;

3) roles and responsibilities for the public to detect potential SIMADs.

These approaches have complex legal and constitutional issues that are not yet resolved. Improving the capabilities to deal with the risks of terrorism, piracy, regional instability, missile and cyber attacks, as well as expanding cooperation with partners are NATO's highest priorities, in order to build stability and avoid the need to combat instability.

The US National Intelligence Strategy, warning that “the risk of conflict and mass atrocities may increase”2, stresses the importance of identifying and monitoring the effects of threat multipliers, such as demographic change, poverty, environmental degradation and lack of basic resources. it could cause political instability and additional social tensions - “conditions that can allow terrorist activity and other forms of violence”. Reports show a steady increase in internally displaced people worldwide, the highest since the 1990s, from 33.3 million in 2018 to 38 million in 2019. By mid-2019, there were 18.1 million refugees concerned under UNHCR. , 2.1 million more than in 2018, and 5.1 million of them were refugees in about 60 UNRWA camps (about 300,000 more than the previous year). At the beginning of 2019, there were 16 UN peacekeeping missions, along with political missions in Libya, Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan, with a total of 125,396 security and support personnel from 120 countries.

2.2. Environmental Safety

As growing populations and economies consume natural resources and cause environmental degradation, social tensions are expected to increase, triggering complex interactions of old ethnic and religious conflicts, civil unrest, protests, terrorism and crime. In areas where political, environmental and economic conditions are deteriorating, more and more migrations can be expected, which in turn can create new conflicts. The future effects of climate change could create up to 400 million migrants by 2050, which could further increase conflict conditions. The UN estimates that 40% of internal conflicts over the past 60 years have been related to natural resources. Although the impact of climate change is uncertain, it would be prudent to prepare to adapt to increased flooding in wetlands, increased drought in dry areas, falling river flows fed by mountain ice and seawater incursions in freshwater areas. Conflicts over natural resources and / or environmental degradation are twice as likely to return to violence or become “wars” within five years; therefore, peace agreements should address these environmental conditions, while dismantling the structures of violence and establishing peace structures. As conflicts and environmental degradation worsen each other, their spectrum and severity could expand if not addressed together as a system. As a result, environmental security increasingly dominates national and international agendas, changing defense and geopolitical paradigms. Increased attention is paid to environmental security and other non-traditional security strategies in addressing the root causes of the disturbances and the protection of individuals and sovereign states. The UN Security Council's goal of developing environmental security is growing as more countries call for climate change to be addressed as a threat to global security, with problems ranging from loss of livelihoods and illegal mining to the impact of change. climate change. However, the UN International Law Commission has stated that it does not intend to impose greater restrictions on belligerents to protect the environment.

2.3. Military Spending: SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) estimates that global military spending amounts to approximately $ 1.75 trillion annually since 2009 ($ 1.76 trillion in 2019). Military spending in North America, Western Europe and Central Europe is declining, while it is rising in all other regions. Major arms transfers in 2015-19 reached the highest volume for any five-year period since the end of the Cold War, driven mainly by demand from the Middle East and Asia. China has joined the group of the five largest arms exporters; together they accounted for 74% of total arms exports: the United States (33%), Russia (23%), China (6.2%), France (6%) and Germany (5.6%). In 2015-2019, the share of global arms imports from Asia and Oceania increased to 43%. NATO guidelines suggest that countries spend 2% of their GDP on defense, with at least 20% of it on defense research and development and major equipment purchases. Only the US (NATO's largest defense spender), Greece and Estonia met the 2% target in 2016. If all European NATO countries reached the 2% of GDP target, their defense spending should have increased by more than 40 percent. %. However, initiatives such as Smart Defense increase the efficiency of both operations and funds by generating new defense capabilities by increasing cooperation between allies. According to the 2018 anti-corruption index of defense companies, compiled by Transparency International, 66% of defense companies have weak and non-existent ethics and anti-corruption programs. However, 60% of the companies surveyed saw marginal improvements, while 33% took greater steps to mitigate corruption.

