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 included:
Where regional conflicts escalate to a level of genocide, this should engage the responsibility of international society as being a threat to the international community as a whole and as a threat to moral nature, especially when a weaker state or society is being subject to the violence and indifference of a stronger one.