On Conflict In 2022

After a year that began in lockdown for most, 2021 saw the onset of a number of deadly, violent conflicts. Many of these were unpredicted, and, in a number of ways, 2021 perhaps should be considered as ‘the year of the coup’. In fact, Myanmar, Mali, Guinea, and Sudan underwent a metavoli politeia by coup d’état, to use the language of Plato, and attempts were made in Armenia, Nigeria and Jordan.[1] As predicted, Afghanistan descended into chaos with the Taliban’s ascent, following the withdrawal of NATO troops, fighting in The Sahel and The Maghreb intensified with the twin threats of Islamic terrorism and climate change, and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen reached a magnitude not thought possible in the twenty-first century. Indeed, it seems that Mary Kaldor’s assertion that twenty-first century conflict would come to be defined by their character as so-called ‘New Wars’ was prophetic; these being wars which:

 “Involve a blurring of the distinctions between war (usually defined as violence between states or organized political groups for political motives), organized crime (violence undertaken by privately organized groups for private purposes, usually financial gain) and large-scale violations of human rights (violence undertaken by states or politically organized groups against individuals).”[2]

2022 may, however, with luck, be a brighter and more peaceful year. As we will see, battle deaths declined in the last recorded year and the number of major wars has descended from a contemporary high. Nonetheless, there are a number of concerns for major conflict. Russia and Belarus appear to be aggressively amassing on the Ukrainian border, somewhat reminiscent of the conflict that began in 2014, leading to the Russian annexation of Crimea and a halt on discussion concerning the eastwards expansion of NATO, a chief Russian foreign policy goal.[3] Currently, exercises on the border seem to have led to a number of NATO states reacting by placing troops in the region, mobilising air and naval forces, and arming the Ukrainians with better weaponry, so to increasingly limit any potential asymmetry in military capability. This seems to be dragging the region into what John Herz described as a ‘Security Dilemma’. In his ‘Theory of International Politics’, the arch-theorist of balance and security, Kenneth Waltz, describes this phenomenon as:

“A condition in which states, unsure of one another’s' intentions, arm for the sake of security and in doing so set a vicious circle in motion. Having armed for the sake of security, states feel less secure and buy more arms because the means to anyone's security is a threat to someone else who in turn responds by arming. Whatever the weaponry and however many states in the system, states have to live with their security dilemma, which is produced not by their wills but by their situations. A dilemma cannot be solved; it can more or less readily be dealt with.”[4]

Undeniably, with heads of state and foreign ministers heading to and from The Kremlin or Kyiv, it is precisely such an attempt to ‘more or less’ readily deal with the problem that diplomatic efforts are currently geared towards achieving. Nevertheless, such efforts can always collapse and the dilemma intensified.

 Equally, alongside this, other major powers are experiencing a period of mutual-tension. Pressures are rising amidst the resuscitation of Iranian nuclear limitations. Iranian ‘breakout time’ – the period it would take to enrich enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon – has shrunk from 12 months, its level in 2016, to between three and six weeks, implying that a new Iranian nuclear agreement needs to be conceived, but perhaps with Iran thus holding more cards than in the past.[5] Incursions of warplanes into Taiwanese airspace increased in 2021, with President Xi Jingping affirming that ‘reunification’ with Taiwan was a necessity policy aspiration to fulfil.[6] Adding to this, the new trilateral naval security pact between Australia, the US and the UK, ‘AUKUS’, which centres on the provision of Australia with nuclear powered submarines, holds the capability to be seen by China as a challenge within its sphere of influence in the Pacific. Hence, we can say without a doubt that Great Power politics, and the potential for conflict that arises with such an unstable condition of structural multipolarity, is back on the table for 2022.

The purpose of this investigation will be to shine a light on five of the conflicts that may emerge in 2022 but do not necessarily involve the major powers, having greater regional impact. A number of publications and journalistic outfits will be currently recording and tracing the events in Ukraine, Iran and China. Therefore, in light of this, in this investigation I wish to shed some light on five lesser discussed cases in which conflict may either breakout or be intensified over the course of the coming year. In order to do this, we will first ground such a dialogue by assessing the annual changes in the data collected by the Upsala Conflict Data Programme and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). From here our five cases will be engaged with, beginning with Myanmar, before centring focus on Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Venezuela, prior to some concluding thoughts.

Global Trends

Before an increasingly microscopic focus on but a number of cases can be investigated, it is well worth engaging with the annual changes observable in the data collected by the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP). The data discussed here does not pertain to 2021, but to 2020 – requiring some time to collect, formulate and analyse thoroughly. Nonetheless, the general trends that are presented here provide the context for the state of conflict in the world at the beginning of the last year, and are as up to date as such statistics can be. From the current data concerning global conflict trends provided by the UCDP and other institutions[7], we can see that:

·       The number of annual fatalities has risen from its 2019 level to over 80,000 deaths in conflict zones worldwide. This has broken a contemporary trend of steady decline with each passing year since 2014, recording 144,700. This is still lower than the recorded level for 2018 however.

·      As far as state-based conflict is concerned, the number of armed active interstate, intrastate and internationalised intrastate conflicts increased globally, surpassing the previous high of 2016, with now almost as many internationalised as non-internationalised intrastate conflicts.

·    The number of state-based armed conflicts (of any kind) has increased the most in Africa, whilst falling or plateauing elsewhere.

·   The number of armed conflicts and dyads have increased, with more of the latter than the former remaining consistent.

·      The total number of global battle deaths has decreased, to 50,000, but with slight increases in Europe and Africa. In spite of this, the number of fatalities in non-state conflicts has increased from 20,000, but not returned to the 2018 high for the period (1989-2020) of 25,000. To give some perspective of this metric, in 2013 this data point was a quarter of its current level, just over 5,000.

