IWS - The Information Warfare Site
News Watch Make a  donation to IWS - The Information Warfare Site Use it for navigation in case java scripts are disabled

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Canada



Report # 2000/06


August 8, 2000

This paper uses open sources to examine any topic with the potential to cause threats to public or national security


1. Throughout the 1990s, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in its public documents reported on worldwide instability and the increased use of violence for political purposes, problems that have continued into the 21st century. These external phenomena are of interest to the Service because they result sooner or later in threats to national security or the public safety of Canadians at home or abroad. One major underlying cause of each phenomenon is conflict between and within states, and this paper looks at the available open information on the subject. Subsequent Perspectives will examine the problem region by region.  


2. There are various estimates of the numbers of wars and war-related deaths in the 20th century, described by former US presidential advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski as “the century of megadeath.” In 1996, with four years still to go till the end of the century, one such credible estimate offered figures of “250 wars and 109,746,000 war-related deaths.”(1) These numbers represent “six times as many deaths per war in the 20th century as in the 19th.”(2) As we enter the 21st century, four discernible security trends are evident, one positive and three negative.  

Positive Trend

3. The positive security trend is a decrease in the number of wars between states in the closing decade of the 20th century. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the number of “major armed conflicts” around the world declined slowly but steadily from 36 wars in 32 locations in 1989, to 25 wars in 24 locations in 1997.(3) There was a slight rise in 1998, but the number of wars between rather than within states dropped to only two in that year, one involving India and Pakistan and the other Eritrea and Ethiopia. Given the disastrous consequences of warfare today, any reduction in conflict between states is positive.  

Negative Trends

4. The first negative security trend, and one that is difficult for the international community to control, is the explosion within states of wars between ethnic and religious groups, sometimes called conflicts of identity and belief, many involving ancient hatreds. In the first five years of the 1990s for which figures are available, a total of 5.5 million people died in 93 conflicts of all types involving 70 states around the world.(4) For many countries, therefore, the change from interstate to intrastate conflict has not improved security.

5. The second negative security trend is a rise in the danger to non-combatants. “At the beginning of the twentieth century between 85 and 90 percent of war deaths were military...At the end of the twentieth century, about three quarters of war deaths are civilians.”(5) Many of the killers are members of ill-disciplined local militias or are individuals of one ethnic group paying off old scores on members of another ethnic group, often against their neighbours. The weapons of choice are not sophisticated. Surplus small arms are used by militias, and whatever comes to hand has killed many individuals in places as diverse as Rwanda, the Balkans and East Timor.

6. The third negative security trend is a noticeable deterioration in the behaviour of armed aggressors towards their helpless victims. To quote the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), “Civilians are no longer just victims of war today—they are regarded as instruments of war. Starving, terrorising, murdering, raping civilians—all that is seen as legitimate...Sex is no defense, nor is age; indeed women, children and the elderly are often at greatest risk.”(6)  

Increase in the Use of Violence for Political Purposes

7. In addition to the SIPRI, a number of institutions around the world have studied armed conflict in great detail for some years. Included in this group are, amongst others, the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO), and the Interdisciplinary Research Programme on Causes of Human Rights Violations (PIOOM) at Leyden University in The Netherlands.

8. The work of the staff at PIOOM is particularly informative. They have extended the study of violence for political purposes beyond the major armed conflicts, to include two smaller but nevertheless deadly categories of conflict: low intensity conflict (LIC) in which 100 to 1,000 people are killed annually; and violent political conflict (VPC) wherein less than 100 people die per year, but the conflict nevertheless has a significant negative effect on the society. In recent years a conflict as intractable as Northern Ireland, for example, would be considered a VPC. The numbers of such conflicts for the past four years are summarized in the following table:  

Type of Conflict Deaths in 12 months 95-96 96-97 97-98 98-99
High Intensity Conflict (HIC) More than 1,000 20 20 16 22
Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) 100 to 1,000 31 59 70 77
Violent Political Conflict (VPC) Less than 100 44 45 114 151
Total    95 124 200 250

Table 1: Armed Conflict Between 1995 and 1999 (PIOOM)(7)

9. The PIOOM table shows that the number of high intensity conflicts has remained relatively steady over the last four complete years. Low intensity conflicts have increased from 31 to 77 over the same period, however, and there has been a dramatic rise in violent political conflicts from 44 to 151. For the international community, such widespread armed conflict within states is difficult to control, and has consequences beyond the origins of each conflict.