2.4. Nuclear Threats: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) database records 2556 incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials between 1993 and mid-2019. The IAEA received reports of 149 traffic incidents, ranging from illegal possession and attempted sale and smuggling to unauthorized disposal of materials and discoveries of lost radiological sources. The Atomic Management Project noted that the 2010 series of nuclear safety summits led 13 countries to get rid of residual HEU and extract plutonium, increased security for nuclear-rich sites, better rules and regulations for material retention. nuclear power and a more robust IAEA. At the same time, they called for a further strengthening of the global effort to secure radiological materials. The number of nuclear weapons is declining in the US, Russia, the United Kingdom and France, remaining relatively constant in Israel and China and increasing in India, Pakistan and North Korea.

2.5. Changing the nature of conflicts: Although interstate wars may disappear, this reduces the need for deterrent policies, long-term tensions over resources (energy and food) and border demands under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In the South China Sea, China is trying to solidify its nine-line line by rebuilding the island and base, while many ASEAN states have competing claims. Tensions have risen in recent months as China strengthens its efforts. In just a few weeks, small atolls have been remarkably expanded into impressive military bases with air routes and ports. In addition, rising sea levels associated with climate change will flood the islands below and require revaluations of maritime border applications under UNCLOS. One answer was militarization. China and India are investing heavily in their military forces, especially in naval equipment, as are many in Asia and Oceania. Arctic warming will provide access to new transportation runways and sources of oil and gas, which adds a potential area of ​​conflict for nation-states with overlapping jurisdictions. Russia is reopening the Arctic and creating a new military structure in the region, while the military exercises of the other Arctic states and NATO are growing in size and importance. Opportunities for peaceful solutions to these maritime border issues will consist of respect for international law and arbitration (according to UNCLOS) and the value of intergovernmental and multilateral institutions such as the Arctic Council and ASEAN.

2.6. The cyber dimension: After land, sea, air and space, cyberspace is now the “fifth battle space” on the agenda of security experts. Governments and organizations are subjected to daily cyber attacks (espionage or sabotage) by other governments, competitors, hackers and criminal organizations. The sources of these attacks are difficult to identify. Even when the source is verified, it is difficult to formulate an adequate answer. Countries, especially the highly connected ones, need to consider such threats, so much effort has been made to defend cyber defense and potential countermeasures. As society's vital systems become increasingly dependent on the Internet, cyber-weapons that could reduce them can be considered weapons of mass destruction; therefore, deterrence and protection are critical, but the policy is unclear and international agreements on cyber weapons do not exist. Unlike nuclear protection and deterrence, cyber defense must more specifically include corporations and individuals, forcing a fundamental re-conceptualization of protection, deterrence and defense itself. Cyber weapons, special operations and sensors and unmanned vehicles are the key military elements of the future. All this makes satellites the first targets of war.

3. How Can Common Values and New Security Strategies Reduce Potential Conflicts

There have been no power wars in the world for over 70 years; however, the nature of war and security has today turned into transnational and local terrorism, international intervention in civil wars, and information and information warfare is publicly denied. In half of the world, there are conditions that could lead to instability, 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced from their homes (of which 22.5 million are refugees today) and thermonuclear bomb tests in North Korea are condemned by the Security Council to the UN. Although conflicts decreased in number and intensity from 1990 to 2010, they have increased dramatically since 2010. Budgets allocated to the military sector have increased slightly in the last two years, by $ 1.7 trillion, representing 2.2% of global gross domestic product3. The future effects of climate change could create 20 million to a billion environmental migrants by 2050, which could further increase conflict conditions. Meanwhile, information warfare (unlike cyber warfare that attacks computers, software, and command-control systems) manipulates information so that targets will make decisions against their interest, but in the interest of the one waging information warfare. False news through messages, social networks, videos and other forms of information warfare increasingly manipulate perceptions of the truth, while the public does not know how to defend itself.

Government cyberattacks and organized crime on other governments and corporations are expected to increase. Asymmetric cyber warfare changes the conventional balance of power analysis. Is there a reasonable way to hold software companies accountable for hacking their products because other businesses are responsible for product failures? And what extent and impact of a cyber attack would trigger Article 5 of NATO and what would be the proportionate responses? What would be the same for the information war? Some conflict prevention strategies include ensuring that government services are available to all groups, establishing transparent and accountable governance, organizing inclusive grievance meetings, setting common goals, reducing corruption, improving the free flow of information, using trade embargoes, and other economic sanctions, the initiation of low-profile mediation, the improvement of minority rights, the control of anti-Semitic discourse, the provision of economic aid, and the organization of inter-religious dialogues. Some conflict resolution strategies include national dialogues, international negotiations, integration of civil society actors in negotiations, military interventions, demilitarized zones, UN peacekeeping, economic incentives, reintegration of ex-combatants and displaced populations, institution reconstruction; promoting the safe return of refugees, economic development with all parties, including access to finance4.