·       Although internationalised intrastate conflict battle-deaths have declined since 2019, they still make the lions share, over 80%, of total battle deaths.

·     The number of non-state conflicts rose to 72, rising from 2019 but not returning to the 2017 high of almost 90, with around 70% of these in Africa.

·      The number of fatalities from non-state conflicts increased by over three-thousand to 23,100. The majority of these fatalities occurred in from Mexico, which witnessed 16,300 fatalities in non-state conflicts, some 71% of the global total.

·       The UCDP found 39 belligerents engaging with one-sided violence in 2020, the highest it has been since 2004. Fatalities in one-sided conflicts also increased by 2,200 in 2020, to 7,700, with the number of governments forming the key agent of such a conflict increasing but still remaining below the number of non-state actors that can be defined as such in these conflicts.

·   In 2022, 274 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance – a 17% increase on 2021.

·       As of statistics from 2021, over 84 million individuals are forcibly displaced globally.


On February 1st 2021, the Military of Myanmar (the Tatmadaw) led a coup against the recently re-elected government of Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). As of the 2020 November election, alongside claims that the NLD had falsified the outcome, the military aligned nationalist Union Solidarity and Development Party had lost 186 seats in the lower house and 117 seats in the upper house of Myanmar’s legislature since 2015 – the last time they were in power – triggering the coup. With the junta, Suu Kyi’s democratic administration was removed, politicians detained, and the high-ranking general Min Aung Hlaing installed as head of the government.

 In Urban areas like Naypyidaw and Yangon, a suppression of mostly peaceful protests by the Tatmadaw has fuelled broad-based resistance in Myanmar, leading to action ranging from that of civil disobedience to violent armed clashes with security forces. Indeed, one year on to the day, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB) estimated that 1,507 had been killed by the military Junta, with 11,902 arrested or charged and 1,972 issued warrants.[8] This being said, other organisations place an estimation of fatalities closer to 12,700 since the coup began.[9] These varying statistics demonstrate not only Myanmar’s current condition of state-directed violence but the extent to which citizens have been willing to resist in equal measure.  

After the coup, overthrown legislators founded their own state-wide authority, known as the National Unity Government (NUG) and calling in September 2021 for a campaign of rebellion and civil disobedience against the military regime. Since the forming of the NUG, sympathetic resistance, collectively known as the People’s Defence Force (PDF), have attacked both state government and military positions almost daily, engaging in a programme of guerrilla tactics against those they see as either connected or loyal to the military Junta.

Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups, some of which are tens of thousands strong, have themselves adapted to the crisis. What is equally important to grasp is that this coup occurred in the wake of the Rohingya crisis. From 2015 onwards, the Tatmadaw engaged in a period of sustained ethnic cleansing against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine province, leading to a tidal wave of stateless refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, whereby it is estimated that almost 900,000 Rohingya refugees remained by August 2021.[10] Thus, running parallel to political factors are ethnic tensions, further adding to the intensity and magnitude of the conflict region by region. To illustrate this, the security and humanitarian situation in northwest Myanmar has further deteriorated over the course of the last quarter of 2021 due to intensified hostilities between the Tatmadaw and the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) in Chin State. Equally, to stress the widespread nature of the conflict in Myanmar, armed clashes have intensified between the combined forces of the Tatmadaw and the Border Guard Force, the allied forces of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO), the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the PDF in Kayin State, near the Myanmar-Thai border. The conflict, we can hence state, is increasingly both regionalised and ethnicized, adding only to its growing magnitude. 

In rural areas, the Tatmadaw fights these new resistance groups with older, perhaps antiquated, counterinsurgency methods – known as the ‘four cuts’ strategy – denying food, funding, intelligence, and recruits to the areas and movements that resist the coup. In many regards, this has led to the targeting of civilians. For instance, on the 24th December 2021 at least 35 people, including four children and two staff of Save the Children, were killed in Kayah State, prompting a damning response from the UN Security Council.[11] Such ‘counter-insurgency’ has also persuaded armed groups from engaging in formal alliances with the NUG, naturally, publicly stating their intention for elections to be held in 2023 and the coup to be put down. Whether elections will come or not is another story.

For the time being, the people of Myanmar are struggling to secure their basic human needs. This situation makes the likelihood of continual conflict greater as the economy falls further into a downward spiral and as prices soar, but more significantly the lack of government services or functioning infrastructure makes fulfilling human needs like basic nutrition, medical attention, identity, security, recognition and development increasingly less likely – and this is without mention of the global COVID-19 pandemic, whereby restrictions and the limited availability of cash or supplies pose key challenges for the humanitarian operations on the ground. Shadowing the thought of the Conflict Resolution scholar John Burton, the lack of accommodation afforded to such needs increases only the probability that belligerents will either engage in a particular conflict, securing access to basic needs; requiring rational institutional change and accommodation to the satisfaction of such needs as a realistic requirement for the resolution of the conflict, or even its stabilisation for that matter.[12]

So, what of the situation currently in Myanmar, statistically speaking? In what way can we see such needs being met? The following is an aggregation of some of the most current data collected on the matter: [13]

·     In October 2021 alone, the World Food Programme (WFP) had to assist 599,900 people in Myanmar, disseminating a total of 4,040 metric tonnes of food commodities.

·   Almost 2.5 million Myanmarese people required aid in order to stave off some form of malnutrition in 2021, according to the WFP.

·       A 71% jump in fuel prices has been recorded since the beginning of February 2021.

·      More than 2,200 houses and other civilian properties have reportedly either been burnt down or destroyed in the time since the coup.

·   14.4 million people are considered by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to be of in humanitarian need, prioritizing 6.2 million as requiring urgent assistance due to mass food insecurity.

