5 Threats to Human Security

Paul Bellamy

Learning Outcomes & Big Ideas

  • The impact of threats to human security is more easily assessed in terms of direct humanitarian costs of violent conflict; when one takes into account indirect social, economic, health-related, and environmental consequences such assessment becomes much more complicated.
  • Threats to human security originate from the socio-political, economic, health-related, and environmental areas. Even though the former area is often perceived as the origin of violent conflict, its consequences ramify into all four areas.
  • The shapes and the consequences of violent conflict have changed considerably since World War II (WWII).
  • Addressing the diverse threats to human security requires the development of a more comprehensive and logically consistent understanding of human security.


Human security focuses on the protection of individuals. Violent conflicts, especially of an intrastate nature, are a major threat to human security because of their wide-ranging and devastating impact. Key factors that can cause conflict include a state’s history, personalities of its leaders and external actors. Beyond conflict, major threats to human security target the health of people, law and order, state authority, economy and the environment. To address them, a better understanding of the components of security is needed, and associated with this, the sources of threats to this security. It is much better to address issues before they threaten lives and livelihoods.[1]

Chapter Overview

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Assessing Human Security

5.3 Violent Conflict as a Threat to Human Security

5.3.1 Impact of Violent Conflict on Human Security Humanitarian Impact Economic Impact

5.3.2 Addressing the Root Causes – Explaining Violent Conflict History of Past Violent Conflicts Autocratic Populist Leaders External Actors

5.4 Other Threats to Human Security

5.4.1 State Vulnerability

5.4.2 Economic Threats

5.4.3 Health-Related Threats

5.4.4 Crime

5.4.5 Terrorism

5.4.6 Environment

5.5 Conclusions

Resources and References

Key Points

Extension Activities & Further Research

List of Terms

Suggested Reading



5.1 Introduction

Whereas the traditional goal of ‘national security’ was the defense of the state from external threats, the focus of human security is the protection of individuals. Human security and national security are often mutually reinforcing. However, individuals living in secure states are not necessarily secure themselves. The protection of the state from foreign attack is a necessary condition for its security, but not sufficient for human security. Identifying potential threats that can erode human security is a key reason to study the subject area. A better understanding of human security should ultimately improve the ability to counter such threats, or at least limit their magnitude, and enhance the effectiveness of attempts aimed at reducing those threats. The need for research in this area is reinforced by human security being a relatively new concept, and the comparative scarcity of comprehensive literature on human security defined in a broad sense.

There is no consensus regarding the exact threats that individuals are protected from by human security measures. Although proponents of human security agree that its primary goal is the protection of individuals, there is debate over what that entails. Proponents of the ‘narrow’ concept of human security focus on violent threats to individuals, while acknowledging that such threats are strongly associated with poverty, lack of state capacity, and different forms of socio-economic and political inequity (i.e. ‘structural violence’). Proponents of the ‘broad’ concept believe that the range of threats should be widened to include hunger, disease and natural disasters. According to the Human Security Report 2005, the two approaches are complementary (Bellamy, 2008, p. 4). Then United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan used what can be described as a ‘narrow’ concept of human security when he referred to it as focusing upon “the protection of communities and individuals from internal violence” (University of British Columbia, 2005, p. VIII).

While this chapter focuses on violent conflict and its diverse consequences, other threats to the security of individuals are also outlined. For example, the health, and ultimately the lives of individuals can be threatened by a state’s inadequate infrastructure. Inadequate health, sanitation, food and water supply systems all can increase the likelihood of disease and malnutrition. Crime, especially of a serious nature, and terrorism, threatens lives and human well-being, and thus human security. Similarly, state, social and economic problems threaten livelihoods and can cause grievances, while issues like global warming affect the environment, biodiversity and people. These developments in turn can cause discontent and instability (DeRouen and Bellamy, 2008, p. XII). The UN has recognized the diversity of threats to human security. At the 2005 World Summit it was declared that “all individuals, in particular, vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential” (UN News Centre, 2008). The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified climate change as the greatest threat to humanity’s security (IPCC, 2018).

This chapter first outlines selected indicators useful for evaluating the degree to which human security is threatened before reviewing actual threats. Violent conflicts are primarily examined because of their wide-ranging and devastating impact on human security. More specifically, intrastate conflicts are examined, as they are now the dominant form of conflict worldwide, and their peaceful resolution is often particularly difficult. Major effects of violent conflicts on human security are assessed, followed by a brief outline of selected factors that can cause these threats. Other threats, such as those to the state and economy, health, law and order and environment are also identified.

5.2 Assessing Human Security

Various indicators can be used to assess human security, and to identify factors that threaten it. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) publishes an annual Human Development Index (HDI) that provides a relevant comparative analysis of international human development indicators. This is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable, and experiencing a decent standard of living. Health is assessed by life expectancy at birth, while knowledge is assessed via the mean schooling years for adults aged 25 years and more, and expected years of schooling for children of school entry age. The standard of living is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (UNDP, n.d.).

According to the UNDP’s 2018 HDI Report, the overall trend globally was toward continued human development improvements. Many countries had advanced through the human development categories: out of the 189 countries measured, 59 countries were in the very high human development group and 38 in the low HDI group. In 2010, the figures were 46 and 49 countries respectively. Movements were driven by changes in health, education and income. Health improved significantly, as illustrated by life expectancy at birth. This increased by almost seven years globally, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia making the greatest progress, each experiencing increases of about 11 years since 1990. School-age children could also expect to be in school for 3.4 years longer than those in 1990. However, disparities continued between and within countries. On average, a child born in a country with low human development could expect to live just over 60 years. Contrasting this, a child born in a country with very high human development could expect to live to almost 80. Likewise, children in low human development countries could expect to be in school seven years less than children in very high human development countries. A key source of inequality within countries was the gap in opportunities, achievements and empowerment between women and men. Internationally, the average HDI for women was six percent lower than for men, due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries (UNDP, 2018a).

The 2018 HDI highlighted major deficiencies in well-being and life opportunities in countries and territories where human security was threatened. The top five places in the global HDI rankings were Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Ireland and Germany. The bottom ranked five countries were Niger, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Chad and Burundi.The varying threat levels were clearly illustrated by comparing the lives of people in countries ranked the highest and lowest on the HDI. The average person in Norway (at the top of the HDI), and the average person in countries such as Niger (at the bottom), experienced vastly different levels of deficiency in well-being and life opportunities. The life expectancy in Norway was 82.3 years, GNI per capita (constant 2011 United States $ purchasing power parity or PPP) was $68,012, and the mean years of schooling for adults was 12.6 years. Contrasting this, the life expectancy in Niger was 60.4 years, GNI per capita was $906 and the mean years of schooling 5.4 years (UNDP, 2018b).

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), an independent, non-partisan and non-profit think tank. This ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness. The GPI comprises 23 indicators of the absence of violence or fear of violence in three thematic domains. The first refers to the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict. Here indicators include the number and duration of internal conflicts, and deaths from external and internal organized conflict. The level of societal safety and security is then measured via indicators such as the level of perceived criminality in society, political instability, and the number of refugees and internally displaced people as a percentage of the population. Finally, the degree of militarization utilizes indicators ranging from military expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) along with nuclear and heavy weapons capabilities, through to the number of armed services personnel per 100,000 people (Institute for Economics and Peace [IEP], 2019, pp. 2, 84-85).

According to the UNDP’s 2018 HDI Report, the overall trend globally was toward continued human development improvements. Many countries had advanced through the human development categories: out of the 189 countries measured, 59 countries were in the very high human development group and 38 in the low HDI group. In 2010, the figures were 46 and 49 countries respectively. Movements were driven by changes in health, education and income. Health improved significantly, as illustrated by life expectancy at birth. This increased by almost seven years globally, with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia making the greatest progress, each experiencing increases of about 11 years since 1990. School-age children could also expect to be in school for 3.4 years longer than those in 1990. However, disparities continued between and within countries. On average, a child born in a country with low human development could expect to live just over 60 years. Contrasting this, a child born in a country with very high human development could expect to live to almost 80. Likewise, children in low human development countries could expect to be in school seven years less than children in very high human development countries. A key source of inequality within countries was the gap in opportunities, achievements and empowerment between women and men. Internationally, the average HDI for women was six percent lower than for men, due to women’s lower income and educational attainment in many countries (UNDP, 2018a).

The Fragile States Index (FSI) is another useful indicator of the degree to which human security is threatened. This index is produced by the Fund for Peace (FFP), an independent, nonpartisan, non-profit research and educational organization working to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security. Twelve conflict risk indicators are used to measure the condition of a state, and these can be compared over time to determine whether they are improving or worsening.

The FSI examines four areas – cohesion, economic, political, and social and cross-cutting – with three indicators for each of these. The cohesion indicators are: the security apparatus (security threats to a state); factionalized elites (the fragmentation of state institutions); and group grievance (divisions and schisms between different groups in society). Economic indicators are: economic decline; uneven economic development; and human flight and brain drain (the economic impact of human displacement). Political indicators are: state legitimacy (the representativeness and openness of government and its relationship with its citizenry); public services (the presence of basic state functions serving people); and human rights and the rule of law. Finally, social and cross-cutting indicators are: demographic pressures (such as high population growth); refugees and internally displaced persons; and external intervention (FFP, 2019, pp. 33-41).