4. Actions to Address the Global Challenge

- Examining conflict resolution and prevention strategies, mastering them and integrating them into various forms of media and entertainment;

- Readjusting school curricula to emphasize compassionate behavior, tolerance of diversity, peaceful resolution of conflicts, compromise and consensus;

- Granting equal access for all groups to government services. Paying attention to ways to stop patronage and corruption;

- Integrate women into conflict prevention and peacekeeping forces. Carrying out education programs for families and communities, in order to identify potential terrorists and to prevent them from becoming terrorists;

- Creating a public online collective information system to develop diplomatic, foreign, military and legal systems to address new asymmetric threats;

- Establishment of NGOs to monitor indicators of conflict and to discuss strategies for the rapid implementation of non-military resources;

- Monitoring the increase in the use of non-lethal weapons;

- Educating the population about their role in cyber security;

- Creating cyber traps and counter-jamming systems to catch attackers;

- Connecting the early warning systems of UN governments and agencies with NGOs and the media to help generate political will to prevent or reduce conflicts;

- Establishment of tracking systems for arms sources and destinations;

- Development of a convention similar to the Geneva Convention on information and information warfare.

The new security paradigm is actually about fighting a philosophy. But when we struggle with a philosophy, there must be an acceptable one to replace it, respecting complex cultural, religious, ideological and ethical aspects. At the moment, we are struggling with the philosophy that guides terrorists and single actors - whether it is based on religious extremism or social discontent - but we do not do much to offer an alternative, except for the rhetoric about a freedom that does not resonate. with them. Thus, this new security paradigm requires innovative strategies by both security organizations and society to help address the conditions that favor the spread of threatening ideas. Providing opportunities to all these young people, instead of weapons or responding violently, would be more likely to lead to global peace and stability. Peace strategies without love, compassion, or spiritual perspectives are less likely to work because intellectual or rational approaches alone are not likely to transcend the emotional divisions that impede peace. Conflict prevention and resolution efforts should include NGOs and work with all relevant factions, including personal and Internet conversations with discussion groups and potential recruits, taking into account their emotional and spiritual sensitivities. The strong emotional devotion of people to their ethnic groups, rather than to the nation, makes it difficult to progress towards a stable democracy in many areas. Massive public education programs are needed to promote respect for diversity and the unity that underlies this diversity.

It is less expensive and more effective to attack the root causes of the unrest than to stop outbreaks of violence. The Institute for Economy and Peace (IEP) has shown that the level of law enforcement and judicial corruption is significantly linked to the level of peace within countries, but a change in the level of peace does not affect corruption. While global corruption has risen over the past 7 years, global peace has fallen by an average of 5%. The IEP has also identified a “tipping point” where, at this juncture, increased corruption does not have a serious impact on peace, but then violence (including political variety, internal conflict, crime involving force and crime). Increases abruptly with increasing corruption. Of the 64 “peak” nations, all are “flawed democracies” (Philippines, Greece, Mexico), “authoritarian regimes” (Myanmar, China, Iran) or “hybrid regimes” (Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Venezuela). ). The Institute for Economy and Peace has identified eight pillars of peace: a well-functioning government; a solid business environment; an equitable distribution of resources; an acceptance of the rights of others; good relations with neighbors; free flow of information; a high level of human capital and low levels of corruption.

The likelihood of a more peaceful world is increasing due to the rise of democracy, international trade, the global news media, the Internet, the rise of prosperity and the decline of extreme poverty, the efforts of NGOs, satellite surveillance, and better access to resources and the evolution of UN and regional bodies. Intercultural dialogues are flourishing, and intra-state conflicts are increasingly resolved through international interventions. Some believe that the collective mind of humanity can contribute to peace or conflict, and therefore we can think of a more peaceful future.

Transitional justice is one of the main success factors in building post-conflict peace. It is still necessary to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and to support the International Criminal Court. The Geneva Convention should be updated to cover conflicts and the characteristics of the new asymmetric war. Prevent Travel, Support for the Terrorist Fighters, adopted in September 2014, is the first comprehensive international legal instrument specifically requiring all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law to prevent the spread of radicalization and terrorism. wolf alone phenomenon. However, wider implementation is difficult due to the lack of a comprehensive agreement on what individuals or groups are outright terrorists.

