Regional tensions

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Regional conflicts
Regional warfare
Area tensions

The same commonalities that allow for conceptual groupings of nations may also represent objects of contention. Thus, geographically contiguous nations are so as a result of common borders which are subject to dispute or to illegal crossings or other infringement of territorial sovereignty. Such conflicts may escalate, or run the risk of escalating, thus determining responses from distant powers who seek to take advantage of the situation or prevent loss of their existing advantages in the region. In some cases this may result in minimalistic responses, based on cynical calculation or relative indifference, despite violence of genocidal proportions. For fear of being accused of opportunistic intervention, such powers (and the international community as a whole), may therefore limit their initiatives to deploring the scale of such violence. In other cases, commercial interests turn conflicts to their for-profit needs.


Three long and intractable Third World conflicts have dominated the international community since World War II, namely Middle East (Israel), Southeast Asia (Vietnam) - later replaced by Central America - and Southern Africa (South Africa). More generally, nations that share the oceans resources (around the Mediterranean Basin, in the Indian Ocean, or the South Pacific, for example) may be areas in which tension builds up. Nations that use or wish to use straits, canals, seaways and other linking waterways, including rivers, may be embroiled in conflict, for example at Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal, the Dardanelles, the Shatt al-Arab and similar places. The commonest designation of an area of nations is defined by ethnicity, language, culture and sometimes religion. The Levant, for example, comprising countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean, if seen also in relation to Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and North Africa, is an area with a variety of tensions that aggravate each other, but in which ethnicity and religion play an important part. Areas designated in press reports include the Balkans, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, Southern Africa and the Middle East. Some areas may be designated after a defence treaty, such as WTO or NATO countries; or an economic or other intergovernmental organization, such as EFTA, EEC/EU, COMECON, OAS, or OAU. Regional conflicts such as in Yugoslavia are generally agreed to be the likely model of future wars.

During 1993 the UN had 13 active peacekeeping operations at a time when there were 30 armed conflicts in the world. These regional conflicts include:

[Afghanistan] Despite the historic settlement brokered by the UN in 1989, internal fighting between factions and tribes continued through 1993. Millions of refugees remain in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. The capital has been reduced to rubble.

[Angola] Despite UN-supervised elections in 1992, the continuing civil war is without foreseeable end. It is estimated that at least 1,000 people are killed each day.

[Bosnia] Some 200,000 people were killed as a result of the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, which had resulted in the displacement of some 2.1 million refugees by 1993.

[Burundi] In 1993 the civil war in Burundi resulted in over 1 million refugees who fled to neighbouring countries.

[Georgia] This country has been faced with civil war in response to the secessionist Abkhazia forces.

[Ingushetia-North Ossetia] A process of ethnic cleansing eliminated all Ingush from North Ossetia by the end of 1993. Russia troops guard the borders between the two republics.

[Kashmir] The conflict between the Muslim majority demanding independence and the Indian army resulted in between 8,000 and 20,000 deaths from 1989 to 1993. No early resolution is foreseen.

[Liberia] By 1993 the forces of the Economic Community of West African States had proven unable to ensure the cessation of the civil war.

[Nagorno-Karabakh] Ethnic Armenians, unofficially aided by volunteers and resources from Armenia, had by 1993 captured the whole of this enclave and one fifth of the rest of Azerbaijan. Large numbers have been killed and displaced as refugees.

[Somalia] Following the dramatic intervention by UN forces, in 1994 these forces were withdrawing, leaving the country in an unstable situation, once again vulnerable to violent local factions and warlords.

[Sri Lanka] The efforts of Tamil militants to create a separate state has resulted in thousands of victims in a continuing civil war.

[Sudan] Continuing strife between the Muslim fundamentalists of the central government and groups in the country's mainly Christian southern areas. In a decade of civil war it is estimated that tens of thousands have been killed and at least 2 million displaced form their homes and lands. They are constantly faced with starvation.

[Tajikistan] Civil war continued in Tajikistan in 1993.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
07.12.2021 – 00:50 CET