·    During the first ten months of 2021, 131 landmine incidents resulted in 76 deaths and 141 injuries countrywide, effecting both infrastructure and transportation capabilities.

·     A total of 286 attacks on health care services were recorded across the country between 1st  February and 31st December 2021. A total of 26 health workers, volunteers and patients were killed, 64 were injured and 31 medical vehicles vandalized during these attacks.

·       There are an estimated 776,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Myanmar as of the 1st December 2021, with huge refugee populations pouring into India, Bangladesh and Thailand.

With all of this in mind, including the figures concerning executions and deaths, needs are not being met. In fact, these metrics (IDPs, Refugees, Deaths, Prices, Malnutrition) are rising. As such, we should expect the conflict to continue with a great risk of escalation as the situation progressively deteriorates.


Although some may be unaware, since November 2020 fighting has taken place between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and its northern most region that borders Eritrea – Tigray. The conflict began when Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered a military assault against Tigrayan regional forces in response to an attack on a government military base. This event followed an extended period of political tension amid claims by Debretsion Gebremichael, the Tigrayan regional President, and his party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), that Abiy Ahmed and the Prosperity Party Coalition – previously the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) that the TPLF were a part of – would be an illegitimate government after the postponement of national elections due to COVID-19 in 2020. This came to a head after: (a) the TPLF’s side-lining from power and decades in control of the EPRDF, (b) the decision by Abiy for the central government to suspend both funding and political ties with the region, and (c) the continual and perhaps epi-phenomenal effects of ethnic federalism that underpin Ethiopian politics. Consequently, institutional ethno-nationalist and regionalist division had been baked-into the federal political system.

Interestingly, since the conflict in Tigray began federal forces have been supported by enemy-turned-friend Eritrea, bordering Tigray. This has been made possible in succeeding an end to the twenty-year post-war territorial stalemate between the two states, for which Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Fundamentally, in regards to regional structure, this has adapted the wider regional balance of power by virtue of such an unexpected alliance; reaffirming the Liberal notion that cooperation between once warring states can be achieved through an appeal to commonality.  

Over subsequent months, TPLF leaders regrouped and mobilised Tigrayans angered at massacres, rapes, and havoc wreaked by federal and Eritrean troops; crimes claimed by both the Tigrayan administration and the federal government.[14] Unexpectedly, the Tigrayan rebels largely drove federal forces out of the region prior to the end of June, ascertaining military preponderance in the area. Subsequently, the conflict broadened. In 2021, the TPLF formed an alliance with a secessionist insurgent group in Ethiopia’s populous central Oromia region, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), who agreed to fight the Ethiopian Federal army across the west and south of the country. In mid-November, however, a counteroffensive by federal troops and allies forced Tigrayan forces to withdraw, surrendering any gains the TPLF had previously made.

The federal forces appear to be in the ascent, for now at least. Nonetheless, this situation has since spurred on a wave of support for the TPLF, with secessionist groups in each region joining the Tigrayan cause; groups now deemed terrorist organisations by the government in the same way that the TPLF and OLA are. In November 2021, the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces (UFEFCF) was formed between the TPLF and eight of these such rebel groups, expanding the conflict into other regions. Nevertheless, this does not make it impervious to potential internal fractures that may arise as the conflict mutates.

Naturally, the conflict has gained international attention. Diplomatically, both the African Union (AU) and Kenya are pushing to arrange a cease-fire so that peace talks may begin. This has been followed by statements from the US secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, that Eritrea’s intervention has aided in the destabilisation of the region, and as such, the US has sanctioned the Eritrean defence forces.[15] Equally, Ethiopia has caused concerns amongst its neighbours about the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Resistance Dam. The dam sits on the Blue Nile, upstream from Egypt and Sudan, and is an integral pillar to Abiy Ahmed’s development and modernisation policy – seeking to ascertain greater hydroelectric capabilities. This has caused a series of clashes with Sudan and Egypt, clashes unable to be effectively resolved in talks mediated by the AU due to fears that the dam will imperil water supply and lead to a ‘water war’.[16] What we can see therefore is a limit in the number of neighbours that Ethiopia can claim are wholly allied with its interests.

 Likewise, although the UN Security Council has discussed the situation in dedicated meetings, a resolution has yet been proposed or discussed, calling for “the respect of international humanitarian law”, reiterating, “their support for the role of regional organizations, namely the African Union and its High Representative for the Horn of African Region” and their dedication to Ethiopian sovereignty.[17] Subsequently, we can safely say that the conflict has had generated an increasingly regional as opposed to international magnetism.

All of this being said, the humanitarian needs inside Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden territories are severely magnifying with every turn. Such a condition, once again, reconstructs the high likelihood that conflict will intensify and continue, given the inability for basic human needs to be met – irrespective of the political causes discussed that may equally prolong the conflict. The following is an aggregation of some of the most current data collected on the matter:[18]

·      63,110 Refugees have been estimated to have fled Ethiopia and now reside in Sudan, as of the 7th of November 2021.

·       Currently, the UNHCR estimates that there are 3.51 million IDPs in Ethiopia at present.

·      According to the WFP, an estimated 5.2 million people are in urgent need of food assistance in the Tigray Region. This is followed closely by 1.7 million in the Afar and Amhara provinces due to missed harvests and the collapse of the local economy as a result of both the conflict itself and government blockades to rebel-held territories. Agricultural support is therefore also desperately required for malnutrition statistics to contract.

·    Chronic malnutrition ails 38% of Ethiopia’s children and is currently the highest cause of death among under five-year-olds, increasing rapidly as food rations were cut in November from 84 to 60% of the recommended daily kilo calorie intake.

