IRRC No. 882

Armed groups and intra-state conflicts: the dawn of a new era?

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Have the various profound changes that have affected the world, and particularly its geostrategic dimensions, since the end of the ColdWar radically altered the nature of conflicts? Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and ten years after the destruction of the twin towers in New York, there is an apparent degree of continuity in the resilience of former centres of unresolved conflicts and of armed groups involved in them. Nonetheless, whereas most armed conflicts can today be classified as 'intrastate', the general context has changed to the extent that reference is now made to the phenomenon of 'new wars'. Increasingly inacceptable economic and political imbalances along with globalization, environmental damage and its consequences or the emergence of large-scale conflicts triggered by organized crime are some of the perils already affecting the nature of today's conflicts or potentially defining those of the future. As the period dominated by jihadist groups with a universalist vocation possibly draws to an end, the current trend seems to be towards a new generation of guerrilla fighters who stand to benefit, in particular, from the erosion of the nation-state and from geopolitical convulsions arising from the post-colonial legacy as the starting point for intensely zealous and violent long-term ventures. The impact of globalization could cause a flare-up of some existing conflicts that are currently limited in scope while the international community struggles to redefine other rules and to adapt them to the new dialectic of war and peace.

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