April-June 2019: Overview of Events during Quarter

This is the second 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 issues1:

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 and Potential Claims

Two new claims began during this quarter:

Another 44 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:

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

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

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

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

Case Summaries:

Claim Escalation and Provocations

Claim escalation bar graph

This quarter saw militarized threats or actions by at least one side in 32 claims, including eighteen territorial claims, eight maritime claims, and three identity claims.3 Most of these remained at relatively low levels of escalation, with only three claims leading to fatalities. As in the previous quarter, more than half of these territorial claims that saw military activity during the quarter (10 of 18) also had a maritime component, typically for claims to islands or coastlines that are also associated with claims to associated offshore fishing or mineral rights -- although these typically involved events like seizures of fishing boats or military patrols in the disputed waters, and none of these joint territorial-maritime claims led to any fatalities.

27 claims saw provocations below the level of militarized action during this quarter, including fourteen territorial claims, two river claims, six maritime claims, and five identity claims. (Some of these claims saw multiple types of provocations during the quarter, so the overall numbers shown in the accompanying figures may be higher than these summary numbers suggest.)

Comparison to Past Quarters

Claim escalation trend line graph

This quarter saw a substantial increase in military and other provocations compared to the previous quarter. All three claims that led to fatalities in the second quarter also did so in the first quarter; just one previously fatal conflict (the territorial claim between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which saw several civilians killed by other civilians) avoided fatalities this quarter, and even that claim saw continued confrontations between civilians. 29 claims saw non-fatal military activities related to the claims in this quarter, doubling the 14 such claims in the first quarter. There was also a slight increase from 26 to 31 claims experiencing non-military activities or provocations. In all, more than two-thirds of claims that saw military or non-military activities or provocations in the first quarter (68.4%) also experienced such activities in the second quarter.

Regional Comparison

[Regional bar graph will go here]


Case Summaries:

Peaceful Claim Management and Settlement

Claim management bar graph

48 claims saw peaceful conflict management or settlement attempts during the quarter, some of them using more than one type of management technique. This includes 41.3% of the claims that saw militarized or other provocations during the quarter (19 of 46), which is consistent with the expectation that escalation attracts conflict management (by the parties themselves or by third parties).

These settlement attempts produced a total of eight agreements during this quarter.

Conflict management or settlement activities may have been slightly more successful when there had been escalation during the quarter, but the numbers are far from impressive. Four agreements were reached in the 19 claims that experienced both escalation and management, as compared to four reached in the 29 claims that experienced peaceful settlement attempts but no escalatory incidents or provocations. Bilateral negotiations produced seven agreements (four functional, one procedural, and two substantive) in 34 claims during this quarter, as compared with one agreements (the French/German-mediated procedural agreement over Kosovo) in the seven non-binding settlement attempts and no agreements during this quarter in the eleven legally binding settlement activities. It should be noted, though, that many of these peaceful settlement attempts remained ongoing at the end of the quarter, so they may yet produce successful agreements. In particular, all eleven claims that had binding arbitration or adjudication proceedings underway during the quarter remained under consideration at the end of the quarter.

Comparison to Past Quarters

Claim management trend line graph

This quarter saw an increase in peaceful conflict management efforts compared to the previous quarter, similar to the increase in conflictual behavior noted above. 34 claims underwent bilateral negotiations, compared to 24 in the first quarter. Ten claims also experienced non-binding activities like mediation and six experienced binding activities like adjudication, compared to eight and seven in the previous quarter (there were actually eleven distinct non-binding attempts and seven binding attempts, because several claims had multiple third parties attempting to help settlement).

Case Summaries:

To view the detailed summaries of each individual territorial, river, maritime, or identity claim that has been active during this quarter, follow any of the "Case Summaries" links in the overview above, or go directly to the quarter's Case Summaries page.


1 More detail on the project is available on the ICOW Project home page as well as in Hensel and Mitchell's 2017 Conflict Management and Peace Science paper "From Territorial Claims to Identity Claims: The Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) Project." [you may prefer the journal's official page for this article if your library has access] [Return to Top]

2 These quarterly reviews are compiled from daily news searches while the quarter is underway. This includes more than 30 RSS news feeds representing a variety of different perspectives and geographic emphases such as Al Jazeera, All Africa, the Arab Weekly, BBC, Deutsche Welle, the East African, New York Times, TASS, and Times of Central Asia as well as saved Google News searches for nearly 300 permutations of search terms such as "border clash," "boundary accord," "territorial claim," "undemarcated border," "maritime delimitation," "fishing talks," "river treaty," "dam dispute," and many others. [Return to Top]

3 Claims that fall into multiple categories (such as claims over islands that include both a territorial component because of sovereignty over the island and a maritime component because of the exclusive economic zone that can be claimed around the island) are listed in the category that best distinguishes them from other cases (so territorial/maritime claims are listed here under territorial claims to distinguish them from maritime claims over fishing rights that do not have a territorial component). [Return to Overview]

First posted 30 August 2019 (Last updated 25 January 2020)
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