Thursday, December 17, 2020

COVID-19 escalated armed conflicts in several war-torn countries


News Release 17-Dec-2020
University of Melbourne


Armed conflict activities increased in five countries during the first wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic says new research from the University of Melbourne.

India, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and the Philippines all saw an escalation of civil wars because conflict parties exploited either state weakness or a lack of international attention due to the pandemic.

"I looked at the countries that had the most palpable records of conflict," said researcher Dr Tobias Ide, a Discovery Early Career Researcher Fellow from the School of Geography.

"What I found was that rebel groups try to exploit situations in which governments are busy with containing the pandemic and its economic fallout. Increased activities of the Islamic State in Iran are just one example. At the same time, there is little international protest or support as each country is focused on its own struggle with the virus."

Armed conflict intensity in four countries (Afghanistan, Colombia, Thailand and Yemen) decreased between March and June, according to the study as a result of both state and rebel forces failing to get traction under the pandemic.

"However, there are few reasons to be enthusiastic about this development," said Dr Ide. "The Taliban in Afghanistan and the ELN rebels in Colombia, for instance, reduced their attacks during the first months of the pandemic. But they also used the COVID-19 crisis to recruit new fighters among impoverished groups, and to gain public support from their own pandemic response."


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