New technologies offer unprecedented opportunities for peace and conflict. Intelligent battlefield robots will have elements of the rules of engagement and the Geneva Convention incorporated into their programming. Low-cost drones with a high network will form “swarms” that can function in combat or peaceful reconnaissance roles. A NASA project tested the concept of a “spider” that can be placed in a dangerous environment to communicate with each other and with the outside world, including satellites, to monitor dangerous situations. Ultra-sensitive, portable chemical and biological devices offer increasing accuracy in detection, monitoring and annihilation, with fast response time. Governments should establish an international audit system for each type of weapon, destroy existing stocks of biological and chemical weapons, set up systems to track potential biotechnologies, develop prevention strategies and support networks of centers to counter the impact. bioterrorism and should reach an agreement on the mechanisms for implementing the Convention on Biological Weapons.

UN early warning systems of governments and agencies could better connect with NGOs and the media to help generate political will to prevent or reduce conflicts. User-initiated collaborations on the Web should be increasingly used to promote peace, control rumors, establish facts and reconcile.

5. Building Inclusive Approaches to Prevention

Prevention is a long-term process of consolidating and orienting the quality of society towards peace. Studies have shown overwhelming evidence that prevention requires sustained, inclusive and targeted attention and action. Profound changes are needed in the way national, regional and international actors operate and cooperate so that the risks of violent conflict are identified and addressed before they turn into a crisis. However, there are some incentives for this coordination, collaboration and cooperation. Instead, preventive action often focuses on crisis management, rather than addressing the underlying risks, even when basic risk solutions are available.

Pathways for Peace highlights three basic principles of prevention: a) Prevention must be supported in order to address structural issues comprehensively, to strengthen institutions and to adapt incentives for actors to manage conflicts without violence. It is wrong to approach prevention as a compromise between the short and long term. Sustainable results require sustained investment in all risk environments, while development investment should be integrated into overall strategies with politically viable short- and medium-term actions. The need for sustainability requires a balance of effort and resources, so that action does not only reward crisis management; b) Prevention must be inclusive and create broad partnerships between groups to identify and address the grievances that fuel violence. Often, preventive action is focused on the requirements of actors who control the means of violence and positions of power; c) Prevention must proactively and directly address the institutional weaknesses that increase the risk. Successful prevention depends on proactive and targeted actions before, during and after violence. Modern conflicts arise when groups challenge access to power, resources, services and security. Along with efforts to mitigate the impact of violence and eliminate conflicts, preventive action must actively and directly target dissatisfaction and exclusion in key areas of risk.

6. Conclusions

A comprehensive shift to violence prevention and peacekeeping offers life-saving rewards. National and international actors need to set an agenda with directions for action to ensure that attention, effort and resources are focused on prevention. Today, the consequences of failing to act together are obviously alarming, and the call for urgent action has never been clearer.

The time to act is now!


*** (2018). Report of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

*** (2018). UCDP (Uppsala Conflict Data Program). https://ucdp.uu.se/year/2018.

*** (2019). UN General Assembly

*** (2019). UN Security Council Resolution.

*** IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) database.

*** IAEA Annual Report 2018. https://www.iaea.org/opic/annual-report-2018.

*** Pathways for Peace (Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict). https://www.pathwaysforpeace.org/.

*** SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) – database. https://www.sipri.org/databases.

*** SIPRI Yearbook (2019). Armaments, Disarmament and International Security. https://www.sipri.org/yearbook/2019.

*** The Millennium Project: Global Futures Studies & Research. http://www.millennium-project.org/projects/challenges/.

*** UNCLOS. https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf.

1 PhD Student, Business Administration, “Ștefan cel Mare” University of Suceava; Danubius University of Galati, Faculty of Communications, Galati, Romania, Address: Bd. Galati nr. 3, Galati, Romania, Tel.: +40372361102, Corresponding author: florin.prunau@univ-danubius.ro.

2 UCDP (Uppsala Conflict Data Program) (2017) defines internationalized conflict as those in which a party is a state and a party is a state and where an outside state intervenes on behalf of one of them.

3 The Millennium Project: Global Futures Studies & Research - http://www.millennium-project.org/projects/challenges/.

4 UN General Assembly 2019; UN Security Council Resolution 2019.


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