·   Adding to this, humanitarian organisations have only been able to engage in a limited programme of food distribution in Tigray, as stock and fuel has almost entirely been exhausted, reaching only about 10,000 people between 6th and 12th of January 2022. Indeed, the WFP has claimed that over 100 aid trucks are required each day in Tigray, but only 1,355 arrived between July and November, severely compounding the humanitarian crisis.  

·     353,000 people were reported to experience famine conditions in early June 2021. This is a statistic that was updated to 400,000 in early July. Sadly, two out of 10,000 of these people are expected to die of hunger or malnutrition every day as a consequence of the man-made famine conditions in the region.

·     Across Tigray, 54% of water points are not functional, affecting water access to 3.5 million people. As a result of this, the famine that Ethiopia is currently experiencing is expected to reach the most dangerous level of classification.


Over the course of the past year, a new chapter in the story of Afghanistan began, adding only to its plight. After years of encircling provincial and district centres, the Taliban finally regained control of Afghanistan; perhaps to an even greater extent of rule than they held prior to their removal by the American led force at the beginning of the so-called ‘forever war’ in 2001. Although the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) task force had held the Taliban at bay for many years, it became clear in the summer of 2021 that years of state-building and counter-insurgency training were being wholly upheld by the NATO presence, especially that of air supremacy. Come May 2021, the deadline for the US to remove troops – naturally followed by those of the other NATO members – arrived, as per the agreement made in 2020 between the then US president Donald Trump and the Taliban in Doha.

As the end to NATO operations came, the Taliban’s programme of rural dominance led to provincial dominance, safe in the knowledge that the internationalist foundations of state-security and counter-insurgency were quickly evaporating. By August, amid scenes at Kabul international airport of attempted mass-exodus, logistical panic and nationwide military demoralisation, the Taliban were able to seize control of the capital unscathed.  From here, they were able to form a government with a monopoly of legitimate force across the Afghan territory, to use the phraseology of the famed sociologist and political thinker Max Weber.[19]

Afghanistan is now understood broadly as an Islamic theocracy, arising from the Deobandi Islamism and dominantly ethnic Pashtun makeup of the new Taliban regime, led by Hibatullah Akhundzada. This has, naturally, come with the implementation of religious law in line with the Taliban’s interpretation of Islamic holy texts; fundamentally leading to the undermining of Afghan political rights and civil liberties, especially in regards to Women’s rights and the capability to publicly appear and oppose the regime.[20] In response to the return of the Taliban and its seizure of government, much of the globe’s power centres chose to freeze Afghan state assets, halting financial aid and offering limited sanctions relief for humanitarian purposes only. This has led to the drastic economic collapse of Afghanistan.

Indeed, since the Taliban seized power in august, the Afghani has fallen almost 25% against the dollar, to an exchange of ؋105/$1, falling from 1$/80؋ before the regime change, making it among the world’s worst-performing currencies over the past six months.[21] This is in part caused, and sustained, by the freezing of assets, calculated to the sum of $9 billion, previously disposable to the Afghan central bank, meaning that civil servants and what little public service providers there are will be going unpaid by the state. Consequently, such action has led to a liquidity crisis wherein there simply is a lack of cash, prompting the return of currency traders on the streets of major urban centres and market towns in order to keep what is left of the economy afloat.

Internationally there has been a recognition that sanctions are contributing to the Afghan economic collapse. On January 26th 2022, the UN Security Council met to discuss the collapse of Afghanistan and the crises engulfing the state.[22] Here, Secretary-General António Guterres described Afghanistan as “on the brink of collapse”, amid what the International Monetary Fund  (IMF) estimates to be a 30% contraction of gross domestic product (GDP), claiming that  “Afghanistan is hanging by a thread”. Following this, the Permanent Representative of India to the UN, T.S. Tirumurti, briefed the Council in his capacity as Chair of the Committee created in accordance to S/RES/1988 – implementing sanctions on the Taliban – explaining that the goal of sanctions is to facilitate conditions that promote discourse and ultimately result in peace and stability.

China’s representative called for an end to all unilateral sanctions, which have fundamentally hindered Afghan access to financing and liquidity.  Similarly, the Chinese delegation highlighted that neither the quantity nor quality of aid deliveries had improved since the adoption of S/RES/2615, demonstrating that the issue of aid had been politicized by belligerents seeking to utilise humanitarian assistance as a bargaining chip. In essence, the outcome of the January meeting stands testimony to the inherently divided nature of the Security Council, whereby great power politics and the rhetoric of such still plays a role.

This transpires as Afghanistan is currently experiencing its worst drought in decades. Thought by UN climatologists to have occurred as a result of a La Nina event in late 2020 that dramatically altered the country’s weather patterns for 2021, the drought has markedly affected 25 of the state’s 34 provinces, with an estimation that the 2021 harvest intake was a 20% decrease on 2020’s already reduced intake.[23] This has led to an increase in the number of IDPs and refugees, leaving their homes so as to not be a victim of the drought. This is without taking into account those refugees and IDPs resulting from the political turmoil.

Alongside these factors, although violence has a whole has decreased – given that the main belligerent causing past violence is now the governing power – the Taliban face a great deal of resistance from the Islamic State group in the Khorasan region (ISIS-K), in the North-East of Afghanistan, whom the Taliban have been fighting themselves for some time.[24] Over the course of the past year, ISIS-K have taken advantage of the adapting political situation and regime change as any militant or insurgent group would, in order to spread both its influence and control in the region. Such action has gone hand in hand with an upsurge in the number of terrorist attacks by the group, such as that on Kabul international airbase during the summer pandemonium, or the November 2nd attack on the Daoud Khan Military Hospital in Kabul, killing at least 25.[25] In this regard, in some of Afghanistan’s provinces the Taliban are befalling resistance that mirrors its own past tactics.