A fragile state has various attributes. These often include the loss of physical control of its territory or the monopoly on the legitimate use of force. Other attributes include the erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions, an inability to provide reasonable public services, and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community. The 2019 FSI surveyed 178 countries with Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the five most fragile states. Yemen, the most fragile, has struggled with prolonged civil war and a humanitarian catastrophe, while Saudi and Emirati coalition-led forces have also intervened. By the end of 2018, 75% of the population needed humanitarian assistance and over 3.5 million people were displaced. Contrasting these states, the five least fragile were Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Australia (FFP, 2019, pp. 6-7, 17).

Various methods are used to measure environmental sources of insecurity. The Environmental Performance Index (EPI) by Yale University and Columbia University, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators. These are across ten issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The categories are air quality, water quality, heavy metals, biodiversity and habitat, forests, fisheries, climate and energy, air pollution, water resources and agriculture. More specifically, the indicators range from tree cover loss, wastewater treatment and species protection to sanitation. These metrics provide a gauge at a national level of how closely countries measure up to established environmental policy goals. Switzerland, France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden were the highest ranked for their environmental performance in 2018 contrasting the worst performers – Burundi, Bangladesh, the DRC, India and Nepal (Yale University et al., 2018).

5.3 Violent Conflict as a Threat to Human Security

Since the two World Wars, armed conflict has been a major and direct threat to many individuals worldwide, and thus is a good indicator of the state of human security. A study covering 1946 to 2001 identified a total of 225 armed conflicts. Of these, 163 were internal conflicts involving conflict between the state’s government and internal opposition groups without other states intervening (DeRouen & Heo, 2007, p. 2). The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament, in 2018 said that global security “has deteriorated markedly in the past decade.” The “broad trend so far this decade is an increase in armed conflicts, with the number each year returning to the levels of the start of the 1990s as the cold war was coming to an end.” Moreover, in many places human security has been eroded by the fluid and often chaotic nature of conflict. The number of armed groups active in each conflict has tended to increase: the average rising from eight in each intrastate conflict in 1950 to 14 in 2010. Indeed, in Syria over 1,000 separate militias have been identified, and in Libya as many as 2,000 (SIPRI, 2018a, pp. 3, 18).

Based on the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP), the world’s main provider of data on organized violence, and the oldest ongoing data collection project for civil war, there were 52 active state-based armed conflicts in 2018, an increase from 50 in 2017.[2] The years since 2014 have been characterized by the highest numbers of armed conflict since 1946. For the fourth consecutive year, the UCDP registered over 50 ongoing conflicts. Only one year prior to 2014 experienced numbers that high: 1991 with 52 conflicts. This trend was largely driven by Islamic State (IS or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS) expanding beyond Iraq where it originated. IS was active in 12 different state-based armed conflicts in 2018 compared to 16 in 2017. Eighteen of the 50 intrastate conflicts were internationalized with troops from external states supporting one or both sides in the conflict. Six conflicts reached the intensity level of war, with at least 1,000 battle-related deaths. This was a decrease by four from 2017, and the lowest number recorded since 2013. The decline corresponded to a significant reduction in battle-related deaths during 2018. At just over 53,000 fatalities, the numbers had decreased by 21% since 2017, and by almost 50% since the peak year of 2014 when over 104,000 fatalities were recorded (Pettersson et al., 2019).

Only two state-based conflicts were interstate in 2018—the border conflict between India and Pakistan and conflict between Iran and Israel that became active for the first time in 2018 (Pettersson et al., 2019). However, interstate tensions exist that could spark conflict. This is shown by the often tense relationship between North Korea and South Korea. Tensions were particularly high in 2017 with Pyongyang staging its sixth nuclear test. Despite a June 2018 summit between the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald J. Trump, the North reportedly continued its nuclear programme. Another February 2019 meeting collapsed with Pyongyang refusing nuclear disarmament in return for lifting economic sanctions.[3] The long-term resolution of tensions remains uncertain after Trump briefly visited the North in June 2019. Tensions in the South China Sea over multiple territorial claims and freedom of navigation operations, along with US-China rivalry have increased in recent years too.

Non-state armed conflicts also occur. These involve the use of armed force between two organized groups, such as rebel groups or ethnic groups, neither of which is the government of a state. Some of these conflicts are fought between formally organized groups, such as rebel groups. This has occurred in Sudan between the Lord’s Resistance Army and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. Other conflicts occur with fighting between less-organized groups like tribes, frequently over land or other resources. This is illustrated by the fighting in Kenya between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin ethnic groups, often over land rights. The UCDP has recorded 721 non-state conflicts since 1989, with a yearly average of 39 active conflicts. In 2018, 76 such conflicts were registered compared to 83 in the peak year of 2017. The past six years had all recorded higher levels of non-state violence than any other year since 1989. Increased non-state violence was driven by numerous inter-rebel conflicts in Syria, inter-cartel violence in Mexico, and communal conflicts in Nigeria, mainly along farmer-herder lines (Pettersson et al., 2019; Human Security Research Group, 2014, pp. 95-98).

5.3.1 Impact of Violent Conflict on Human Security Humanitarian Impact

An obvious feature of violent conflict is the widespread loss of life. Casualties are especially frequent among civilians and those most vulnerable, such as women, children (who are often recruited as fighters) and the elderly. This is because cities and urban areas, which generally have large civilian populations, are strategically important, and hence control over these is often strongly contested. Battle lines are also frequently non-existent or poorly defined, with conflict occurring throughout the country. This makes it difficult for civilians to find safe havens.

The conflict in Iraq since the 2003 overthrow of President Saddam Hussein by US-led coalition forces graphically demonstrates the potential loss of life. There is debate over whether the conflict during its height was a civil war; widespread casualties and human rights violations associated with civil wars were clearly apparent. James Fearon defined the conflict as a civil war, and a January 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate said that the term accurately described key elements of the conflict. These included growing ethno-sectarian identities, the changing character of violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization and population displacements (Fearon, 2007).

Although casualties from violence in Iraq have declined since peaking in 2006-2007 they still occur. Iraq Body Count, a non-governmental organization, records violent deaths that have resulted from the 2003 military intervention in Iraq. Its detailed public database includes civilian deaths caused by US-led coalition and Iraqi government forces, and paramilitary or criminal attacks by others. The database indicates that 16,393 civilian violent deaths occurred during 2016 (compared to a peak of 29,517 in 2006), with preliminary figures amounting to 13,183 in 2017 and 3,319 in 2018 (Iraq Body Coun,t 2019). While US troop withdrawals were completed in December 2011, US-led coalition forces assisted the Iraqi Government in its fight against IS fighters. From 2014 Iraq was engaged in a military campaign to recapture territory lost to IS in the western and northern portion of the country. During 2017, Iraqi forces retook Mosul and, in response to a Kurdistan Regional Government referendum, took control over disputed territories across central and northern Iraq previously occupied and governed by Kurdish forces. In December 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi publicly declared victory against IS amid continued tensions among Iraq’s ethnosectarian groups. However, the group remained active.[4]

The devastating impact of violent conflict is magnified by the indiscriminate use of modern weapons. The firepower of weapons has increased significantly since World War II and can be used to devastating effect, particularly in urban areas where many civilians reside. Furthermore, the availability of such weapons has increased. The SIPRI estimated world military expenditure was $1,822 billion in 2018. Global military spending gradually rose following a post-2009 low in 2014, and in 2018 was 76% higher than the 1998 post-cold war low. Expenditure represented 2.1% of global GDP, or $239 per capita in 2018. The five biggest spenders were the US, China, Saudi Arabia, India and France. At $649 billion, US military expenditure increased for the first time in seven years – by 4.6%. The US was by far the largest spender in the world, accounting for 36% of global military spending. Expenditure increased in Central America and the Caribbean, Central Europe, Central and South Asia, East Asia, North America, South America, and Western Europe. Spending decreased in Eastern Europe, North Africa, Oceania, South East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Total expenditure of the Middle Eastern countries for which data was available also declined (Tian et al., 2019, pp. 1-3). Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Chair of the SIPRI Governing Board, has called high global military expenditure a “cause for serious concern” as it “undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world” (SIPRI, 2018c, n.p.).