Immediate Consequences of Armed Conflict

10. Regardless of the rationale and expectations of the combatants, the immediate consequences of armed conflict in the name of identity or belief are almost all negative, and may be summarized as follows:

  • Fatalities in unacceptably high numbers, particularly amongst non-combatants, that cannot be stopped without third-party intervention. Cumulative deaths in the ongoing 17-year inter-ethnic hostilities in Sudan, for example, total close to two million;
  • Permanent injuries such as amputations are not as well documented, but certainly exceed the total number of fatalities;
  • Ethnic cleansing has been attempted recently with some degree of success in, inter alia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sudan, in conditions described by the former head of Médecins Sans Frontières as “a new age of barbarism;”
  • Poverty is exacerbated in the world's poorest countries where much of the armed conflict occurs, nullifying any chance of improving the already low standards of living;
  • Hunger is made worse by the inability to plant or harvest food or by the deliberate destruction of crops, to the point where natural droughts become famine in war-torn countries such as Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan;
  • Disease is spread due to the conditions under which those driven from their homes must survive, and the disruption to inoculation programs in countries such as Sierra Leone;
  • Landmines take an estimated annual toll of 15,000 deaths(8) amongst those returning to their homes who attempt to cultivate areas where unmarked minefields were sown;
  • Law and Order breaks down in certain countries, as in post-1996 Chechnya, with the government unable to guarantee security for its own citizens, aid groups or other visitors, and unable or unwilling to stop the export of terrorism and crime;
  • “Persons of Concern” to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are created, numbering 22.3 million as of January 1999, an improvement on the 1995 record, which at 27 million approached the population of Canada. Persons of concern include:
- refugees totalling 11.5 million
- asylum-seekers who have applied for recognition as refugees (1.3 million)
- returnees monitored by the UNHCR (1.9 million)
- internally displaced persons (IDP) unable to leave their own countries (7.5 million).(9)
  • Humanitarian Emergencies entrap a possible 250 to 300 million people worldwide,(10) close to the population of the USA. These humanitarian emergencies are not all caused by armed conflict within states, but certainly are made worse by the phenomenon; and
  • “Massive” human rights violations occur, according to the UNHCHR, which become “both a consequence of and a contributing factor to instability and further conflict.”(11)

Migratory Pressures

11. In the circumstances described, it is hardly surprising that the effects of armed conflict between and within states increase the migratory pressures around the world. Nor is it surprising that those who have the education, skills or investment potential to meet the immigration standards of the developed world leave their homelands in pursuit of a better life, thereby depriving developing countries of much of the talent and expertise they need to progress.

12. When the situation is desperate, others claim refugee status, posing the conundrum as to who is a legitimate refugee. Explaining how ethnic violence and conflict in Central Africa in the 1990s “led to mass movements of people and an immigrant-led insurgency toppled two governments and threatened several others,”(12) The Age of Migration reports that “The collapse of government forces and their Hutu extremist allies led millions of Rwandan Hutus to flee to Tanzania and Zaire. Many of the perpetrators of mass killings fled with them.”(13)

13. The worldwide problem of migratory pressures created by armed conflict is too large and complex a subject to be given adequate treatment here. The bottom line is that while the developed world prospers, much of the rest of the world is bedevilled by the disastrous consequences of armed conflict between ethnic and religious groups. The resultant tide of refugees, IDPs, and those living in humanitarian emergencies is too large to be absorbed easily, and there is no ready solution in sight.



14. There are security interests of concern to the international community and the various organizations to which Canada belongs, resulting from the immediate consequences of the various types of armed conflict described above. Some of these interests are discussed below:  

