Aiding Asia: the challenge of subnational conflict
Tom Parks - Regional Director for Conflict and Governance, Asia Foundation
Lilianne Fan - Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI
Lisa Denney - Research Officer, Politics and Governance Programme, ODI
Tom Wingfield - Team Leader and Senior Governance Adviser, Research and Evidence Division, DFID
Paul Harvey - Director, Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium
Subnational conflict is the most widespread, enduring, and deadly form of conflict in Asia. Over the past 20 years, there have been 26 subnational conflicts in South and Southeast Asia, affecting half of the countries in this region. These conflicts are among the world’s longest running armed struggles, often lasting for multiple generations. Prominent subnational conflicts in Asia include Mindanao in the Philippines, southern Thailand, Aceh and Papua in Indonesia, Assam and Kashmir in India, northern Sri Lanka, and Baluchistan in Pakistan. In Myanmar/Burma alone, there are 7 major subnational conflicts, with 6 of them lasting for more than 4 decades.
Asia’s experience with subnational conflicts shows that large-scale, armed violence can occur and endure in strong states as well as weak ones. Remarkably, the majority of subnational conflicts take place in generally stable, middle-income countries, with relatively strong governments, regular elections, and capable security forces. As such, subnational conflicts are different from fragile states and they present the international community with a distinct set of challenges.
Despite significant funding, the overall impact of international assistance on subnational conflict is unclear. While there have been large injections of donor support to countries undergoing sub-national conflict, the focus has tended to be on traditional development sectors, rather than peace and security.