The impact of modern weapons on civilians is illustrated by the war in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Tensions between the republics comprising the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia) increased in the late 1980s, as the Communist regime’s grip on power was eroded by reforms in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Ultimately, the country disintegrated, and fighting started in September 1990. By July 1991, a civil war ravaged Yugoslavia. Much of the conflict occurred in towns and cities, and involved heavy weaponry such as artillery and tanks. Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, was under siege from 1992 to 1995. Serbia was then bombed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999. A more recent conflict started in March 2014 when Russian forces annexed the Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, significantly increasing tensions between the West and Russia. Over 10,000 civilians have been killed or wounded as a result of the Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine, where modern weaponry has been deployed (CIA, 2019). This was graphically shown by the July 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian airliner by pro-Russian forces that killed all 298 people on board.[5]

No less deadly are common lighter and low-tech weapons. Many of the Rwandan deaths during the 1994 conflict (outlined later) were caused by machetes. Rocket-propelled grenades, bombs and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been very costly in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years such incidents have declined in Iraq, but risen in Afghanistan (Kester & Winter, 2017). A 2019 UN report documented 3,804 civilian deaths (another 7,189 were injured) in the Afghan conflict during 2018. Anti-Government Elements were responsible for 6,980 civilian casualties (2,243 deaths and 4,737 injured), mainly caused by the indiscriminate use of suicide IEDs and the deliberate targeting of civilians with these devices (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 2019). IS has frequently used suicide bombings, including customised armoured car bombs.[6] Other countries facing such indiscriminate weapons include Pakistan and Russia. Incidents in Pakistan include deadly attacks during the July 2018 Pakistani general election. With regard to Russia, in October 2015 a Russian airliner was destroyed by a bomb over Egypt, killing 224 people, and in April 2017 a deadly bombing occurred on the Saint Petersburg Metro.[7]

Apart from conventional weapons, there is the threat of unconventional weapons. At the start of 2019, nine states; the US, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea possessed approximately 13,865 nuclear weapons. According to SIPRI in 2019, Russia and the US, which collectively accounted for over 90% of global nuclear weapons, had extensive and expensive programmes under way to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and nuclear weapon production facilities. The other nuclear-armed states all were either developing or deploying new weapon systems or had announced their intention to do so. (SIPRI, 2019, p. 10). Moreover, chemical weapons have been used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as in April 2017, and the UK in September 2018 warned Russia that it would pay a “high price” if it continued to use chemical weapons following the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury earlier that year from which one person died.[8]

The Doomsday Clock uses the imagery of apocalypse (midnight), and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero), to convey threats to humanity and the planet. It has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the Clock’s minute hand is made annually by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, in consultation with its Board of Sponsors. In January 2018 the minute hand was moved 30 seconds closer to catastrophe: two minutes to midnight, the closest the Clock had been to Doomsday. This was because in 2017 “we saw reckless language in the nuclear realm heat up already dangerous situations and re-learned that minimizing evidence-based assessments regarding climate and other global challenges does not lead to better public policies” (Mecklin, 2018, n.p.). The US intention reported in October 2018 to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has been critiqued in the Bulletin given its negative impact on nuclear arms control (Reif, 2018); the US suspended its obligations under the Treaty effective February 2, 2019 (White House, 2019).

War crimes add to the cost. Human rights are frequently violated as social mores against such crimes are eroded while law and order collapses. These developments provide fertile ground for historical animosities to surface, for leaders to exploit tensions, and for factions to seek revenge for perceived past injustices. This, in turn, can start a cycle of violence as factions commit violence against each other that provokes retaliation. Such violence increases the level of hatred and the risk of war crimes. Human rights may also be systematically violated as terror and brutality are used to win dominance over the civilian population, and to ensure its compliance. Moreover, a breakdown of law and order can provide the opportunity for widespread violations to occur unhindered by fear of punishment. The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established to help end this impunity and gross violations of international humanitarian law. ​By August 2019 there had been 27 cases before the Court, some involving more than one suspect. ICC judges had issued 34 arrest warrants, while 16 people had been detained in the ICC detention centre and appeared before the Court. Fifteen people remained at large. Charges had been dropped against three people due to their deaths. Judges had issued nine convictions and four acquittals (ICC, 2019). Other courts such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia focus on war crimes during specific conflicts. In November 2017 former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić was jailed for life for genocide and other atrocities.

The term ‘one-sided violence’ refers to the use of armed force by the government of a state or by a formally organized group against civilians resulting in at least 25 deaths in a year. The UCDP has recorded a total of 274 actors engaged in one-sided violence since 1989, with a yearly average of 33 active actors. In 2018, there were 32 actors compared to 31 in 2017. Governments or formally organized groups targeted and killed at least 4,500 civilians during 2018, the lowest level since 2012. IS was the actor most heavily involved in this violence with nearly 1,800 civilian fatalities recorded in 2018, a decline from previous years. With a few exceptions, most notably Rwanda in 1994, non-state actors have targeted civilians more frequently than states have. Governments were responsible for 18% of the fatalities in 2018, one such actor being the Nicaraguan government which violently cracked down on protesters opposing new social security reform (Pettersson et al., 2019). The earlier conflict in Rwanda during the 1990s provides graphic evidence of the atrocities that can occur. Historically, there had been intense tribal animosities between the Tutsis and the Hutu, and such tensions worsened when the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi died in an April 1994 suspicious plane crash. It was against this background that extremist Hutu militia and elements of the Rwandan military began the systematic massacre of Tutsis. Approximately 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed (DeRouen & Heo, 2007, p. 6).

Gender-based violence frequently occurs during conflict. The incidence of rape increases with law and order collapsing and power being held by those holding weapons, often young poorly educated males abusing alcohol and other drugs. Violence can occur with ill-discipline, but may also be employed as another tool to gain the population’s submission. Such violence is illustrated by the DRC conflict. Ethnic strife and civil war occurred with a major inflow of refugees in 1994 from conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi. A short civil war in 1997 was followed by continued ethnic unrest. Amnesty International has reported that tens of thousands of women and girls were systematically raped by combatants. Many suffered gang rapes or were taken as sex slaves, while the rape of men and boys was reported too. Rape was often preceded or followed by the deliberate wounding, torture or killing of the victim. Women suffering injuries or illnesses caused by rape were frequently denied medical care. Furthermore, victims were often abandoned by their husbands and excluded by their communities because of prejudice. This condemned them and their children to extreme poverty (Amnesty International, 2005). In Nigeria ongoing instability has included groups of schoolgirls being kidnapped by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Children are frequently recruited as child soldiers by warring groups. They are viewed by groups as a readily available supply of recruits easily trainable and indoctrinated, who require no pay, and eat less food than adults. Children as young as eight years have been recruited, often forcefully, and are especially vulnerable when separated from their families or orphaned. The problem is most critical in Africa while children are also used as soldiers in various Asian countries and in parts of Latin America, Europe and the Middle East (DeRouen & Heo, 2007, p. 7). Myanmar has had an estimated 75,000 plus child soldiers, one of the highest numbers of any country (University of British Columbia, 2005, pp. 113-115).

Additional casualties can occur under the regime that emerges victorious from a conflict. Groups that use violence to seize power are likely to be willing and capable of widespread violence if they feel their power is threatened, and are likely to take extreme measures against perceived threats. This is illustrated by the brutal force used by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 against uprisings that ultimately resulted in his death, and by Bashar al-Assad against 2011 uprisings and during the resultant costly civil war. Furthermore, victorious groups might employ force to ensure that their directives are fulfilled, which may include violent and extreme ideals themselves. The resultant social and economic disruption can cause widespread hardships. The plight of Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 is a particularly graphic case of violence and radical change after a civil war. By the time the Khmer Rouge lost power in early 1979, as many as 1.7 million people had died through mass executions, malnutrition or disease (Bellamy, 2005, p. 17). More recently, IS brutally administered its occupied territories before a US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters announced in March 2019 that the jihadist group had lost its last Syrian territory. This brought a formal end to the ‘caliphate’ it proclaimed in 2014.[9]

The devastating effect of conflict remains long after the fighting has subsided or concluded. Higher mortality rates often remain, for it is time-consuming to rebuild the country’s damaged infrastructure, such as health and sanitation systems. Agricultural production will be compromised, and ecosystems will have suffered damage, exerting combined negative effects on public health. The reduced pool of available resources hinders rebuilding efforts. For example, there may be few people with the necessary expertise and skills as they would likely have fled the conflict or become casualties. This is especially problematic given the likelihood of greater demand for basic services because of damage, and the resultant increased threat of infectious diseases aggravated by a reduced ability to counter health threats. According to one study, during a five year civil war (the average length of a civil war is approximately seven years) infant mortality increased by 13%, and remained 11% higher than the baseline in the initial five years of post-war peace (World Bank, 2003, pp. 23-24, 93).

Lives are further threatened by the remnants of conflict. Unexploded ordnance and cluster munitions often claim lives and cause injuries; landmines are especially menacing. Landmines are frequently utilized given their inexpensiveness, ready availability and ease of use. This frequent use, along with the difficulty and cost of clearing mines and their indiscriminate harm to people and livestock, enhances their threat. Those who survive encounters are often maimed and face the prospect of losing their ability to work, and thus their livelihoods. They can also become ostracized from society. Some 61 countries and areas around the world are contaminated by landmines, and thousands of people live with this threat. In 2016, an average of 23 people around the world every day lost their life or limb to a landmine, or another explosive remnant of war. Thus, over 8,605 people were hurt or killed that year (International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 2018). Mined roads and destroyed bridges are significant obstacles to post-conflict recovery, because they hamper the use of valuable natural resources. For instance, minefields surrounding major population centres prevent the use of land suitable for agriculture and resettlement. The deaths and injuries of many Cambodians since the war there highlight the menace posed by mines.

