July-September 2019: Overview of Events during Quarter

This is the third of a series of quarterly reviews of major events related to international conflict and cooperation, summarizing major events in the news from the past three months. We focus on conflict and cooperation between countries that disagree over specific types of contentious issues, in order to track how countries choose to manage, escalate, or settle their disagreements. This draws from research by the Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) research project, which currently studies four types of contentious issues:

Our quarterly review methodology page explains the process of searching for news related to each of these four issue types during this quarter, and describes the types of events that are identified for inclusion in this review. Please note that the ICOW project does not endorse or support any country's positions with respect to any of the claims in our data set. Our purpose is to provide an impartial compilation of data on territorial, river, maritime, and identity claims (as well as any other future data sets that we might collect) by using rigorous coding rules to identify cases where nation-states explicitly disagreed over specific issues. Where possible, we use the most common English-language names for disputed features or groups, supplemented with widely used names in other languages; the choice of which names to list or in which order does not imply any support for either state's position.


This search interface allows you to search through these quarterly reviews for such terms as names of territories, countries, or leaders. (For now, this is limited to ICOW's quarterly reviews of news over territorial, river, maritime, or identity claims, covering events since the beginning of 2019. In the future, we plan to expand this search to include access to summary web pages for each of the more than 1200 claims identified by the ICOW project, which will be created as part of the next external grant that the ICOW project receives.)





New Claims

Only one new claim began during this quarter:

Potential Claims

Another 59 cases had some elements of claims during the quarter and could potentially qualify as codable claims in the future. These potential claims generally failed to meet at least one of the requirements of the ICOW definition listed above, which requires explicit contention over a specific territory, river, maritime zone, or shared ethnic group by official government representatives who are authorized to make foreign policy:

27 potential territorial claims made news this quarter but did not meet the full ICOW definition:

Six potential river claims made news this quarter but did not meet the ICOW definition:

Twelve potential maritime claims made news this quarter but did not meet the ICOW definition:

14 potential identity claims made news this quarter but failed to meet the ICOW definition:

Case Summaries:




Claim Escalation and Provocations

Claim escalation trend line graph

During this quarter, a total of 49 claims had at least one type of escalation or provocation, many of which had more than one type. Seven claims saw at least one claim-related fatality, 27 saw non-fatal military activity, and 36 saw non-military provocations. These numbers are up slightly from the previous quarter, which had three claims with fatalities, 28 with non-fatal military activity, and 32 with non-military provocations. Both the second and third quarters of 2019 saw substantially more conflictual activity than the first quarter (the first quarter for which we kept these records).

There was a great deal of continuity in escalatory behavior from the previous quarter to the present. Just over half of all claims with escalation this quarter also experienced at least one type of escalation in the previous quarter (25 of 49, or 51.0%), and more than half of claims with escalation in the previous quarter also experienced at least one type this quarter (25 of 46, or 54.3%). This general pattern held for all three broad categories of escalatory behavior; 6 of the 7 claims with fatal conflict this quarter (85.7%) also experienced escalatory behavior in the previous quarter, as did 17 of 26 with non-fatal military activity this quarter (65.4%) and 17 of 34 with non-military provocations (50.0%). This suggests that outside actors would do well to focus their attention on these states that are currently engaging in provocations or militarized conflict, because there is a very good chance that these same adversaries will continue to engage in risky behavior in the future.

Claim escalation - regional bar graph

The majority of conflictual events occurred in claims in Asia and Oceania. Five of the seven claims that produced fatalities were located in Asia, as were 21 of the 27 claims with non-fatal military activity and 18 of the 36 claims with non-military provocations. These Asian cases came from all across the region, including eight claims in East Asia (one of which produced fatalities), four in Central Asia and the Caucasus (two with fatalities), eight in South Asia (three with fatalities), and eight in Southeast Asia and Oceania (none of them fatal). Europe saw twelve claims with provocations or military activity (one producing fatalities), followed by the Middle East (eight claims, none fatal), Africa (five claims, one fatal), and the Western Hemisphere (one claim, non-fatal). Asia led all regions in conflictual behavior in the two previous quarters as well, with 30 claims (three fatal) in the first quarter of the year and 34 (two fatal) in the second; no other region saw more than twelve claims with provocations of any type or one claim with fatalities in either of those quarters.

Claim escalation bar graph

Turning to type of claim, more than half of the claims that experienced confrontational events in this quarter were territorial claims. Claims that were strictly territorial, typically involving land borders, accounted for four fatal conflicts, twelve non-fatal military activities, seven non-military provocations. Territorial claims that also include a maritime element, typically involving claims to islands with the associated maritime zones around them, included seven with non-fatal military activities and ten with non-military provocations, although none of these produced fatalities. Strictly maritime claims, where the states disagree over the use of the maritime zone for such purposes as fishing, oil or gas extraction, or navigation but there is no claim over territory above the sea, included one with a single fatality (a North Korea fisherman who was killed resisting arrest by Russian forces), seven with non-fatal military activity, and five with non-military provocations. Identity claims included two claims with fatalities, one with non-fatal military activity, and eight with non-military provocations, while river claims were the least conflictual with only six non-military provocations during the quarter.

Claim Escalation

As noted above, seven claims saw at least one claim-related fatality during this quarter, out of the 49 total claims that experienced at least one type of provocative event during the quarter. The greatest risk of escalation came in strictly territorial claims (with fatalities in four of sixteen claims) and identity claims (with fatalities in two of eight claims). The risk was lower with strictly maritime claims (with a single civilian fatality in one of nine claims), and there were no fatalities this quarter in the ten combined territorial and maritime claims or the six river claims that experienced provocations.

