With the 30th edition of the Conflict Barometer, the HIIK continues its annual series of reports covering political conflicts worldwide.

The global political conflict panorama in 2021 was marked by an ongoing high number of highly violent conflicts. The number of wars decreased from 21 to 20 while the number of limited wars increased from 19 to 20. No wars were observed in Europe and the Americas. The number of wars in the region West Asia, North Africa, and Afghanistan (WANA) decreased from seven to three.

Meanwhile, in Asia and Oceania HIIK observed the first war since 2017. Sub-Saharan Africa remained the region with the highest number of wars. Eleven wars continued while five limited wars escalated to full-scale wars. As in previous years, violent intrastate crises continued to represent the most common conflict type and shaped the global conflict landscape. Finally, ceasefires, such as the one between India and Pakistan, and peace initiatives, for instance the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, aimed to pave the way for more peaceful future relations.

2021 also brought a great loss for the HIIK and the field of conflict research in Heidelberg in general, when Prof. Dr. Frank R. Pfetsch passed away on November 18 at the age of 85. Frank Pfetsch’s significance for conflict research in Heidelberg can hardly be overstated. In the 1980s, he initiated systematical, internationally oriented conflict research in the political sciences department of Heidelberg University with a DFG-funded research project. The project led to the creation of both a comprehensive database and a five-volume anthology on violent and non-violent political conflicts worldwide since 1945. A further result of the project was the emergence of the HIIK, as the persons involved felt that the subject and the approach developed by Frank Pfetsch merited more than just a limited research project. They thought it necessary to establish a research group to continuously monitor and document political conflicts both in a database and an annual publication, the Conflict Barometer. The first edition was published in December 1992, covering the developments of that very year. From its very beginnings until long after his own retirement, Frank Pfetsch acted as a guiding mentor and honorary patron to the HIIK while continuing his own work on conflicts and conflict resolution. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Conflict Barometer together with us in 2012, he guided his audience through the latter’s eventful history in his celebratory speech; that he will not be with us for the Conflict Barometer’s 30th anniversary grieves us deeply.

The Board of Directors would like to thank all editors, heads of regional working groups, and everyone else who contributed to this report for their outstanding efforts, especially during the final stages of editing. Without your commitment, a publication like this would be impossible. When time resources seem to be more limited than ever, voluntary efforts spent on a project like this become even more extraordinary.

The Conflict Barometer 2020 can be downloaded here:

The Board of Directors
Maximilian Brien, Eduard Ebert, Ilsa Hameed, Leon Lewin, Jannik Mertens, Katharina Valjak
Heidelberg, March 2022