  • Twice in the 1990s, for the first time since the Korean War, Canada went to war at short notice. Nobody predicted these conflicts, and it is doubtful if anyone knows when the next conflict will require Canadian involvement;
  • For the first thirty years of UN peacekeeping, only 13 peacekeeping operations were deployed; in the last twelve years, 36 have been required. Few were predicted, most involved Canada, and almost all were mounted on short warning;
  • The ability to “peacemake” has not proven to be as easy to effect as peacekeeping, as once was optimistically expected. There are no blueprints for the type of complex operations in which Canadian personnel are involved in the Balkans, for example; they are new and evolving, with the security outcome difficult to predict;
  • Most of the 250 armed conflicts outlined in Table 1 above are located in countries which share collective security membership with Canada in the UN, the Commonwealth, or La Francophonie. As a middle power of some significance in these organizations, Canada is called upon to play a leadership role in the resolution of these conflicts;
  • Canadian prosperity depends to a great extent on trade, so Canada is interested not only in the peaceful resolution of global conflicts, but a stable world in which to prosper;
  • 1.5 million Canadians live outside Canada and up to four million Canadians travel abroad each year as employees of government, NGOs, private enterprises, missionary groups, peacekeepers and tourists. Attacks on any of these groups, deliberate or accidental, is a concern for Canada;(14)
  • Hijackings and kidnappings also are a concern. The Canadians captured in Columbia last fall eventually were released unharmed, as were the Canadian hostages seized at the Japanese embassy in Lima, Peru, in 1997 ; but British and New Zealand civilian communications workers kidnapped in Chechnya in 1998, for example, were beheaded;
  • Terrorist tactics such as car bombs and armed attacks on groups of tourists in crowded areas indiscriminately place uninvolved people at risk;
  • In accordance with the principle of the self-determination of peoples, the UN expanded from 51 members in 1946 to over 180 today, adding 21 in the 1990s alone. The previous UN Secretary-General warned that if the trend continued, the world would consist of several hundred mini-states, most of them economically unsustainable, in itself hardly a recipe for peace and stability; and
  • Many of the 250 conflicts will not be resolved in a manner satisfactory to all parties. Winners normally will form the government, with intelligence and security forces to keep them in power; losers will tend to form terrorist organizations to continue and export the struggle to the developed world and strive to obtain the best publicity for their cause.

Prevention and Control

15. The prevention and control of these international security problems will require an international response. Progress has been made, but a much greater degree of cooperation between states and organizations than hitherto has been possible will be needed in the future.  


16. Canada is interested in preventing the import of political conflict from abroad, in any of its various pernicious forms. Most immigrants and refugees seek a better life, and those who settle in Canada are entitled to leave their conflicts behind them and be protected in this country from harassment, coercion or physical violence. Unfortunately, there have been too many examples in recent years of illegal, undesirable or violent acts in Canada associated with homeland conflicts elsewhere, most of which have been reported adequately in the news media. Some examples follow:

  • the assassination of a Turkish military attaché in Ottawa;
  • the Air India bombing that claimed 329 lives;
  • an attack on the Turkish embassy that caused the death of a Canadian security guard;
  • a bomb of Canadian origin that killed 2 people in Japan's Narita airport;
  • the wounding of a cabinet minister from the Punjab visiting BC;
  • the shooting of a Punjabi-language newspaper editor in Vancouver;
  • the occupation of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa, without loss of life;
  • an attack on a Sudanese politician at the Ottawa airport;
  • Kurdish and Serbian demonstrations that turned violent and caused injuries; and
  • widely reported attempts by apprehended terrorists to cross the border into the USA.
17. To prevent repetitions of similar acts and the import of political conflict from abroad, the Service applies the CSIS Act to:
  • operate a counterterrorism program that includes the investigation of more than 50 organizations and over 350 individuals;
  • discourage foreign intelligence services from interfering with expatriate nationals residing in Canada who might sympathize with homeland conflicts abroad;
  • protect Canadian citizens from monitoring, manipulation, coercion or threats of violence from representatives on either side of homeland conflicts;
  • deny terrorist organizations the chance to use Canada to plan, finance and support operations abroad;
  • frustrate the continuous attempts of terrorists to use Canada as a staging area for entry into the United States;
  • conduct security screening to expel or prevent the entry of war criminals and members of terrorist groups or transnational criminal organizations;
  • prevent the loss of Canadian economic information that could benefit insurgencies elsewhere;
  • ensure that Canadian cyberassets are secure from the more sophisticated terrorist groups;
  • cooperate with law enforcement agencies to counter the import of transnational criminal activity intended to raise money for overseas causes; and
  • prevent the export of Canadian precursors, information and expertise needed to make weapons of mass destruction.