This being said, perhaps this condition has changed since the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of ISIS, on February 3rd 2020. US operations in Idlib, Northern Syria, successfully eliminated the ISIS figurehead, signalling most saliently that unilateral US military action in the region is not yet something of the past – not without the collateral damage of thirteen civilians it must be states.[26] The likelihood is that al-Qurayshi will be replaced by an individual like Abu Fatima al-Jaheishi, who is currently head of operations in Iraq and has years of both governing and insurgency experience with ISIS. Although ISIS-K function somewhat independently, or at least somewhat distinctly, from ISIS as a whole, the extent to which the leadership vacancy will affect their operations is not yet known. Perhaps this will lead to greater attacks on the orders of al-Qurayshi’s replacement, should they be so inclined. Nonetheless, this is still an answer to be desired and little is gained from speculation. This being said, ISIS-K attacks will continue to aid the deterioration of the crisis in Afghanistan. The question is whether this will be of a continuing or greater impact than the other factors discussed.

So, what do the statistics tell us about Afghanistan? What does the data suggest? The following is an aggregation of some of the most current data collected on the matter:[27]

·    24.4 million Afghans are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, over 62% of the entire Afghan population, including 12.9 million children.

·      22.8 million Afghans are projected to be acutely food insecure in 2022, with 8.7 million at risk of famine-like conditions.

·       50% of children under 5 years of age are expected to be acutely malnourished.

·   Earthquakes of over 5.3 magnitude have affected Badghis province since January 2022, leaving thousands homeless.

·    There are currently 3.7 million IDPs in Afghanistan and 2.6 million Afghani refugees who have fled the country. Of those who have fled the country, 2.2 million are registered in Iran and Pakistan alone.

·    Afghanistan could see near universal poverty of 97% by mid-2022, an increase from 47%, according to the projections of the UN Development Programme.

Afghanistan, as General Secretary Guterres quite rightfully observed, is hanging by a thread. Its economy has collapsed, agricultural product can neither be bought nor sold, its population are ridden by drought, the number of refugees and IDPs continues to increase with this, the ability for aid to reach those in need is thinning, and the provincial terror threat from ISIS is perhaps at one of the highest points it has ever been. All of these factors, therefore, thoroughly increase the chances that Afghanistan will either: (a) collapse into a failed state, causing a power vacuum and subsequent conflict between factions for command of state sovereignty, or (b) spiral into a condition of intra-state conflict prompted by such human insecurity and lack of access to basic needs. 


On the 7th of July 2021, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home. Although over half a year has passed since his assassination, the event is still something of a mystery. The police allege that Moïse was shot twelve times, his bones broken, eyes gouged out and that the culprits were a group of 26 Colombians and two Haitian Americans, suspectedly hired by a Haitian doctor as part of a plot to become president.[28]  

Following the assassination, Haitian political elites quarrelled over who should succeed as president. Moïse had appointed Ariel Henry as the new Prime Minister but he had not yet been sworn in, causing disagreement as to his legitimacy. Nonetheless, Henry eventually had become Haiti’s interim leader, but nonetheless Henry has thoroughly struggled to assert authority amidst widespread factional and quasi-political violence, where Haiti has seen the murder of journalists on the street and over 780 kidnappings between January and October 2021 alone – affirming the inability of the authorities to protect it citizens.[29]

Such political and social crisis was then compounded in August. On the 14th of August 2021, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula. According to the International Medical Corps, at least 2,248 were killed, 12,763 people were injured, 137,585 homes were damaged or destroyed and thousands displaced.[30] Haiti ranks 170th (out of 189) on the Human Development Index, over half the population suffer from acute food insecurity and current estimates forecast a poverty rate of 60%, third highest ranking country most effected by extreme weather events since 2000, and amidst this the estimated economic damage to the earthquake is expected to be $1.11 billion, 7.8% of Haiti’s 2019 GDP.[31] Accordingly, amidst political complexity, the August earthquake has only made needs more difficult to meet and insecurity more probable.

Since the August earthquake, political elites have factionally bifurcated, with one group following Henry and another insisting root and branch reform of the entire political system – ‘The Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis’, comprising a number of political parties, opposition groups and civil society movements. Constitutionally, Haiti is at a crossroads, with gang violence in the streets and political, economic and social division defining the situation in the wake of both the assassination and the summer natural disaster.

As far as the political situation is concerned, this position was not totally unpredictable. Indeed, scholars like Georges Fauriol, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Caribbean Policy Consortium, highlighted the potential for 2021 to become a volatile year in Haitian politics. Amidst the Moïse administration becoming increasingly authoritarian and the disputation surrounding the end date of the Moïse presidential term, Haiti, Fauriol stated, had found itself in a “cycle of instability” that could easily spiral into widespread civil conflict and that “The international community should urgently take note of the situation in Haiti.”[32] As 2022 begins, it is safe to say that Fauriol was correct and his warning should be carried over for another year.


