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Conflict is not a game

It never was — so why do we treat it as one?

Conflict is something that is a frequent factor within the world we live in. It affects millions of people worldwide and is presented with a disjointed narrative. At times, the whole issue of conflict is played almost like a game, one that needs to be waited out, or one that can never be won.

Photo by Stijn Swinnen on Unsplash

Since 2010, violent conflict has increased dramatically — and in turn, the risk of fragility has increased. Countries (both low and middle-income) face a wide variety of issues — ranging from climate change, rising inequality, to global influences as the world is more than ever inter-connected — all of which in their own right cause further instability.

As of last year, it was identified that the majority of forced displacement for the past quarter of a century has been due to ten specific conflict situations. Countries which were included in this study were: Afghanistan, Burundi, the Caucasus region, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and the former Yugoslavia. These conflict situations were directly responsible for a crisis that now ultimately affects around 1% of the world’s population — but ultimately how do we understand this?

As a former student of conflict studies, I find the apparent disconnect between those who are affected and those who aren’t most interesting. There is an almost feverish detached reality here, between regular people and everyone else who faces issues of these nature. The huge disconnect is perpetrated by the media who peddle often a negative (and at times dishonest) narrative or in other situations — downplaying the level of the reality on the ground.

Hebron, Palestine (Photo Credits: Jessica Gosling)

The influence of the media truly cannot be undermined. The media has the ability to depict who deserves our sympathy and who doesn’t can’t be ignored. It has a huge influencing role in establishing the narrative which surrounds conflict and the people within such situations. These people are regular people, who have faced adverse circumstances often to a horrendous magnitude.

Within conflict — forced displacement is a developing global crisis which can only be solved with a clear collective action. It is so significant, that the number of people who have been displaced by conflict, is equivalent to the population of the United Kingdom — i.e. 65 million refugees and internally displaced people. That is a pretty huge number, don’t you think?

Of all of these people living in limbo — over 95% of them are based in developing countries and half of all displaced people have been so for more than four years. The route of all of these numbers a lot of people believe, is the same, the same ten conflict I mentioned before.

East Jerusalem, Palestine

Every year since 1991, the majority of the forcibly displaced population has been accounted from these countries — and have been continuously hosted by around fifteen countries whom remarkably are mostly located in the developing world. So what does that mean?

It means that the responsibility for these people has ultimately been loaded onto a select number of countries who are either currently developing or have gone through similar situations of conflict themselves. It is also clear, especially in the wake of the Syrian civil war, that the countries around Syria have undertaken the burden of these refugees, more so than other wealthier countries — yet this is is not a new phenomenon.

Over six years have passed since the Syrian civil war started, and it continues with almost 6.1 million internally displaced people, 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad and over 400,000 civilians estimated dead (as of last year) — and we are no closer to seeing the end to this conflict. Countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, remain key host countries for the Syrian people — and this looks like it won’t change.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

The narrative around the Syrian conflict has been disproportionate, negative and often misunderstanding the conflict in its entirety. Cutting to the chase, why would individuals and families leave their whole lives behind unless their lives were in danger? The narratives that have surrounded these people — propagated by the media — has at times illustrated some of the most vulnerable individuals as rodents or bugs. People who aren’t really people, people who are merely ghosts who are a part of the larger playing board.

Conflict nowadays is played like a game. A very large game where the lives of millions, on either side of the chess board are at the mercy of ‘greater powers’. Conflict is a game of disparity — where those ‘great powers’ do not take their fair load of the burden — that at times they helped to perpetuate. Grand ideas of such humanitarian issues being dealt with as a global community are a load of farse — as it is clearly not a priority.


Conflict is not a game was originally published in The Typewriter on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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