18. A review of the available open-source information on conflicts between and within states worldwide leads to the following conclusions:

  • the instability and use of violence for political purposes caused by conflict between and within states that was evident in the 1990s continues into the 21st century;
  • a positive trend is that conflict between states is declining; but
  • three negative trends in conflict between and within states are discernible;
- an explosion of conflict within states between ethnic and religious groups;
- a significant rise in the danger to non-combatants; and
- a deterioration in the behaviour of armed aggressors towards their victims;
  • the immediate consequences of armed conflict are disastrous for the countries involved;
  • migratory pressures are created for which essentially there is no remedy;
  • armed conflict between and within states creates international security problems for Canada and the organizations to which Canada belongs, requiring an international response; and
  • conflict between and within states abroad creates domestic security problems for Canada, requiring a cooperative interdepartmental government response.
(More than 1,000 deaths, 1998-99)
No. Esc. Country Began Fatalities Cumulative Deaths
1.   Sudan 1983- 100,000 2,000,000
2.   Ethiopia-Eritrea 1988- 50,000 50.000-70,000
3.   Yugoslavia (Kosovo) 1998- 18,000 18,000
4.   Afghanistan 1978- 10,000 500,000
5.   Angola 1991- 10,000 1,500,000
6.   Sierra Leone 1991- 6,000 50,000-150,000
7.   Congo, DR 1998- 6,000 6,000
8.   Algeria 1990- 5,000 100,000-120,000
Sri Lanka 1983- 5,000 60,000-75,000
10.   Colombia 1964- 5,000 45,000-250,000
11.   Russia (Chechnya) 1999- 5,000 5,000
12.   India-Pakistan 1989- 3,000 30,000-70,000
13.   Turkey 1983- 3,000 40,000
14.   Uganda  1989-  2,000 12,000-300,000
15.   Congo-Brazzaville 1993- 2,000 15,000
16.   Rwanda 1994- 1,000 825,000-1,000,000
17.   Guinea-Bissau 1998- 1,000 1,000
18.   Iraq-US, UK 1998- 1,000 1,000-2,000
20.   Pakistan (Punjab) 1985- 1,000 1,000
21.   Pakistan (Sindh) 1986- 1,000 5,000
22.   Iraq (Kurds) 1987- 1,000 100,000-250,000
Iraq (Marsh Arabs) 1991- 1,000 30,000-100,000
24.   Russia (Daghestan) 1999- 1,000 1,000
25.   Indonesia (E.Timor) 1975- 1,000 200,000

situation de-escalates; situation escalates = situation remains more or less the same



1. Ruth Leger Sivard et al., World Military and Social Expenditures, 16th edition, Washington, 1966, p. 7.

2. Ibid.

3. Margareta Sollenberg et al., SIPRI Yearbook: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, 1989-1998 inclusive.

4. Dan Smith et al., The State of War and Peace Atlas, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, 1997, p. 13.

5. Ibid., p. 14.

6. Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “There Must Be Accountability for East Timor's Ordeal,” International Herald Tribune, September 9, 1999, p.12.

7. A.J. Jongman, “Downward Trend in Armed Conflicts Reversed,” PIOOM Newsletter, Winter 1999/2000, Vol. 9, No.1, p.29. Figures are current to mid-1999.

8. Ibid, p.29

9. Sadako Ogata, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Funding and Donor Relations, p.13.

10. A.J. Jongman A.P. Schmid, “Mapping Dimensions of Contemporary Conflicts and Human Rights Violations,” PIOOM, 1998, citing R. Väyrynen, “The Age of Humanitarian Emergencies,”Helsinki, WIDER, Research for Action, 25, 1996.

11. Mary Robinson, UNHCHR, p.12.

12. Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller, The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World, New York, 1998, p.15.

13. Ibid., p.14.

14. The Report of the Special Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence, Ottawa, Canada, January 1999, p.6.

15. A.J. Jongman, p.29. Figures are current to November 1999.

Perspectives is a publication of the Requirements, Analysis and Production Branch of CSIS. Comments concerning publications may be made to the Director General, Requirements, Analysis and Production Branch at the following address: Box 9732, Stn. “T”, Ottawa, Ont., K1G 4G4, or by fax at (613) 842-1312. 

Disclaimer: The Canadian Security Intelligence Service assumes no responsibility for the use of the information at this World Wide Web (WWW) site.
Updated: 2000-11-01   Important Notices