Protracted armed conflict

Download PDF
This Article is also available in

Protracted armed conflicts are characterized by their longevity, intractability and mutability. This is not a new phenomenon, but some particular trends seen in today's protracted conflicts, such as emerging technologies, pervasive media coverage, and so on, are specific to our times.The lack of respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) is a major source of suffering in protracted conflict. Due to the prolonged nature of these conflicts, they may fuel a cycle of revenge, undermining respect for the law. Even where international law is not violated, the conduct of hostilities can cause severe humanitarian consequences due to the cumulative impact on infrastructure, basic services and livelihoods over time, as well as the widespread displacement these armed conflicts can cause.The needs of affected people are wide-ranging and extend over many years, sometimes even generations. As a result, humanitarian agencies need to adapt their programming to respond both to urgent and long-term needs. Effective operations in protracted conflicts are an institutional priority for the ICRC. As of 2016, some 20 ICRC delegations were operating in protracted crises and around two thirds of the ICRC's budget was spent in protracted conflicts. Prolonged humanitarian action in conflicts of various kinds means that the traditional binary paradigm of relief and development is giving way to policies adapted to address needs when people are struggling to survive in conflicts that last for decades. In 2015, the ICRC cut the word "emergency" from its annual appeal in recognition of the fact that its work is often a mix of both urgent and long-term programming. The ICRC is by no means alone in this effort. The protracted conflicts seen today attract a large humanitarian sector.This issue of the Review will discuss strategies being put in place to respond to humanitarian needs arising in protracted armed conflict, such as multi-year funding and programming, and to bridge the "humanitarian-development divide". It will also address the definition of the term "protracted conflict", the different types of protracted conflicts and the new challenges they pose for humanitarian actors. Authors could also submit contributions discussing the effects of protracted conflicts on infrastructure, economies, political entities and regional and international spheres.Authors are invited to send submissions to the Review's editorial team, preferably in the form of a Word document, at The deadline for submissions is 31 November 2017. Additional guidelines for authors available here.