Venezuela has been in turmoil for a number of years now. Broadly speaking, such a condition is subsequent to mass-protests, questionable elections, economic collapse and the authoritarian policies of President Nicolas Maduro. Seen by many as being a ‘petrostate’ – whereby the economy of the state is deeply interconnected to and reliant on fuel exports, controlled tightly by elites – Venezuela has been a deteriorating state since the price of oil fell from over $100 to under $60 a barrel in early 2016; where oil sales constitute roughly a quarter of GDP and 99% of all export earnings.[33] With the annual inflation rate in 2018 reaching an extraordinary 65,370%, according to the IMF, with prices doubling every 19 days on average, in 2021 this figure sat at 686.4%.[34] Additionally, GDP is falling annually, oil production is dropping, crude cargos are being returned, exports are declining, and food and medicine supplies have been evaporating amid further sanctions, leading to further only the humanitarian crisis caused by the economic implosion.[35]

Amidst such catastrophe, violence has crept back onto the streets of urban areas. The Maduro regime faces a dual set of potential conflicts. In the first instance, both politically and criminally motivated gang violence has dramatically increased over the past year in Venezuela’s cities, such as in the case of the Cota 905 group in western Caracas. Gun battles have emerged more prominently between non-state belligerents and security forces as street gangs have been able to acquire military grade weaponry, following a pact made by the Maduro administration with a number of gangs to lower violent crime in return for de facto control of urban areas without the territorial intervention of state security forces.[36]

In the second instance, although the historic Colombian peace deal was signed in 2016, a handful of revolutionary militia and paramilitary groups refused to lay down arms, namely the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The continuation of hostility between these groups and the central governing powers of Colombia has invariably led to open conflict amongst themselves, leading to a non-state conflict on the border with Venezuela that appears to be erupting at an ever-increasing velocity in early 2022.[37] This, naturally, also means that Colombia holds the potential to descend into conflict in 2022. Amongst this, in early January 2022, Venezuela was accused by Colombia of harbouring the ELN and FARC after clashes left over 20 civilians dead. In response to the event, Colombian President Iván Duque claimed that: “These groups have been operating at ease in Venezuelan territory with the consent and protection of the dictatorial regime”, despite Venezuelan refutation to this assertion.[38]

Although this will most likely not lead to conflict between Venezuela and Colombia, conflictual rhetoric is heightening. This is so, especially, given that: (a) the two states cut diplomatic ties with the ascendency of Duque to President in Colombia, and (b) Colombia has served as a haven for Venezuelan  refugees and opponents to the Maduro regime, and as such the aiding of such guerrilla forces may indeed be in the interest of the Venezuelan government, effecting the status of the peace that was so arduously won in 2016 and thus the global soft power perception of Colombia – being a regional competitor.

In discussion of refugees, it must be mentioned, as with the other cases discussed, that Venezuela has an extremely complicated and problematic refugee concern. As one can imagine, the continuous train of life-demeaning events has severely increased the number of refugees over the past decade; without mentioning the state-sponsored repression of citizens. Globally, there are currently 5.9 million Venezuelan refugees, with the majority remaining in the region and with millions pouring into Colombia,  and Peru.[39] The sheer number of refugees has led to problems of providing basic needs such as shelter, nutrition, bodily security, legal status and protection from harm, greatly influencing the forced migration patterns of the region and all such destabilisation this entails.[40]

Compounding all of this, led by Juan Guaido – deemed the legitimate winner of the 2018 presidential election by most western states – the opposition to the Maduro government are planning a series of mass-protests, supposedly beginning on the 12th of February 2022, as Venezuela’s divided opposition look to the presidential elections in 2024.[41] In 2018, such mass-protests were met with mass-repression and even calls for a potential US intervention in order to stabilise the region and sure up the Monroe doctrine. Nevertheless, if such planned protests are able to mobilise as many as the opposition hopes, Maduro’s response could trigger a wider conflict, especially given the adaptation of the economic, political, geo-political and humanitarian context in 2022 to that of 2018.

Some Final Thoughts

The purpose of this investigation was to shine a light on five of the conflicts that may emerge in 2022 but do not necessarily involve the major powers. It was found that in Myanmar, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Venezuela, there is a worrying risk of conflict breaking out, be that in intra-state or non-state modalities. More significantly perhaps, it is important when discussing such matters that we think not of the ‘high politics’ of such conflict alone, but of their humanitarian costs in equal measure.

Behind all of these tensions, every shot fired and every shot averted, are the already struggling economies and health systems of these states. I have chosen to by and large redact the impact of COVID-19 to these cases so that the particulars of each state’s situation could be examined independently. It would thus be pertinent to remind the onlooker that amidst such social and political fractures pushing these societies closer to war is the spread of a virus, an entity that cannot be neither negotiated with nor beaten by sheer force alone. Myanmar has only fully vaccinated 34.6% of its population, Venezuela – 48.1%, Afghanistan – 10.2%, Ethiopia – 1.4% and Haiti – 0.8%; comparing greatly to the UK’s 72.4% or the US’s 64.5%.[42] We should expect COVID-19 to become a factor in all of these conflicts if both infection and mortality rates increase as a result of the virus’ spread, alongside the economic or structural inability of these states to effectively mechanise public infrastructure to combat such a dissemination. Therefore, as funds will be diverted, we can only expect the virus to propagate in these areas, intensifying the inability for basic needs to be met and consequently the potential for human suffering.

Finally, at the heart of these conflicts are humans attempting to simply live their daily lives. As these conflicts escalate, the humanitarian situation deepens to a worser condition. Thus, overall, although the undercurrents of contemporary global conflict may not statistically have been seen to have led to an increase in battle deaths, the situation is steadily worsening on the human level, of being able to provide the basic needs of millions. This only corrodes the potentiality for peace further. Expect, subsequently, 2022 to be a year of such corrosion. Even so, as I stated at the open of this exploration, 2022 may well be a brighter and more peaceful year – but if so, luck and fortune would have played their part.

[1] David Motadel (2021) “Global Revolution”. In David Motadel (Ed.), Revolutionary World: Global Upheaval in The Modern Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-38, p. 7.

[2] Mary Kaldor (2012) New and Old Wars. Third Edition. Cambridge: Polity Press, p.2.

[3] The argument that NATO expansion teases war with Russia, and so should be limited, still applies as from 2014 to 2021. Thus, see: John J. Mearsheimer (2014) ‘Why the Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault: The Liberal Delusions That Provoked Putin’. Foreign Affairs. 93(5): 77-84.