As death and destruction spreads, many people attempt to flee. Refugees often carry minimal possessions and are forced to survive with these, at least until they find new homes or obtain assistance at refugee camps. Refugees are unlikely to receive adequate help from a weakened state, and are vulnerable to attack and to disease. The plight of refugees is further worsened by the trauma of witnessing the death and injury of relatives and friends. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the global population of forcibly displaced people grew from 43.3 million in 2009 to 70.8 million in 2018, a record high. Most of this increase happened between 2012 and 2015, driven primarily by the Syrian conflict (Syria had the highest number of refugees with 6.7 million). Other conflicts also contributed to this rise, including Iraq, Yemen, the DRC and South Sudan, along with the significant flow of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh at the end of 2017. The refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate had nearly doubled since 2012. In 2018, the increase was driven particularly by internal displacement in Ethiopia and asylum-seekers fleeing Venezuela (UNHCR, 2019).

Refugee camps often find it difficult to provide adequate care, food and shelter to an influx of refugees fleeing a conflict. The World Food Programme and the UNHCR in early 2017 expressed serious concern that critical shortages in food assistance were affecting some two million refugees in 10 countries across Africa. For instance, many malnourished refugees were fleeing conflict in Somalia and South Sudan (UNHCR, 2017). Without adequate support, infectious diseases can rapidly spread among people already weakened by their flight from conflict, especially those most vulnerable. Many refugees who have fled abroad and are not in camps experience major problems too. These people often have little money to afford accommodation, are traumatized, and cannot access local support systems because of their legal status or language barriers. Thus, they are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and radicalization. Economic Impact

The economic impact of conflict is disastrous. During a conflict, a society diverts some of its resources from productive activities to destruction. Hence, there is a double loss: the loss of resources that contributed to pre-conflict production, and the loss from the damage inflicted (World Bank, 2003, p. 13). Skills are lost with the death and exodus of people, and the damage to the country’s infrastructure and environment seriously impedes economic development and activity. The loss of reliable electricity supplies reduces productivity, and damaged transport systems hinder both the inflow of resources and the outflow of products. Furthermore, the uncertainty surrounding conflict discourages investment; it can also heighten economic instability as people try to stockpile goods, and as inflation reduces the value of money. According to the 2019 GPI, the global economic impact of violence lessened for the first time since 2012, decreasing by 3.3% or $475 billion from 2017 to 2018. The global economic impact of violence was $14.1 trillion in PPP terms during 2018, equivalent to 11.2% of global GDP. This improvement was primarily due to the decrease in the impact of armed conflict particularly in Iraq, Colombia and Ukraine (IEP, 2019, p. 4).

The impact of conflict is illustrated by the economic performances of countries witnessing conflict. One World Bank study found that during civil war countries generally grow around 2.2% more slowly than during peace. Thus, after a typical civil war of seven years’ duration, incomes would be approximately 15% lower than had no war occurred (assuming steady growth as a default). This implies the incidence of absolute poverty increased by about 30%. The cumulative loss of income during the war would be equal to approximately 60% of a year’s GDP. Another study analysed the economic impact of civil war using data from about eighteen countries affected by such conflict. For fourteen countries whose average growth rates of GDP per capita could be calculated, the average annual growth rate was negative 3.3%. Moreover, macro-economic indicators worsened during the conflict. In all eighteen economies, the external debt increased as a percentage of GDP; in fifteen countries, per capita income dropped; in thirteen countries, food production declined; and in twelve countries export growth fell (World Bank, 2003, p. 17). The devastation of Syria’s economy by civil war and international sanctions further illustrates the negative impact of conflict. After eight years of fighting it was estimated that Syria’s GDP was, at best, one-third of its pre-war level.[10]

A conflict’s economic impact is not restricted to the country experiencing it. As countries are closely interlinked by the global economy, when conflict affects the economy in one country it often affects others, especially neighbours. The impact’s magnitude is shaped by the nature of the country’s economy. Conflict in a country that has a large economy with strategic resources such as oil is likely to have a larger impact on the global economy than conflict in a country with a small, resource-limited economy. The impact of conflict and instability on the global economy is illustrated by developments in the Middle East. In 2018 rising oil prices occurred against the background of geopolitical instability there. This included the US decision to unilaterally exit the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, under which Tehran agreed to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and accept international inspectors in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. Other instability was caused by domestic upheaval in Venezuela, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.[11] Regional tensions continued in 2019, including a September attack on major Saudi oil facilities reducing global oil supplies by five percent and increasing prices.[12] While price rises may be interpreted as a positive development by other oil producing countries, they often have a detrimental impact on many economies and societies.

Conflict can have an especially damaging impact on the economies of neighbouring countries. This impact can include reduced investment and the disruption of trade. According to the World Bank, having a neighbour at war reduces a country’s annual growth by around 0.5% (World Bank, 2003, p. 35). Economic growth rates may be adversely affected for various reasons. For example, conflict often discourages investment, as apparent in Africa. During 2004, the UN said that African instability and war were having a ‘ripple effect’ across the continent, and discouraging investment. Africa had the lowest level of foreign investment of any continent, about $15 billion a year (IRIN, 2005). Trade obstacles caused by conflict are especially challenging for landlocked countries, such as in Africa. The 1976-1992 civil war in Mozambique doubled neighbouring Malawi’s international transport costs and triggered an economic decline (World Bank, 2003, p. 35).

The economic impact of conflict is magnified by additional demands faced by regional economies. The plight of refugees that escaped from a conflict can strain the economies of neighbouring countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that resources have been strained by Afghan refugees entering Pakistan, with major problems arising. According to WHO, housing conditions have been inhumane, sanitation conditions below minimal standards, and there has been inadequate drinking water. WHO warned that outbreaks of communicable diseases often occurred with such problems (WHO, 2001).

Additional economic demand comes from increased defense expenditures, caused by threat perceptions in countries close to conflict. Fuelled by anxiety that the conflict could spread, there is an increased threat of regional instability, and border disputes might arise as various warring factions seek to use border areas as sanctuaries. The impact of threat perceptions is shown by international defense expenditure, which has already been outlined.

5.3.2 Addressing the Root Causes: Explaining Violent Conflict

Given their massive threat to human security, it is vital to better understand the key factors that can cause violent conflict, especially intrastate wars, in order to prevent their occurrence or at least to enhance our ability to resolve them quickly. Conflict is closely associated with other threats noted later in the chapter, so only three factors are briefly examined here. History of Past Violent Conflicts

Once a country has experienced a conflict, the threat of additional violence is elevated. The risk of a subsequent war for countries that have recently experienced war is estimated as two to four times higher. One reason for this is that the same factors that caused the initial war often remain operative (World Bank, 2003, pp. 83, 104). Indeed, these factors might have become stronger because of the ensuing destruction and casualties. Suspicion, grievances, and persistent hostility between opposing factions hinder reconciliation, and require time to be overcome. The difficulty of bringing to justice key personalities responsible for conflict poses another obstacle to reconciliation. A return to conflict is also facilitated by the likely post-conflict unemployment of many people with little experience except in fighting, and by the widespread availability of weapons. Moreover, the fate of weapon stockpiles after a war can generate tension when there is little trust between groups. The threat of ongoing conflict is illustrated by the situation in Angola where conflict has occurred since independence in 1975. Despite a 2002 ceasefire, and the establishment of a UN mission to oversee the peace process, conflict continues in areas like Cabinda. Autocratic Populist Leaders

Autocratic state and insurgency leaders can increase and exacerbate tensions that cause conflict. Leaders in countries with insurgencies and unrest often have alienated much of the population by abusing their power. This abuse frequently includes brutality against opposition, placing allies in powerful positions while excluding others, corruptly exploiting the state’s resources, and failing to improve living conditions and to resolve serious issues among the general population. Poor and incompetent leadership also erodes the regime’s legitimacy and encourages disillusionment, particularly in cases of obvious policy failure. Such a decline of legitimacy can be exploited by the regime’s opposition. A leader’s responsibility for the outbreak and continuation of conflict is shown by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s influential role in the conflict within the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Likewise, Bashar al-Assad has confounded many observers by holding on to power despite a rebellion by a large part of Syria’s population. His brutal crackdown on 2011 protests had triggered a devastating conflict, and drawn in other countries such as Iran, Russia and the US. By August 2019 over 500,000 were estimated to be dead or missing, while the regime had retaken most of the territory previously held by opposing forces.[13]

Insurgency leaders often increase tensions that encourage conflict. Rebel military organizations generally have hierarchal and dictatorial structures, with significant power held by a charismatic leader. Rebel leaders frequently preach intolerance, revenge, and the need for direct action against their enemies. They are likely to exploit the grievances of various groups to rally support around the insurgency, and ruthlessly pursue power. Moqtada Sadr, a powerful radical Shia cleric, illustrates the important role of such leaders. In 2003 Moqtada Sadr established a militia group, the Mehdi Army, which fought against US-led forces in Iraq. As sectarian violence increased after Saddam Hussein’s fall this group was accused of staging reprisal attacks against Sunni Arabs. After nearly four years abroad he returned to Iraq in January 2011, and ultimately headed an alliance that won the May 2018 Iraqi parliamentary elections. External Actors

Assistance from external actors to groups can worsen conflict. Of 163 internal conflicts between 1946 and 2001, 32 involved external participation by other states (Gleditsch et al., 2002, p. 620). External actors may become involved in conflicts by deploying their own forces or by helping to finance, equip or train factions they support, or through logistics and intelligence sharing. Regardless of their particular involvement, violence often increases as warring groups become stronger, especially when outside powers directly intervene on their behalf. This intervention can be encouraged when external actors benefit from the conflict, or from a victory of a group aligned with their own interests. External involvement often occurred during the cold war, when the Superpowers and their allies promoted their rival strategic interests through proxy conflicts. This is illustrated by the American and Soviet involvement in Afghanistan during the late 1970s and 1980s. Post-cold war case studies include Iran’s support of militias in Iraq fighting US-led forces. This reportedly included providing weapons and explosives, and training in Iran (Gordon & Lehren, 2010). Gaddafi also deployed mercenaries to fight insurgent groups in 2011, while Russian and Iranian forces have provided significant support for the Syrian regime.

