An overview of selected aspects of contemporary conflict dynamics, intended to provide students and scholars with access to useful information and Internet links.
An estimated 300,000 children and young teens are serving as combatants in civil conflicts around the world. Although responsible for inflicting injuries, these young soldiers are also victims of war, in that they are often forced into military service and are denied the right to education and a safe and secure childhood.
Refugees, Forcible Displacement, and International Security
There are more than 40 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide. Refugee and other displaced populations have been at the heart of recent debates on international security and humanitarian intervention.
Throughout human history, competition over access to scarce or especially valuable resources -- water, arable land, gold, spices, furs, oil, timber, diamonds, and minerals -- has been an important source of conflict. Many analysts believe that resource competition and conflict will increase in the 21st century due to globalization, population growth, excessive exploitation, and climate change.
The illicit sale of rough diamonds has been used by embattled warlords and rebel leaders in several war-torn countries (especially Angola, Congo, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) to finance the purchase of arms, ammunition, and other war-related materials, thereby extending the fighting (at great human cost) and frustrating efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement. In an effort to stop the fighting, peace groups and others have campaigned for an international ban on the sale of these "conflict" or "blood" diamonds."
Conflict over the control of valuable oil supplies has been a persistent feature of international affairs since the beginning of the 20 th century. Such conflict varies in nature, ranging from territorial disputes over the possession of oil-laden border areas to dynastic or factional struggles among the leaders of oil-rich countries to major inter-state wars over the control of vital oil zones. As oil becomes more scarce and valuable, the frequency and severity of such conflict is likely to increase.
Small Arms Proliferation and International Security
Small arms and light weapons are the most widely used instruments of combat in ethnic and internal conflicts. As a result, growing attention is being devoted to the small arms issue by The United Nations, international organizations, concerned states, and non-governmental organizations.
Violence Against Women in War and Peace
Violence against women can be found worldwide, in virtually every country and society. There has been considerable progress in guaranteeing the full rights of women and ending violence against women, but much still needs to be done.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction have come to occupy center stage in international politics. Over the past century, various states have built and stockpiled lethal arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and associated material. These weapons have very different capabilities, effects, and military roles: there are some 30,000 nuclear weapons with truly devastating destructive power; chemical weapon stockpiles and their associated 71,000 metric tons of extremely toxic chemical agents scattered around the world; and unknown quantities of biological weapons and lethal pathogens that could spread disease to humans, animals or plants.