We live in uncertain times. World security is unstable, and threatened. Crises are springing up globally, from Burundi to Venezuela. Here in Brussels the soldiers on the streets have become as normal a part of the landscape as the tourists, and an air of pessimism pervades our international media.
It is in this climate that the International Crisis Group (ICG) has released its Early Warning Watch List: a list of the ten countries or escalating conflicts in the world that are most likely to break out or intensify in violence. The most recent list identified ten countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, and the Yemen.
The conspicuous absence of both Ukraine and Burundi from the list were addressed at the Watch List Briefing held in Brussels on 10th December, where discussion was led by Stephen Fidler of the Wall Street Journal, and the President of the ICG, Jean-Marie Guéhenno. The former asked probing questions, and the latter demonstrated an impressive depth of insight and analysis into the current state of world affairs. Both mastered a degree of nuance and impartiality that our statesmen can ill afford in these times of public hysteria post-Paris Attacks.
The portrait for the future of world security presented by the list is bleak. The ten countries are on five different continents, and there is a severe arc of instability surrounding the European Union. As Guéhennon noted, there has been a sharp increase in crises worldwide. “To make a list of only ten countries was a hard task. Prevention is needed more than ever, as more and more conflicts are starting local, but have transnational dimensions”.
In the cases of Ukraine and Burundi, it is already too late for early warning. However, the countries included on the list have not yet reached the same levels of threat to security. As such, the ICG provides a number of recommendations for conflict prevention.
Prevention is needed more than ever, as more and more conflicts are starting local, but have transnational dimensions.
They speak mostly to actors at the highest level: nation states, the EU, and the international community at large. The purpose of the Early Warning Watch List is to strengthen the links between early warning, conflict analysis, and early response. With regards to the EU specifically, Guéhenno stated that “the EU is very reactive. Its institutional setup means that it isn’t easy for it to have quick reactions. Therefore the EU needs to be more preventative”.
On Turkey, the analysis was the following: “We need Turkey as a buffer, but abandoning our principal position on Turkey is dangerous. We need to stay strong on human rights, go back to the peace process with the PKK, keep a high level of consistent political engagement, and take all dimensions into consideration.”
On Syria: “the exclusion of the Kurds from the ongoing Riyadh talks concerning Syria’s future are risking an unhelpful binary simplification of the conflict. Negotiated settlement is the only way out.” As for Yemen, the ICG president warned that “the situation is getting truly desperate, with 24 million people affected, and the general public unaware of the strategic disaster that is rapidly coming our way.”
Then there are the countries that are not on the radar of the international community, such as Egypt. According to Guéhenno, the lack of EU reaction to the Egyptian government’s repressive actions is in danger of making us appear “unprincipled”, and threatens stability.
“The exclusion of the Kurds from the ongoing Riyadh talks concerning Syria’s future are risking an unhelpful binary simplification of the conflict. Negotiated settlement is the only way out.”
With its expert analysis, strategic recommendations that take into account the past, present, and future, and its nuanced and impartial understanding of the multidimensional nature of conflicts, the Early Warning Watch List is a very useful tool. International Crisis Group’s voice is one that the EU and the international community at large would do well to pay heed to, in order to tackle the trend of increased conflicts and escalations of violence that we are witnessing worldwide.
International Crisis Group are an NGO working in the field of conflict analysis, prevention, and resolution. For more information about them, visit their website here.
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