5.4 Other Threats to Human Security

5.4.1 State Vulnerability

The presence of key political institutions providing adequate and appropriate avenues to exercise rights, to express opinions, and to address grievances is vital in reducing the likelihood of violent conflict and unrest. This includes a representative central government able to provide the basics of good governance. However, this is not the case in many countries. Barriers to political participation and poor living conditions often encourage enlistment into rebel armies, a premise supported by the work of Barbara Walter, who studied the recurrent nature of civil war (Walter, 2004, p. 385). The term ‘fragile state’ indicates a dangerous post-cold war development, a development measured in the Fragile States Index (FSI) already mentioned. Symbolic of such states is the collapse of law and order, along with basic services. This phenomenon is often accompanied by violent conflict, as in Somalia. Where the state’s fundamental features are strong, major conflict and human insecurity are less likely, as with New Zealand (Henderson & Bellamy, 2002, p. 88). It should be noted, however, that a strong and stable state does not constitute an absolute guarantee of acceptable human security for its citizens. For instance, the North Korean dictatorship has defied many forecasts of collapse but has an appalling human rights record.

Political grievances can impact upon law and order. In Iran (ranked 52 in the 2019 FSI), rival candidates challenged Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June 2009 presidential election and alleged vote-rigging. Their supporters then staged mass protests. The following year parliamentary elections in Iraq (FSI=13) resulted in no coalition winning enough votes for a majority, and political uncertainty contributed to increased violence. Mass protests in Egypt (FSI=34) against President Hosni Mubarak that ultimately led him to leave power in February 2011 were fuelled by his rule through emergency law. This gave the state sweeping powers of arrest and violated fundamental freedoms. Vladimir Putin’s March 2012 presidential election victory in Russia (FSI=73) led to demonstrations against the election’s conduct, while protests occurred after authorities disqualified various opposition candidates from standing in September 2019 local elections. Violence followed the July 2018 presidential election in Zimbabwe (FSI=10), the first such post-independence election without former leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot paper (FFP 2019: 7). Protests in Hong Kong against an extradition bill proposed by the government in early 2019 led to widespread demonstrations that continued after the bill’s withdrawal that September.

Internal divisions such as those derived from ethnicity, region, religion, and economic inequity can cause tension, ultimately threatening human security when groups cannot resolve differences peacefully. According to the World Bank, if the largest ethnic group in a multi-ethnic society forms an absolute majority, the risk of rebellion is increased by approximately 50%. In such societies, minorities may reasonably fear that even a democratic political process might cause their permanent exclusion from influence (DeRouen & Heo, 2007, p. 18). Socioeconomically dominant ethnic minorities are at particular risk, as in the case of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia or the Philippines (Chua 2003).[14] There have also been some tensions between local populations and Chinese migrants in Africa.

The risk of unrest and conflict can be further increased by intense rivalry between two similarly sized groups over issues like political influence and power. The World Bank asserts that both polarization and dominance can cause problems. A very polarized society divided into two equal groups has an estimated risk of civil war approximately six times higher than a more homogeneous society (World Bank, 2003, pp. 57-58). Discontent can be especially strong when people are fighting for their right to live in their ancestral home, as was evident in the Ethiopian war (1976-1985). The conflict in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970 shows the potentially destructive nature of ethnic divisions. India has experienced serious clashes between Hindus and Muslims, as over the disputed holy site of Ayodhya. More recently, conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq has persisted.

5.4.2 Economic Threats

Beyond the economic damage caused by conflict, poor economic development limits the resources available to construct strong political institutions. Likewise, the government’s ability to meet the population’s needs and demands are restricted by a poor economy. Here grievances over economic problems like inflation and unemployment increase as they affect living conditions, and they become stronger as such conditions deteriorate. For instance, the decline of Venezuela’s economy, despite its oil wealth, has led to mass unrest in recent years. Globalization contributes to this effect as technological innovations allow even people in the poorest and most remote areas to learn about better conditions elsewhere. Dissatisfaction with the government intensifies when the living conditions of groups are unequal due to government favouritism and corruption (DeRouen & Heo, 2007, p. 16). Here people are more likely to support factions promising better conditions even through using force. Resource ownership often becomes an issue when ownership (especially of land) is distributed unevenly. For example, white farm ownership in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and government moves to address this, has caused tensions. The plundering of natural resources by a minority can finance opportunistic rebellions. Through all those factors, resources can motivate conflict (Collier & Hoeffler, 2005, p. 632). Diamonds have been identified as influencing the incidence of civil wars but generally not the onset of conflict; easily exploited diamond deposits can be used to finance prolonged conflict (Lujala et al., 2005, pp. 559-560).

Even in the absence of violent conflict, economic malaise can threaten human security. The 2019 Global Report on Food Crises estimated that over 113 million people across 53 countries experienced acute hunger requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance in 2018. Conflict and insecurity was the key driver of food insecurity. Some 74 million people—two-thirds of those facing acute hunger—were located in 21 countries and territories affected by conflict or insecurity. Around 33 million of these people lived in 10 countries in Africa. Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into situations of acute food insecurity, while economic shocks were the primary driver of acute food insecurity for 10.2 million people (Food Security Information Network, 2019).

Economic mismanagement and corruption are major threats to the livelihood of people in many countries. Such problems hinder development, increase living costs and might encourage discontent. Transparency International, a non-government organization fighting corruption, included 180 countries and territories in its 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index. These were ranked by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people using a scale of 0 to 100. Here 0 (zero) was highly corrupt and 100 was irreproachable. Their report stated that more than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, with an average score of 43. Furthermore, “despite some progress, most countries are failing to make serious inroads against corruption.” Corruption was the worst in Somalia, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, North Korea and Sudan. The least corrupt were Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland (Transparency International, 2019, pp. 1, 2-3).

The threats of a struggling economy and economic inequality to human security are particularly evident where instability and conflict occurred previously. In February 2011 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) noted that its global food price index (a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities) had risen above its previous June 2008 peak, a year during which food price increases triggered violent protests in countries ranging from Haiti and the Philippines to Yemen. In 2008, price increases were driven by factors such as droughts, floods and oil price rises. In 2010, these factors returned, along with speculation about weak harvests in 2011 (Gilmour, 2011). The World Bank estimated that food price increases had placed 44 million people in the developing world back into poverty.[15] Ultimately, the food price index peaked in 2011 between 2001 and August 2019 (FAO, 2019). Furthermore, global economic growth and stability has been threatened by the US-China trade war, and other factors such as a slowing Chinese economy and concerns over the impact of Brexit, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, finalised on 31 January 2020.

Natural disasters can clearly have a major disruptive impact on already economically vulnerable states. While academic evidence on the economic impact of natural disasters is mixed, natural disasters can destroy tangible company assets such as buildings and equipment along with human capital, thus reducing their production capacity (Ono, 2015). The negative impact of natural disasters is graphically shown by the January 2010 Haiti earthquake that caused up to 300,000 deaths. Here unrest was triggered by the slow pace of post-disaster reconstruction.[16]

Economic threats can be further aggravated by the often officially prescribed solution – regional economic development and growth – contributing to the region’s environmental impact on ecosystems, as well as to the global ecological overshoot of humanity. The former can irreversibly damage local ecological support structures, while the latter can cause similar damage worldwide and perpetuates inequity and exploitation Those consequences lead to often unforeseen (by the usual key decision makers) costs in health care and the economy, which in turn render future economic threats even more serious.

Foreign investment and loan dependency can be destabilizing. While rates of foreign direct investment to Africa have increased during recent years, little is known about how this will affect the political environment. Some research indicates that in states with a low regard for civil liberties, or with ‘unhealthy’ economies (such as a cash deficit), increased access to investment is associated with a higher number of conflict actions by the state. This can occur because access pushes regimes into using violent strategies to secure their domestic environment, and to ensure their survival against opposition and armed combatants (Kishi et al., 2017). Loan dependency is another risk, especially when loans are spent unwisely and cannot be repaid, that can prevent the government from providing basic services, and encourage unrest. In 2018 the International Monetary Fund warned that at least 40% of low-income countries in the region were either in debt distress or at high risk.[17] Chad (ranked 7 in the 2019 FSI), Eritrea (FSI =17), Mozambique (FSI =33), the DRC (FSI =5), South Sudan (FSI =3) and Zimbabwe (FSI =10) were considered to be in “debt distress” at the end of 2017 while Zambia (FSI =40) and Ethiopia (FSI =23) were downgraded to “high risk of debt distress” (FSI 2019: 7).[18] Concern has also been expressed over corruption and countries becoming indebted to China, the single largest bilateral financier of infrastructure in Africa.[19]

5.4.3 Health-Related Threats

Promoting and protecting health is essential for ensuring human welfare, along with sustained economic and social development, and well-functioning ecological support structures. People rate health one of their highest priorities, which frequently makes it a political issue, and a potential grievance as regimes try to meet peoples’ expectations. The circumstances in which people grow, live, work, and age strongly influence the quality of their lives and deaths. Education, housing, food and employment all impact on health, as do a country’s standards of environmental health. Timely access to health services including promotion, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation is also important. This cannot be achieved for the majority of people without a well-functioning health financing system (WHO, 2010, p. IX). Thus, low-income countries that experience conflict and disasters that significantly damage the health system, basic infrastructure, and environmental basis are especially at risk. This is because they are least able to rebuild their systems, and in turn might experience mass causalities and further unrest.

