Behind the Chart of Conflict

2012 Chart of ConflictIn his attic study in Warsaw, the late, great Polish foreign correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski used to have a ripped-out newspaper headline posted on a ceiling beam that read, slightly ungrammatically: ‘World is very big trouble.’ It’s a sentiment the IISS team often shares when preparing our annual Chart of Conflict – perhaps no more so than last year, when we had to map and list the unexpected events of the Arab Spring.

In this, our 2012 map of the world’s most dangerous countries, large swathes of Libya are emblazoned in red for the first time since the map was first published in 1998. Parts of Tunisia were still unsettled, and Syrian cities were already in revolt, when the chart went to press earlier this year, before the Assad regime’s horrendous onslaught on Homs and Idlib. There’s a timeline of the key events of the Arab uprisings, and graphs of regional socio-economic indicators.

In recent years, the team producing the chart has also watched insurgents spread across the Sahel region of Africa, drugs-related violence engulf Mexico and the violence that used to plague Chechnya move next door to Ingushetia and Dagestan. Steven Pinker may argue that we enjoy historically low levels of violence, but risk maps like these rarely offer an uplifting view of the world (even if they are invaluable academic and corporate tools). Even the recent peace in Sri Lanka, for example, has a shadow of controversy over it.

The IISS Chart of Conflict draws on the ongoing research used to produce the institute’s Armed Conflict Database, and because that database covers not only military events but political and humanitarian developments, the end result is a political risk map as much as a diagram of world conflicts.

When one of our colleagues left the IISS recently after nearly 16 years, the only leaving gift she would accept was a framed version of the chart. It would be, she said, a constant reminder of the many conflicts deeply affecting the lives of millions across the world that remained to be resolved.

The Chart of Conflict is bundled with The Military Balance, or you can buy it separately.


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