[4] Kenneth Waltz (1979) Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, pp. 186-187. John H. Herz (1950) ‘Idealist Internationalism and The Security Dilemma’. World Politics. 2(2): 157-180.

[5] Comfort Ero and Richard Atwood (2021) ‘10 Conflicts to Watch in 2022’. crisisgorup.org. Available at: https:// www.crisisgroup.org/global/10-conflicts-watch-2022.

[6] David Brown (2022 Jan. 12). ‘China and Taiwan: A Really Simple Guide to a Growing Conflict’. bbc.co.uk. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-59900139.

[7]Therese Pettersson, Shawn Davis, Amber Deniz, Garoun Engström, Nanar Hawach, Stina Högbladh, Margareta Sollenberg & Magnus Öberg (2021). ‘Organized violence 1989-2020, with a special emphasis on Syria’. Journal of Peace Research, 58(4): 809-825. United Nations (2021 Dec. 2.) ‘Emergency aid needs set to rise by 17% to assist 274 million, UN humanitarians warn’. news.un.org. Available at:  https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/11 06932. UNHCR (2022) ‘Refugee Statistics’. unrefugees.org. Available at: https://www.unrefugees.org/refugee-f acts/statistics/.

[8] Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (2022 Feb. 1.) ‘The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)’. aappb.org. Available at: https://aappb.org/?p=19961.  

[9] The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)(2022) Curated Data: Number of reported fatalities by country-year. acleddata.com. Available at: https://acleddata.com/curated-data-files/.

[10] UNICEF (2022) ‘Rohingya Crisis’. unicef.org. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/rohingya-cri sis#:~:text=By%20the%20end%20of%20August,half%20of%20whom%20were%20children. See also: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2020) ‘Rohingya Refugee Crisis’. unocha.org. Available at: https://www.unocha.org/rohingya-refugee-crisis.

[11] UN Meetings Coverage and Press Releases (2021 Dec. 29.) ‘Security Council Press Release - SC/14754’. un.org /press. Available at: https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sc14754.doc.htm.

[12] John Burton (1990) Conflict: Human Needs Theory, Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press Ltd.

[13] These statistics have been aggregated from data compiled of the following sources: World Food Programme (2021 Dec. 3.) ‘WFP Myanmar: Situation Report #5, October-November 2021’. wfp. org. Available at: https://api.godocs.wfp.org/api/documents/bef7b4ad672a4b2a82c6c0287696fb33/download/?_ga=2.38923747.132373550.1643032037-1108988988.1643032037. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2022 Jan. 17.) ‘Myanmar: Humanitarian Update No.14’. reliefweb.int. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/ sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/OCHA%20Myanmar%20-%20Humanitarian%20Update %20No.14_FINAL. pdf. UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific (2022 Jan. 20.) ‘Myanmar Emergency Update as of 17 January 2022’. reporting.unhcr.org. Available at: https://reporting.unhcr.org/document/1326. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2021 May. 11.) ‘Press briefing notes on Myanmar’. ohchr.org. Available at: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27079&La ngID=E.

[14] BBC News (2021 Sep. 5.) ‘Ethiopia's Tigray conflict: Thousands reported killed in clashes’. bbc.co.uk. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-58450223.

[15] Nosmot Gbadamosi (2021 Nov. 17.) ‘Can African Leaders End Ethiopia’s War?’. foreignpolicy.com. Available at: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/11/17/ethiopia-tigray-war-abiy-african-union-kenya/.

[16] Mahmoud Mourad (2021 June 9.) ‘Egypt and Sudan urge Ethiopia to negotiate seriously over giant dam’. reuters.com. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/egypt-sudan-urge-ethiopia-negotiate-seriously-over-giant-dam-2021-06-09/.

[17] United Nations (2021 Nov. 5.) ‘Security Council “deeply concerned” by expanding clashes in northern Ethiopia’. news.un.org. Available at: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/11/1105072.

[18] World Food Programme (2021) ‘WFP Ethiopia: Country Brief – November 2021’. docs.wfp.org. Available at: https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000136130/download/?_ga=2.80176151.1242531317.1643287300-1 108988988.1643032037. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (2022 Jan. 20.) ‘Northern Ethiopia Humanitarian Update: Situation Report’. reliefweb.int. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/ reliefweb.int/files/resources/Situation%20Report%20-%20Ethiopia%20%20Northern%20Ethiopia%20Humanit arian%20Update %20-%2020%20Jan%202022.pdf. Hagos Godefay (2022 Jan. 26.) ‘Data shows siege and destruction of health system are causing preventable deaths in Tigray’. ethiopia-insigt.com. Available at: https:// www.ethiopia-insight.com/2022/01/26/data-shows-siege-and-destruction-of-health-system-are-causing-prevent able-deaths-in-tigray/. Sofie Annys, Tim Vanden Bempt, Emnet Negash, Lars De Sloover, Robin Ghekiere., Kiara Haegeman, Daan Temmerman and Jan Nyssen (2021) Tigray: Atlas of the Humanitarian Situation. Version 2.2. Ghent: Ghent University, Department of Geography. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5804284. UNHCR (2022) ‘Global Focus: Ethiopia’. reporting.unhcr.org. Available at: https://reporting.unhcr.org/ethiopia.

[19] Max Weber (2004) “Politics as a Vocation”, in David Owen and Tracy B. Strong (Ed.), The Vocation Lectures: Science as a Vocation - Politics as a Vocation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company. pp. 32-94, p. 33.

[21] Benjamin Parkin and Tommy Stubbington (2022 Jan. 16.) ‘Afghanistan’s currency crisis leaves millions at risk of starvation’. ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/3f692e15-0e78-4fe3-845f-74093fafd904.