Yemen, where a civil war rages, experienced a cholera outbreak that in 2017 was called the largest and fastest-spreading outbreak of the disease in modern history.[20] Between 28 September 2016 and 12 March 2018 there were 1,103,683 suspected cholera cases and 2,385 deaths reported (Shaikh, 2018). The Ebola virus has hit poor African states particularly hard. By early August 2019 there had been over 1,800 deaths and over 2,700 people infected by an outbreak in the DRC that started in August 2018. This represented the second-largest outbreak in the history of the virus. It followed the 2013-2016 epidemic in West Africa that killed over 11,300 people.[21]

A few threats disproportionately impact upon world health, and hence particularly threaten human security. According to WHO, the leading global risks for mortality (other than infectious diseases) have been high blood pressure (responsible for 13% of deaths globally), tobacco use (nine percent), high blood glucose (six percent), physical inactivity (six percent), and overweight and obesity (five percent). These increased the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancers. They affected countries across all income groups. Disability-adjusted life year (DALY) are frequently used to measure deaths at different ages and disability. One DALY basically equates one lost year of ‘healthy’ life, and the burden of disease measures the gap between current health status and an ideal situation where everyone lives into old age, free of disease and disability. The leading global risks for burden of disease, as measured in DALYs, were underweight (six percent of global DALYs), unsafe sex (five percent), alcohol use (five percent) and unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene (four percent). Excluding alcohol use, all threats especially affected populations in low-income countries, particularly in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Alcohol use has a unique geographic and sex pattern. Its burden was highest for men in Africa, middle-income countries in the Americas and some high-income countries (WHO, 2009, pp. V, 5, 9).

According to WHO, of the 56.9 million deaths worldwide in 2016, ischaemic heart disease and stroke were the world’s biggest killers with them accounting for a combined 15.2 million deaths. These diseases had been the leading causes of death globally in the last 15 years. Lower respiratory infections were the most deadly communicable disease, causing 3.0 million deaths worldwide in 2016. Over half of all deaths in low-income countries during 2016 were caused by ‘Group I’ conditions. These included communicable diseases, maternal causes, conditions arising during pregnancy and childbirth, and nutritional deficiencies. Contrasting this, less than seven percent of deaths in high-income countries resulted from such causes. Lower respiratory infections were among the leading causes of death across all income groups (WHO, 2018).

Most health threats vary according to income. A high proportion of the world’s poor are estimated to have no access to health services simply because they cannot afford to pay when they need them. Their risk of contracting disease is greatly elevated by the adverse environmental conditions in which they live. They risk being pushed into poverty, or further into poverty, as illness prevents them from working (WHO, 2010, p. 5). In low-income countries, relatively few risks are responsible for a large percentage of deaths, and loss of healthy years. These risks generally act by increasing the incidence or severity of infectious diseases. The leading risk fac­tor for low-income countries was underweight, about 10% of the total disease burden. In combination, childhood underweight, micronutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin A and zinc) and suboptimal breastfeeding caused seven percent of deaths and 10% of total disease burden. The combined burden from these nutritional risks was nearly equivalent to the entire disease and injury burden of high-income countries (WHO, 2009, p. 9). For those who do not die, frequent illness and chronic disability prevent children from attending school, and adults from working or caring for their families. Thus, families can become trapped in a downward spiral of poverty, lost opportunity and poor health.

For high and middle-income countries (and for the affluent elites in poor countries), the most important risk factors are chronic dis­eases like heart diseases and cancer. Tobacco is one of the leading risks for both. This accounted for 11% of the disease burden, and 18% of deaths in high-income countries. For these countries, alcohol, overweight and blood pressure were leading causes of healthy life years lost (WHO, 2009, p. 9). Even in high-income countries where people still enjoy comparatively high human security, disasters can pose serious health threats that cause both acute trauma and long-term health issues. New Zealand has a history of earthquakes, though fatalities have been comparatively low (Bellamy, 2016). The September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, caused widespread problems such as anxiety, depression and stress among residents. The devastating March 2011 earthquake in Japan has caused major long-term health issues given its magnitude, and the associated radioactive pollution. With middle-income countries, risks for chronic diseases also cause the largest share of deaths and DALYs. Risks like unsafe sex, unsafe water, and lack of sanitation cause a larger share of burden of disease than in high-income countries (WHO, 2009, p. 9).

Threats can similarly be influenced by demography. The profile of risks varies with age. Some risks affect children almost exclusively, such as underweight and under nutrition (apart from iron deficiency). Among adults the risks also vary considerably with age; much of the health burden from addictive substances, unsafe sex, absence of contraception, iron deficiency and child sex abuse occurs in younger adults. Contrasting this, the health burden from risk factors for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancers predominately falls on older adults. Men and women have been affected about equally from risks associated with diet, the environment and unsafe sex. However, men suffered over 75% of the bur­den from addictive substances, and most of the bur­den from occupational risks. Women suffered the entire burden from lack of contraception and unsafe abortions, 80% of deaths caused by iron deficiency, and approximately two thirds of the burden caused by child sexual abuse (WHO, 2009, p. 9).

The catastrophic impact of Japan’s 2011 earthquake on its nuclear industry underscored the role of a safe environment in public health. Pollution in its many forms, radioactive or chemical, can have devastating effects on people’s health that range from acute illness to long-range chronic dysfunctions that often remain undiagnosed (Chen et al., 2004). Here too the main burden is usually carried by the world’s poor, although catastrophes, such as the one in Japan, act indiscriminately. Their impact also tends to be regional or global rather than nationally delimited, and mitigation efforts often largely rely on nature’s own capacity to renew itself, or at least to dilute the noxious agents. Such spectacular disasters sometimes distract from the essential role of healthy ecosystems everywhere in maintaining the health of human populations, by producing food, shelter and energy, and by recycling wastes back into biomass and clean water. Those essential functions, which often do not even feature in economic analyses of a country’s health status, tend to become obvious only when the integrity of an ecosystem becomes compromised by human impact, or when its capacities become overtaxed (Hales et al., 2004; Crisp, 2010). Ecosystems also support human population health through other mechanisms, the details of which are yet to be understood (Chivian, 2001).

5.4.4 Crime

As another chapter in this text focuses on crime, only crime that tends to be associated with violent conflict, namely the production of illegal drugs and the intentional killing of a person by another (intentional homicide), is briefly outlined here. Conflict, poor governance and widespread poverty can cause a recognized government to lose control over its territory, whereupon illegal activities, such as drug cultivation, can become widespread. The cultivation or control of the illegal drug industry often provides a vital revenue source for guerrilla groups. Cultivation can also become an income source for people whose economic options were reduced by conflict, or who live in areas controlled by guerrilla and criminal groups. An estimated 95% of the global production of opium occurs in countries experiencing civil wars (World Bank, 2003, p. 41).

The link between conflict and illegal drugs is demonstrated by Colombia. Colombian intelligence sources have estimated that 40% of the country’s total cocaine exports are controlled by paramilitaries, and their allies in the narcotics underworld. Indeed, it is “impossible to distinguish between paramilitaries and drug traffickers” (Human Rights Watch, 2003). Over 900 tonnes of cocaine were produced in Colombia during 2017, prompting fears that it was losing the war on drugs.[22] Sinister accessory roles can also be played by powerful external actors with an interest in the drug trade, such as the British Government during the 19th century Chinese opium wars. In some countries (e.g. South East Asia) the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics serve as income sources to corrupt governments which relativises the label of illegality.

Intentional homicide represents the most serious end of the spectrum of violent crime, and hence poses a major threat to human security. Such crime helps to shape peoples’ perceptions of insecurity, is often widely reported and influences attitudes towards law enforcement. Widespread protests can arise when authorities are believed to be incapable, or unwilling, to counter the occurrence of violent crime. This is shown by mass anti-crime protests in Mexico sparked by many deaths related to drug-related violence. President Felipe Calderon deployed the army to fight the cartels in 2006, and over 28,000 people had died by 2010 with violence spreading into Central America. Indeed, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in September 2010 commented that Mexican drug-related violence increasingly had the characteristics of an insurgency.[23] In March 2018 Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he planned to withdraw his country from the ICC after it began examining his controversial war on drugs. Police claimed they had killed around 4,000 drugs ‘suspects’, whereas rights groups suggested the figure could be much higher.[24] The country officially left the ICC in March 2019.

As one of the most effectively recorded crimes, law enforcement data on intentional homicide is generally more readily available than for other crimes. Thus, rates of intentional homicide per 100,000 population have sometimes been used as a proxy for levels of violent crime, or even overall crime (Harrendorf et al., 2010, p. 7).

