This graph of the conflict cycle depicts the essential levels of violence and phases through which conflicts evolve. The large arrows indicate when international engagement to prevent the emergence and re-emergence of violent conflict can occur.
What Actions Have Prevented Potential New Conflicts? 8 In the global rankings of fragile and failed states, many are either currently in the midst of active conflicts (Afghanistan, DRC, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan) or they are post-conflict states that are recovering from recent wars (Angola, Burundi, and Nepal). However, many states in the most fragile group have not experienced major internal wars in recent years (although sectoral violence and/or coups have taken place)—Burma, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Togo. US and international decision-makers cannot ignore the possibility of new conflicts in these settings coming onto the radar screen, as they may quickly pose serious problems for US interests and international security. Pakistan is not a post-conflict state and yet is now a top US foreign policy priority. There are several reasons why the interests of the US and other international actors would be well served by adopting a strategy of primary prevention rather than focus almost all their attention and resources on countries that are already in conflict or recovering from it. First, it is more humane to act early to keep peaceful disputes from erupting into violent conflicts, than to deal with wars and their aftermath. Second, not only does preventing wars save lives, but it is hugely less expensive. Research on the differences between investing in prevention compared to war and post-conflict reconstruction costs, such as peacekeeping, shows that on average, prevention is 60 times less costly. Third, it is widely agreed that post-conflict states are among the most likely to fall into conflict. However, those estimates of the percentage of post-conflict countries that relapse into conflict has been lowered over the years from around 40 percent to about 25 percent. Meanwhile, new conflicts in previously peaceful countries have continued to erupt at a more frequent rate. 9 Fourth, global trends like the economic crisis, globalization, youth bulges, population growth, climate change, extremist movements, and ready access to arms are increasing the potential for conflicts in many fragilestates around the world that have neither experienced conflict nor state failure. Finally, the threats to stability are especially challenging in the large numbers of new or quasi-democracies that have been transitioning from former authoritarian or autocratic systems to a more democratically-structured regime. Such semi-authoritarian states, illiberal democracies, or anocracies are especially vulnerable to conflict and state failure. Typically, the circumstances in focus here involve fragile countries where no war has occurred, but external or internal changes are causing disputes to arise and 34 | Engaging Fragile States: An International Policy Primer