Database on conflicts can help promote peace

17 juni 2010

At Uppsala, information is collected about all the wars, conflicts, and peace processes in the world. All this information is stored in a conflict database that researchers, students, journalists, and others from all over the world can access. It is hoped that the database will help create a more peaceful world.

The Department of Peace and Conflict Research has been taking inventory of all wars and conflicts in the world for more than twenty years, a task that now employs about ten people. Among other assignments, they stay abreast of who is at war with whom, how large the armies are, how many people are killed, and what peace negotiations are underway. All this information is placed in a conflict database that researchers, students, journalists, and others around the world have access to.

Associates in the Conflict Data Program methodically sift through everything that is written about armed conflicts around the world. This includes news items, newspaper articles, and reports from organizations like the UN, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty. Every year some 100,000 articles with a range of information need to be processed, systematized, and coded. What’s more, associates summarize the information in so-called conflict descriptions that are updated each year.

Much war reporting is slanted in some direction. It can be difficult to find neutral information that provides a balanced picture. This is the gap that the Conflict Database aspires to fill.

“The database is entirely unique in its genre, and it has made us world famous. We provide systematic accounts of what conflicts and their consequences look like, without judging them,” explains project director Stina Högbladh.

The information fed into the database makes it possible for anyone interested to monitor the development of individual conflicts, day by day. Thus far some 500 conflicts have been entered. For researchers who are interested in the world’s conflicts and peace processes, this information is invaluable.

“We hope we can help make the world more peaceful. For instance, there are scholars who have used our information to analyze why certain peace agreements work and other’s don’t,” says Stina Högbladh.

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