According to the UN, the overall number of people who suffered a violent death because of homicide increased from 395,542 in 1992 to 464,000 in 2017. However, with the global population rising faster than the increase in recorded homicide victims the global homicide rate, measured as the victims of homicide per 100,000 people, fell from 7.2 in 1992, to 6.1 in 2017. Organized crime was responsible for 19% of homicides. The homicide rate in the Americas (17.2) was the highest recorded in the region since reliable records began in 1990. Africa’s rate (13.0) was also above the global average (6.1). The rates in Asia, Europe and Oceania were below the global average (2.3, 3.0 and 2.8 respectively) (UN Information Service 2019). The July 2011 massacre by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway and March 2019 mosque massacre in New Zealand focused attention on far-right extremist groups often associated with racism and violence, while ongoing mass shootings in the US have generated significant discussion over gun control.

5.4.5 Terrorism

There is much debate over what constitutes terrorism. In accordance with conventions on terrorism, such as the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolution 1566 (2004), the UN refers to terrorism as actions intended to cause death, or serious bodily harm, to civilians or non-combatants when their purpose is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to commit or to abstain from doing any act (UN, 2010). Terrorism has allowed weaker and smaller insurgent groups to pose major threats to human security. The threat of terrorism is internationally acknowledged, particularly since the 11 September 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the US. These attacks left nearly 3,000 individuals dead or missing (DeRouen & Heo, 2007, p. 13) in the worst international terrorist attack as at its 18th anniversary.

According to the US Department of State, in 2017 a total of 8,584 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide, resulting in over 18,700 deaths and more than 19,400 people injured. These casualty figures included more than 4,400 perpetrator deaths and 1,400 perpetrator injuries. The total number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2017 decreased by 23% and total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 27%, compared to 2016. This overall trend was primarily due to significantly fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq. Although attacks took place in 100 countries in 2017, 59% of all attacks occurred in five countries (Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Philippines). Seventy percent of all deaths due to terrorist attacks occurred in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. IS was responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other perpetrator group in 2017. However, it undertook 23% fewer terrorist attacks and caused 53% fewer total deaths, compared to 2016. IS and groups that had pledged allegiance to it staged attacks in over 20 countries in 2017 (US State Department 2018). IS and National Thowheed Jamath were linked to April 2019 Sri Lankan bombings that killed over 250 people, while in August 2019 it was reported that IS was regaining strength in Iraq and Syria.[25]

The growth of terrorist groups has been facilitated by the link between conflict and terrorism. The state’s lack of control over territory, along with the general absence of law and order, can help terrorist groups. In those areas, terrorists can operate with little or no interference from state authorities. Indeed, terrorist organizations often constitute a militant faction of much larger political opposition groups, the majority of whom remain non-combatant. Terrorists can establish organizational structures, recruit and train followers, and develop international networks for intelligence and supplies. Conflict, together with a government’s ‘clumsy’ efforts to control it, might also make people more receptive to supporting terrorists, or at least accepting their presence. Terrorists often exploit the strong emotions arising from death and destruction; for instance, by serving as a conduit for retribution.

Afghanistan illustrates how countries experiencing conflict can become terrorist havens. After the Taliban seized power in 1996 they allowed al-Qaeda to establish bases, and Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist group’s leader, allegedly lived there. Despite the Taliban losing power in December 2001, conflict and lawlessness remain, as both Taliban and al-Qaeda elements operate within the country or near its borders. A study published in 2018 found that the Taliban were in full control of 14 districts (four percent of the country), and had an active and open physical presence in a further 263 (66%). Furthermore, in September 2019 it was reported that the Taliban controlled more territory than at any time since the 2001 US invasion.[26] Nor has Osama Bin Laden’s death in May 2011 ended al-Qaeda attacks. Likewise, UN Secretary General António Guterres said in February 2019 that IS had “substantially evolved into a covert network,” and was “in a phase of transition, adaptation and consolidation.” IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in April 2019 also vowed to seek revenge for its loss of territory.[27]

State-sponsored terrorism represents the reciprocal situation, where terrorist methods are employed by a ruling faction to promote their agenda, and strengthen their power while avoiding public scrutiny. Well known examples include the 20th century military dictatorships in Latin America, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and other Middle East autocracies, and some of the more totalitarian regimes behind the ‘iron curtain.’ A problematic variant of state-sponsored terrorism can occur in the form of radical and sweeping counter-terrorist policies. These are implemented by a regime in response to a terrorist insurgence. In such cases the general populace can be caught between the brutality of both the government and terrorists. Indeed, Amnesty International during April 2011 announced a major worldwide campaign, Security with Human Rights. This aimed to expose governments that violated human rights in the name of national security or of countering terrorism, or governments that used the threat of terrorism as a pretext to undermine human rights. Countries criticized for such actions included the US, Turkey and Pakistan (Amnesty International, 2011). In 2018 Guterres asserted that “We must fight terrorism together, with methods that do not compromise the rule of law and human rights” (UN News, 2018).

5.4.6 Environment

The natural environment within which people live and interact provides an essential basis for their lives. This is because ecosystems provide key ‘services’ for human communities: production of food, raw materials, and energy; and recycling of wastes back into resources. These services cannot be supplanted by any technologically conceived methods as the operation of technological devices itself depends on ecosystem services, and non-renewable resources (Myers, 1993).

The World Economic Forum (WEF) identifies and ranks global risks through its annual Global Risks Perception Survey, which asks the Forum’s network of business, government, civil society and thought leaders to gauge the risks facing the world. Environmental risks dominated the results of the WEF Global Risks Report 2019 on both dimensions of their likelihood and impact. According to the Report, “Of all risks, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.” Overall, the five risks most likely to occur in order of their likelihood were: extreme weather events (e.g. floods and storms etc.); the failure of climate-change mitigation and adaption; major natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions and geomagnetic storms); massive incidents of data fraud/theft; and large scale cyber-attacks. The five risks that would have the biggest impact, ranked according to their magnitude, were: weapons of mass destruction; the failure of climate change mitigation and adaption; extreme weather events; water crises; and major natural disasters (WEF, 2019; Myers & Whiting, 2019, n.p.).

A key indicator for the state of the environment is biodiversity. This reflects the number, variety and variability of living organisms, and how these vary according to location and change over time. Biodiversity is important for the integrity and resilience of all ecosystems, and it is the basis for the benefits provided by ecosystems to people. Biodiversity loss has direct and indirect negative effects on eight key factors. The first four are: food security (biodiversity often increases the adaptability of communities to change); vulnerability (ecosystems tend to lose their resilience and stability as species are lost); health (a balanced diet requires diverse foods); and energy security (wood fuel provides over half the energy used in developing countries, and thus shortages can cause major problems). The other factors are: clean water (the loss of forests and watersheds reduces water quality and availability); social relations and cultural identity (many cultures attach values to ecosystems or their components); freedom of life-style choice (the loss of species and ecosystems often means a loss of choices); and finally basic materials (biodiversity provides goods people need to live) (UNEP, 2010).

The environment’s significance is highlighted by the importance of biodiversity; threats to ecological integrity can have a major impact on human security. Indeed, biodiversity and ecosystem integrity are internationally threatened in many ways. According to Guterres, “Protecting and restoring ecosystems and ensuring access to ecosystem services are necessary for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. Reducing deforestation and land degradation and enhancing carbon stocks in forests, drylands, rangelands and croplands are needed for mitigating climate change. And protecting the biodiversity of forests and watersheds supports clean and plentiful water supplies. These are just some of the benefits of biodiversity. Yet, despite this understanding, biodiversity loss continues around the globe” (UN 21, May 2018, n.p.).

In 2017, German researchers found that a 75% fall in the population of insects critical to food systems had occurred in the past 27 years, raising fears of “ecological Armageddon.” Human destruction of habitats for farming, mining, infrastructure development and oil and gas production was the primary driver of biodiversity loss (Martin, 2018). A UN-backed study of biodiversity in 2018 stated that “Biodiversity, the essential variety of life-forms on earth, continues to decline in every region of the world” (Doyle, 2018). Human activities were causing an alarming decline in the variety of plant and animal life, thereby jeopardizing food, clean water and energy supplies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that global warming is likely to reach 1.5° C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues increasing at the current rate (high confidence). Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth were projected to increase with such warming (IPCC, 2018). Moreover, the US in June 2017 indicated it would withdraw from the December 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change Mitigation, the central aim of which includes pursuing efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5° C. Given the significant and credible evidence of climate change, the lack of active moves to address the issue by some countries is concerning. Climate change can play a role in fostering conflict. For example, traditional systems for sharing resources can erode if farmers suddenly have to adapt to different growing seasons or herders need to move their cattle at different times. Such conflict has been reported around Africa’s Lake Chad between farmers and herders. While there is debate over their findings, some studies have suggested that climate change caused or exacerbated a severe drought in Syria during the late 2000s that triggered mass migration from farmland into cities, contributing to tensions that led to its civil war.[28]

The impact of environmental threats on human security is graphically evident in recent disasters. In August 2010 wildfires caused by a severe heat wave killed people and devastated crops in Russia. This disaster led Russia, the world’s third largest wheat exporter in 2009, to ban grain exports, thus increasing international wheat prices. That same month some scientists linked those fires, along with floods in China and Pakistan, to global warming.[29] A Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters report found that earthquakes and tsunamis claimed more lives than any other type of hazard in 2018, with over 10,000 lives lost. Floods, droughts, storms and wildfires affected more than 57 million people. Floods affected the largest number (over 35 million), with 23 million in the Indian State of Kerala alone. Over nine million were affected by drought worldwide. The Kenyan population accounted for a third of this number, followed by Central American countries (2.5 million people). Two-thousand eighteen was a record-breaking year for wildfires. The US experienced its deadliest outbreak in over a century, and Greece suffered a record number of wildfire casualties as 126 lost their lives (UN News, 2019). With hotter, drier conditions such disasters have become more common. Different climatic conditions also mean forests can take far longer to recover.[30]

A different way in which environmental deterioration can threaten human security stems from the relationship between resource availability, and the stability of human economies and societies. Historical examples of cultures, even entire empires, collapsing because of ecosystem damage illustrate this essential dependency (Diamond, 2005). Other more contemporary examples show that the scarcity of natural resources caused by environmental deterioration often leads to violent conflict, and the massive displacement of ‘eco-refugees’ (Homer-Dixon, 1999). The increase in the frequency and severity of such crises illustrate the environmental impact of unprecedented multitudes of humanity, in some cases through their over-consumption, and in others through their sheer numbers (McKee, 2005).