[22] United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases (2022 Jan. 26.) ‘Security Council - 8954th Meeting (AM) Meeting Coverage’. un.org/press. Available at: https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14776.doc.htm.

[23] Mstyslav Chernov (2021 Dec. 10.) ‘Afghanistan Shrivels in Worst Drought in Decades’. thediplomat.com. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2021/12/afghanistan-shrivels-in-worst-drought-in-decades/#:~:text=agricu lture%20might%20collapse.%E2%80%9D-,U.N.,has%20long%20seen%20regular%20droughts.

[24] Comfort Ero and Richard Atwood (2021) ‘10 Conflicts to Watch in 2022’. crisisgroup.org. Available at: https ://www.crisisgroup.org/global/10-conflicts-watch-2022.

[25] Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Sami Sahak and Taimoor Shah (2021 Nov. 3.) ‘Dozens Killed in ISIS Attack on Military Hospital in Afghanistan’s Capital’. nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/02/world/asia/ afghanistan-kabul-hospital-attack.html.

[26] Max Boot (2022 Feb. 3.) ‘Killing of Islamic State Leader Signals Why U.S. Presence in Mideast Will Continue’. cfr.org. Available at: https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/killing-islamic-state-leader-signals-why-us-presence-mideast-will-continue.

[27] World Food Programme (2022 Feb. 3.) ‘WFP Afghanistan: Situation Report’. reliefweb.int. Available at: https:// reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/AFG%20External%20Sitrep_03.02.2022.pdf. UNICEF (2022) ‘Afghanistan – Humanitarian Action for Children’. reliefweb.int. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefwe b.int/files/resources/2022-HAC-Afghanistan.pdf. UNHCR (2022) ‘UNHCR – Afghanistan’. unhcr.org. Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/uk/afghanistan.html#:~:text=Afghans%20make%20up%20one%20of,for%20refuge% 20within%20the%20country.

[28] BBC News (2022 Jan. 20.) ‘Haiti president's assassination: What we know so far’. bbc.co.uk. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-57762246.

[29] Jihan Abdalla (2022 Jan. 18.) ‘“Citizens are not protected”: What does 2022 hold for Haiti?’. aljazeera.com. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/18/citizens-are-not-protected-what-does-2022-hold-for-ha iti. Laura Gottesdiener (2022 Jan. 7.) ‘Two Haitian journalists killed by gang outside Port-au-Prince’. reuters.com. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/two-haitian-journalists-killed-by-gang-outside-p ort-au-prince-2022-01-07/.

[30] International Medical Corps (2021 Sep. 10.) Haiti Earthquake - Situation Report #2. Los Angeles, CA: International Medical Corps.

[31] WFP (2022) ‘Haiti’. Available at: https://www.wfp.org/countries/haiti. World Bank (2021 Nov. 8.) ‘The World Bank in Haiti’. Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/haiti/overview#1.

[32] Georges A. Fauriol (2021 Feb. 5.) ‘'A Cycle of Instability’: Haiti’s Constitutional Crisis’. americas.chatham house.org. Available at: https://americas.chathamhouse.org/article/cycle-instability-haiti-constitutional-crisis/.

[33] Amelia Cheatham, Diana Roy, and Rocio Cara Labrador (2021 Dec. 29) ‘Venezuela: The Rise and Fall of a Petrostate’. cfr.org. Available at: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/venezuela-crisis#chapter-title-0-2.

[34] International Monetary Fund (2021) ‘Inflation rate, average consumer prices’. imf.org. Available at: https://ww w.imf.org/external/datamapper/PCPIPCH@WEO/WEOWORLD/VEN?year=2019. Mayela Armas (2022 Jan. 8.) ‘Venezuela's inflation hit 686.4% in 2021 - central bank’. reuters.com. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/wo rld/americas/venezuelas-inflation-hit-6864-2021-central-bank-2022-01-08/.

[35] Tamara Taraciuk Broner (2021 July 8.) ‘Putting Venezuela’s Crisis on the International Agenda’. hrw.org. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/08/putting-venezuelas-crisis-international-agenda. Marianna Parraga and Mircely Guanipa (2022 Feb. 2.) ‘Venezuela's oil exports fall to lowest since Sep amid returned cargoes -data’. reuters.com. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/venezuelas-oil-exports-fall-l owest-since-sep-amid-returned-cargoes-data-2022-02-02/.

[36] Reuters (2021 Jul. 8.) ‘Venezuela: intense gun battles rage in Caracas between gangs and police’. theguardian .com. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/08/venezuela-caracas-gun-battles-police-gan gs.

[37] Samantha Schmidt and Diana Durán (2022 Feb. 4.) ‘Bloody fighting between guerrilla groups is terrorizing Colombian border communities’. washingtonpost.com. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/20 22/02/04/colombia-farc-eln-arauca/.

[38] DW News (2022 Jan. 3.) ‘Colombia: Over 20 killed amid rebel clashes at Venezuelan border’. dw.com. Available at: https://www.dw.com/en/colombia-over-20-killed-amid-rebel-clashes-at-venezuelan-border/a-6032 1179.

[40] UNHCR (2021) ‘Venezuela Fact Sheet’. reporting.unhcr.org. Available at: https://reporting.unhcr.org/docum ent/345.

[41] Reuters (2022 Jan. 24.) ‘Venezuelan opposition's Guaido calls for February protest’. reuters.com. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/venezuelan-oppositions-guaido-calls-february-protest-2022-01-23/.

[42] Hannah Ritchie, Edouard Mathieu, Lucas Rodés-Guirao, Cameron Appel, Charlie Giattino, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, Joe Hasell, Bobbie Macdonald, Diana Beltekian and Max Roser (2022) ‘Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19)’. OurWorldInData.org. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus.