Some Statistics on Civil Wars

The Economist: “How to Stop the Fighting, Sometimes” (11/09/2013)

File:Ongoing military conflicts.png

I’m always very impressed with how The Economist weaves statistics (seemingly very credible ones) into its articles. In some cases they are the baseline from which the writer provides opinion, context, and insight. In other cases, they are the context – supporting a strong central theory with some quantitative love.

The recent article on civil wars was both informative on the subject of civil wars as well as a prime example of how powerful statistics can provide essential context to a central theory. Some of the most interesting statistics extracted from the article include:

  • Of the 150 large intrastate wars since 1945, fewer than 10 are ongoing.
  • The rate at which civil wars start is the same today as it has been for 60 years; they kick off every year in 1-2% of countries.
  • The average length of civil wars dropped from 4.6 to 3.7 years after 1991.
  • From 1945-1989, civil war afflicted 18% of the world’s nations.
  • Since 1989, victory for one side has only occurred in 13% of cases (compared to 58% before 1989).
  • Since 1989, negotiated endings have occurred in almost 40% of cases (compared to 10% before 1989).
  • Leadership changes are a factor in the termination of between 25-40% of civil wars.
  • Since its founding, the UN has completed 53 peacekeeping missions. The 15 ongoing ones employ almost 100,000 in uniform.

It seems a good chunk of data came from the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Very cool. Image is from Wikipedia and shows ongoing military conflicts around the world (major in red, minor in orange).