Changes in violent conflict often appear bewildering and they remain under-researched. Security policies continue to adopt reactive approaches rather than anticipating new scenarios. Existing conflict, peace and stability indices facilitate tracing conflict over time, but do not explicitly address dynamic change in past, contemporary and future conflict. Based on traditional measures such as battle deaths, most assume a state-centric approach at a point when conflicts extend across state borders and are increasingly waged by a wide variety of non-state actors, many of whom consciously ignore or subvert existing states.
This project addresses these issues by developing the “Changing Character of Conflict Platform”, a comprehensive knowledge base focused on the questions of how, when and in which direction conflict changes. Seeking to challenge unidimensional understandings of conflict that derive from adopting single disciplinary and epistemological approaches, we explore the dynamism and non-linear nature of change in armed conflict.
We trace trends and directions of change in five dimensions of armed conflict:
- the actors involved,
- the methods used,
- the environments in which conflict is embedded,
- the resources used to fuel conflict and
- the impact it has on civilians.
We identify "shapes" of conflicts to visualise how the proportions of various elements constituent of the dimensions are changing. This also serves to reveal the directions of change, both within each dimension and across several or all of them. By focusing on change rather than magnitude this project goes beyond current conflict indices which create country rankings and stigmatise those countries that are ranked least.