5.5 Conclusions

The focus on human security means that the protection of individuals is prioritized. While violent conflict poses a significant threat, there are many other threats that can harm individuals. These relate to threats to health, law and order, the economy and the environment. This chapter first outlined some metrics for evaluating the degree to which human security is threatened. It then reviewed actual sources of human insecurity. Violent conflicts were prioritized because of their wide-ranging and devastating impact. More specifically, intrastate conflicts were the focus because they dominate conflict internationally, and their peaceful resolution is often difficult. As a threat to human security, their most important effect is the widespread loss of life and livelihoods. War crimes, and the negative economic impact of conflict, are additional serious concerns. Key factors that can cause conflict include a state’s history, leadership and external actors.

Beyond conflict, major threats to human security target the health of people, law and order, state authority, economy and the environment. Promoting and protecting health is essential to human welfare, and ultimately human security. Global health threats include widespread pathological conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Some of the causes for chronic illness depend on lifestyle, while many other causes are environmental. Numerous health threats vary according to income. With regard to crime, illegal drugs and ‘intentional homicide’ are serious international threats. Concern over terrorism has significantly increased since the 11 September 2001 attacks. The absence of key political institutions providing adequate and appropriate avenues to guarantee rights, to express opinions, and to address grievances can cause instability. This is especially likely when there are strong internal divisions in a country. Poor economic development also limits the resources available to construct strong political institutions, along with the government’s ability to meet the population’s needs and demands. This in turn increases grievances. Finally, there are threats to the environment support base of populations. A key indicator of the threat level to environmental support structures is the state of biodiversity. Major challenges like global warming and overconsumption seriously threaten the ecological basis of human security. The situation is confounded by the adverse environmental impact of some efforts to boost economic growth.

The world faces new and greater challenges to human security in the 2020s. A better understanding of the components of security is needed, and associated sources of threats. This includes the diverse range of conflicts and their causes, especially those that have not traditionally been associated with security. Such an understanding hopefully will facilitate the development and use of tools to effectively counter such threats.

Resources and References


Key Points

  • Although proponents of human security agree that its primary goal is the protection of individuals, the debate continues over the priorities among specific threats.
  • Proponents of the ‘narrow’ concept of human security focus on violent threats to individuals. They acknowledge that such threats are strongly associated with poverty, lack of state capacity and different forms of socio-economic and political inequity.
  • Proponents of the ‘broad’ concept believe that the range of threats should be widened to include hunger, disease, natural disasters and loss of ecological integrity.
  • Violent conflicts, especially of an intrastate nature, are a major threat to human security because of their impact. Both ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ concept proponents agree that such conflict is not the only threat to the security of individuals.
  • The health, and ultimately the lives of individuals can be threatened by a state’s inadequate infrastructure.
  • Crime, especially of a serious nature, and terrorism in its various forms, threaten lives and thus human security.
  • State, social and economic problems threaten livelihoods and can cause grievances, while issues like global warming affect the environment, biodiversity and ultimately people. Multiple interactions between those factors exist.
  • The components of security and its threats can be better understood if the diverse range of conflicts and their causes is taken into account. This will further the development and effective use of tools to counter such threats.


Extension Activities & Further Research

  1. There is debate over defining human security along the narrow and broader conceptualisations. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each definition?
  2. The assessment of the human security of specific countries by the UNDP as described in the overview section is not universally accepted. What potential future problems can you identify with the criteria employed by the UNDP, particularly life expectancy and income? Which criterion might be least problematic and why?
  3. Who benefits from assessments of threats to human security? In whose interest might it be to lower an assessment, or to exaggerate it?
  4. How can the assessment of a security threat lead to improvement of the security situation? Explain the requirements using a case study.
  5. All the major sources of human insecurity as discussed in this chapter tend to affect each other. Give some examples of such relationships, and explain how they work.
  6. What threats are particularly serious in your country or region, and what factors contribute to their strength?
  7. What threats do you perceive will be especially serious for your region in the future, and why?

List of Terms

See Glossary for full list of terms and definitions.

  • biodiversity
  • Brexit
  • DALY
  • ecosystem
  • Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
  • Fragile States Index (FSI)
  • Global Peace Index (GPI)
  • Human Development Index (HDI)
  • intentional homicide
  • terrorism

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  1. Please note that the views expressed in this chapter are not necessarily those of the author’s employer.
  2. State-based armed conflict involves violence where at least one of the parties is the government of a state. Thus, violence occurs between two states or violence between the government and a rebel group.
  3. See British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news stories: 4 August 2018: North Korea continuing nuclear programme – UN report’ and 26 April 2019: ‘North Korea profile – Timeline.’
  4. See Krishnadev Calamur's 31 August 2018 piece in The Atlantic: ISIS Never Went Away in Iraq.
  5. See BBC News from 5 June 2018: Ukraine profile – Timeline.
  6. See Thaier Al-Sudani's 19 July 2017 story in The Guardian: Islamic State’s customised car bombs – in pictures.
  7. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 18 November 2015: Metrojet Flight 9268: Russia confirms bomb destroyed plane in Egypt.
  8. BBC, 27 October 2017: ‘Assad forces behind deadly Syria sarin attack – UN and BBC, 27 September 2018: Russian spy poisoning: UK warns Russia over chemical weapons.
  9. BBC, 23 March 2019: IS ‘caliphate’ defeated but jihadist group remains a threat.
  10. The Economist. 7 September 2019. ‘Wings over prayers’. Page 20.
  11. See Adam Vaughan's 17 May 2018 article in The Guardian: What are the factors driving up the price of crude oil?
  12. BBC, 16 September 2019: Saudi oil attacks: US says intelligence shows Iran involved.
  13. BBC, 3 September 2018: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: Facing down rebellion; BBC, 9 October 2018: Sense of an ending for Syria’s war on Idlib front line; and BBC, 30 August 2019: Syria war: Russia announces ceasefire in Idlib rebel stronghold.
  14. Editors’ note: Sometimes violence erupts as soon as external powers urge the implementation of Western-style democratic reforms; the disenfranchised majority will feel empowered and violence is likely to erupt against the hegemonic group (Chua, 2003).
  15. See Michael Schuman's 14 July 2011 Time article: A Future of Price Spikes.
  16. BBC, 31 May 2018: Haiti Timeline.
  17. Kwasi Kpodo's 8 May 2018 Reuters article: IMF warns of rising African debt despite faster economic growth.
  18. BBC, 3 September 2018: Should Africa be wary of Chinese debt?
  19. See footnote 18.
  20. See Kate Lyons's 12 October 2017 article in The Guardian: Yemen’s cholera outbreak now the worst in history as millionth case looms and Alanna Shaikh,'s 8 May 2018 piece in the UN Dispatch: Yemen is currently facing the largest documented cholera epidemic in modern times. A new report warns it could get worse.
  21. BBC, 2 August 2019: Ebola outbreak in five graphics.
  22. BBC, 2 August 2018: Colombia’s battle with cocaine traffickers.
  23. BBC, 9 September 2010: Clinton says Mexico drug crime like an insurgency.
  24. BBC, 14 March 2018. Philippines drugs war: Duterte to withdraw from ICC.
  25. See New York Times piece by Eric Schmitt, Alissa J. Rubin and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from 19 August 2019: ISIS Is Regaining Strength in Iraq and Syria.
  26. BBC, 31 January 2018: Taliban threaten 70% of Afghanistan, BBC finds and BBC, 3 September 2019: Afghanistan war: US-Taliban deal would see 5,400 troops withdraw .
  27. BBC, 23 March 2019: IS ‘caliphate’ defeated but jihadist group remains a threat and BBC, 30 April 2019: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: IS leader appears in first video in five years.
  28. The Economist, 23 May 2019: How climate change can fuel wars.
  29. The Telegraph, 10 August 2010: Pakistan floods: Climate change experts say global warming could be the cause.
  30. Deutsche Welle, 24 August 2018: Climate change sets the world on fire.


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