Non-fatal military activity during this quarter was far more common in territorial and maritime claims than in river or identity claims. Such activities -- whether border violations or actions against civilians in disputed areas -- occurred in a total of 26 of the 49 claims that experienced at least one provocative event. This included twelve strictly territorial claims, seven strictly maritime, and six claims with both territorial and maritime elements; none of the six river claims and only one of the eight identity claims saw such action. The remaining claims, mostly river and identity claims, remained limited to verbal and other non-military provocations during the quarter.

These results are consistent with past research on contentious issues, which has found that the risk of armed conflict -- particularly fatal conflict -- is greatest for territorial claims. Territorial claims are often considered the most "salient" or valuable type of contentious issue because they typically have both high tangible salience (referring to the physical attributes or contents of the disputed issue) and high intangible salience (referring to psychological ties or identification with the disputed issue). Maritime and river claims typically have relatively high tangible salience due to the physical value of the water, fisheries, or resources, but lower levels of intangible; identity claims typically have relatively high intangible salience due to ties with one's ethnic kin across the border, but lower levels of tangible. Data collection and analysis of identity claims is not yet complete, but past research has found river claims to have the lowest levels of armed conflict, while maritime claims fall between river and territorial claims in militarized conflict overall but with little risk of fatalities.

Case Summaries (detailed summaries of individual claims that were active this quarter):

All events Events sorted by region
Territorial claims
(including cases with territorial as well as
river, maritime, or identity elements)
Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania
River Claims Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania
Maritime Claims Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania
Identity Claims Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania



Peaceful Claim Management and Settlement

Claim management trend line graph

This quarter saw little change in peaceful conflict management efforts compared to the previous quarter. 36 claims saw bilateral negotiations between the claimants, compared to 35 in the previous quarter. Six claims experienced non-binding activities like mediation and eleven experienced binding activities like adjudication, compared to seven and ten in the previous quarter. Because a given claim could experience more than one type of settlement attempt, a total of 50 claims had at least one type of peaceful settlement attempt during the quarter, about the same as the 49 claims that had at least one type of escalation or provocation.

Half of the peaceful settlement attempts occurred in claims that also experienced provocations during the quarter (25 of 50), which is consistent with the expectation that escalation attracts conflict management. This is generally consistent with the results for each type of settlement attempt. 17 of the 36 claims with bilateral negotiations (47.2%) also had at least one type of provocation, suggesting that the claimants seek to deescalate or manage their problems before they can spiral out of control. Five of the six claims with non-binding third party activities (83.3%) also experienced at least one provocation, suggesting that third parties are even more concerned about limiting escalation. Even five of the eleven claims with ongoing binding third party activities (45.5%) experienced escalation or provocations during the quarter, although the protracted nature of most arbitration or adjudication processes suggests that these are less likely to be a reaction to events in the claim during this specific quarter.

Claim management - regional bar graph

As with the provocations discussed above, the majority of peaceful settlement attempts during this quarter occurred in Asia -- 23 Asian claims saw bilateral negotiations, and one each saw non-binding and binding third party activities. These included three claims in East Asia, five in Central Asia and the Caucasus (including one with mediation), eight in South Asia (including one with an arbitral tribunal), and nine in Southeast Asia and Oceania. The second most active region was Europe, with five claims producing bilateral negotiations, two with non-binding activities, and four with binding activities. These were followed by Africa with a total of seven (one non-binding and one binding), the Americas with six (five binding), and the Middle East with four (two non-binding).

Claim management bar graph

Territorial claims experienced more peaceful settlement attempts than any other type of issue. Sixteen exclusively territorial claims saw at least one type of peaceful settlement attempt during the quarter, as well as nine more with maritime elements. Eleven maritime claims saw peaceful management, as did nine river claims and five identity claims.

Eighteen other cases made progress toward settlement, even if this progress was not codable as a new settlement attempt in its own right. Six cases saw action by UN peacekeeping forces, trying to maintain order and prevent escalation. Four saw progress toward the implementation of a prior agreement or the demarcation of an agreed border (the Kazakh/Russia, Turkmen/Uzbek, and Cambodia/Vietnam borders and the Ghana/Cote d'Ivoire maritime border). Two saw the ratification of an earlier treaty to formally end the claim (the Australia/Timor Leste and Indonesia/Philippines maritime cases). Talks or mediation were suggested but not carried out in several cases, and several other cases saw cooperation or confidence-building measures such as carrying out joint economic activities in disputed territory and assessing fish stocks in a disputed maritime zone.

Agreements

These settlement attempts produced a total of 18 agreements during this quarter. These covered nine territorial claims, four maritime claims, four river claims, and one identity claim. Most of the agreements were reached by the parties themselves, with 16 produced by bilateral negotiations; the remaining two were reached through foreign mediation. No agreements were reached through binding arbitration or adjudication during the quarter, although each of those eleven cases remained under consideration at the conclusion of the quarter; cases at courts like the ICJ often last for years through presentation of written and oral arguments and sometimes legal challenges over the court's jurisdiction before a ruling is finally released.

Case Summaries (detailed summaries of individual claims that were active this quarter):

All events Events sorted by region
Territorial claims
(including cases with territorial as well as
river, maritime, or identity elements)
Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania
River claims Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania
Maritime claims Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania
Identity claims Western
Hemisphere
Europe Africa Middle
East
Asia &
Oceania


http://www.paulhensel.org/rev2019q3.html
First posted 31 December 2019
This site © Copyright 1996-present, Paul R. Hensel. All rights reserved.
Site Privacy Policy