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The Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK) is an independent and interdisciplinary registered association located at the Department of Political Science at the University of Heidelberg. Since 1991, the HIIK has been committed to the distribution of knowledge about the emergence, course and settlement of interstate and intrastate political conflicts. The Conflict Barometer is published annually and contains the current research results.
Since 1991, quantitative conflict research at the HIIK (Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research) has analyzed political conflicts by focusing on conflict processes rather than e.g. purely quantitative thresholds of casualties of war. Thus, the HIIK is particularly concerned with the concrete actions and communications between conflict parties. Such a process-oriented approach gives the analysis of political conflicts, especially regarding intensities, a broader and more detailed empirical foundation. In 2016, the HIIK observed 402 conflicts, among them 226 violent and 176 non-violent ones. The number of full-scale wars decreased from 19 to 18, while the number of limited wars decreased by four to 20 in total. Overall, 188 violent crises were observed, marking a decrease by four compared to 2015. The number of non-violent crises decreased by ten to 78, while the number of disputes increased by eight to 98.
According to the revised definition, a political conflict is a positional difference, regarding values relevant to a society - the conflict items - between at least two decisive and directly involved actors, which is being carried out using observable and interrelated conflict measures that lie outside established regulatory procedures and threaten core state functions, the international order or hold out the prospect to do so.
A conflict actor (party) can be either an individual, a state, an international organization or a non-state actor. Collective confict actors are distinguished from one another through their internal cohesion and internally shared goals. An actor is regarded as decisive if his existence, actions, and communications considerably alter the practices of at least one other conflict actor pertaining to the conflict item.
Conflict items are material or immaterial goods pursued by conflict actors via conflict measures. Due to the character of conflict measures, conflict items attain relevance for the society as a whole - either for coexistence within a given state or between states. This aspect constitutes the genuinely political dimension of political conflicts. The catalog of conflict items in use up to the present Conflict Barometer covers ten different items.
System/Ideology is encoded if a conflict actor aspires a change of the ideological, religious, socioeconomic or judicial orientation of the political system or changing the regime type itself. National power means the power to govern a state. Whereas Autonomy refers to attaining or extending political self-rule of a population within a state or of a dependent territory without striving for independence, Secession refers to the aspired separation of a part of a territory of a state aiming to establish a new state or to merge with another state. Furthermore, Decolonization aims at the independence of a dependent territory. Subnational predominance focuses on the attainment of the de-facto control by a government, a non-state organization or a population over a territory or a population. The item Resources is encoded if the possession of natural resources or raw materials, or the profits gained thereof, is pursued. Territory means a change of the course of an international border, while International power as an item describes the change aspired in the power constellation in the international system or a regional system therein, especially by changing military capabilities or the political or economic influence of a state. The item Other is used as residual category.
In addition to the constituting elements – conflict actors and items – conflict intensity is an essential feature of political conflicts. Conflict intensity is an attribute of the sum of conflict measures in a specific political conflict in a geographical area and a given space of time. Since 2003, the HIIK has been using a five-level model of conflict intensity. Under its revised methodology, the intensity levels are now known as dispute, non-violent crisis, violent crisis, limited war and war. The last three levels constitute the category of violent conflicts, in contrast to the non-violent conflicts (dispute and non-violent crisis). Whereas a dispute is a political conflict carried out completely without resorting to violence, in a non-violent crisis one of the actors is threatened with violence.
Since 1947, a total of 71 operations have been conducted, with 16 being active in 2016. All operations are mandated by UNSC resolutions and supervised by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO). In 2016, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA) operated 13 field-based political missions worldwide in order to support actions of conflict prevention, peacemaking, and post-conflict peace building.