A grim statistic: there may be only 10 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict.
According to the Global Peace Index 2016, the world’s chief hot spots are:
Syria. Syria is currently the world’s gravest conflict, impacting the entire region and embroiling the major powers. More than a quarter of a million Syrians have been killed and almost 11 million – about half the country’s population – displaced inside or outside the country.
Turkey. The long confrontation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has killed more than 30,000 people since 1984, led to a sharp upsurge in violence following the failure of peace talks in 2016. Then came the “coup”, repression, and a rattling of military sabres with the purchase of 24 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets.
Yemen. The Saudi-led war in Yemen – backed by the United States, Britain, and allies in the Gulf – has been grinding on since March 2015, with no end in sight. Nearly 6,000 people have reportedly been killed, almost half of them civilians. The war has destroyed the country’s already weak infrastructure and introduced a narrative of sectarianism where previously there had been little or none.
Libya. Following NATO’s military intervention and the ousting of Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011, assorted political parties, tribes, and militias have been fighting for power and control over the nation’s vast oil and gas riches. The country is now governed by two rival factions – meaning no one is really in charge in a chaotic situation.
Lake Chad basin. Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon face an ongoing threat from the jihadi militant group Boko Haram. It is still a powerful force capable of mounting devastating attacks throughout a region where decades of political corruption and poor access to basic social services have bred deep anger and alienation.
South Sudan. The country won independence only to explode into civil war in 2013 as divisions within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement led to fighting and targeted ethnic killings in the capital of Juba. Urgent action is required to get South Sudan’s leadership to respect its commitment to the peace deal and avert a catastrophic return to war.
And then there are Afghanistan, Burundi, Israel-Palestine, Mexico, North Korea, Philippines, the South China Sea, and Ukraine… not to mention ominous political shenanigans in the USA and Europe.
On a brighter note, there are 130 million births a year – 360,000 joyful births a day – the majority of which, however, go totally unannounced and unrecognised. So, the report that Beyonce is pregnant with twins, while undoubtedly joyful in its own way, hardly counts as mesmerising the whole world – alongside a tawdry photo variously described as “magical”, “amazing”, and “stunning”: the kind of media hype we can joyfully live without.
As the restaurant critic Anton Ego pleads in the film Ratatouille, “You know what I’m craving? A little perspective. That’s it. I’d like some fresh, clear, well-seasoned perspective.”