About Stealth Conflicts

Here is a quick video introduction to the problem of Stealth Conflicts.

A written introduction is below. Stealth conflicts are those that do not appear on the ‘radars’ of those in a position to respond. That is, they fail to attract the attention of policymakers, the media, the public and academia. Just like the stealth bomber, they remain virtually undetected as they extract their deadly toll. It is indeed because of the stealth with which they are played out that they become so deadly: deprived of attention, starvation and disease associated with the conflict remain unchecked and claim far more victims than do the bullets and bombs.Such conflicts are often referred to as ‘forgotten conflicts’ (or ‘forgotten crises’), but this term is misleading. For a conflict to be forgotten, it must first be remembered, and this does not apply to many of the world’s conflicts that fail to attract attention. They were not remembered to begin with. Furthermore, the term ‘forgotten’ suggests that the conflict has just accidentally slipped the minds of those in a position to respond, but this is hardly the case. The marginalization of these conflicts is the result of a series of deliberate choices on the part of those in a position to respond. There is nothing accidental about it.

Selectivity in the response to conflict is sadly inevitable, as is the existence of stealth conflicts, but the world’s deadliest conflicts should certainly not be among them. And yet they are, with the deadliest conflict the world has seen since WWII – that in the Democratic Republic of Congo – being notoriously missing from our consciousness.

Stealth Conflicts book

This blog aims to shed light on such stealth conflicts and the mechanisms that are behind their marginalization. It is an extension and exploration of ideas contained in a book written by the author of this blog, entitled Stealth Conflicts: How the World’s Worst Violence Is Ignored (the book’s table of contents is here, the introduction is here and part of Chapter One can be found using the Look Inside function at Amazon). Links to reviews of the book can also be found on the right-hand side of this page.

In addition to the full posts, don’t forget to check out the shorter Quick notes, thoughts and updates section.

Do you have something to contribute on this important subject? Go to the newly opened Stealth Conflicts Forum and write your own post on conflicts that are ignored and marginalized. The floor is open!

 For those interested in the UN Security Council, here is my other book – The Silence of the UN Security Council: Conflict and Peace Enforcement in the 1990s. This also deals with stealth conflicts (and conflict resolution), but through the Security Council.



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62 Responses to “About Stealth Conflicts”

  1. Thanks for visiting my blog http://wafiyaf.wordpress.com/ and your encouragement. I found your articles very helpful and have linked to some of them. Please keep up the good work. Your book looks great but a little steep for my wallet, but I’ll see if the library can get it in. Thanks

  2. Thanks for that Scott. The more people we can help to know about the conflict in the DRC the better (and there seem to be very few of ‘us’ out there). I understand the price of the book is steep – in its current form (hardcover) it is designed mostly for libraries, so I do hope your library can get it in. All the best and let’s stick at it!

  3. Virgil,

    Thanks for the endorsement of my Congo article. And, yes, the world’s worst violence is ignored, or, in other cases, made to look like it is result of something else other than grubbing for money and riches.

    Great looking site and I will definitely check out your book!


  4. Blog admin Says:

    Hi Virgil,

    Thanks for your comment. I like your path (going back to university after 6 years in the field is something I want to do). I am also very much interested on forgotten conflicts from a media perspective. I see here Ken Anderson writing, that´s funny, I also liked his article very much. I´ll follow your blog. All the best,

    an humanitarian worker in Goma, DRC


  5. Dr. Hawkins,

    FYI, I published a plug for your book, which I am looking forward to getting soon, on one of my other outlets, the fairly well known team blog called Newshoggers.

    Book Plug: Stealth Conflicts

    Thought you might like to know.

  6. Thank you very much for that, Ken! That’s really a great help. Let’s hope we can get more and more people thinking and talking about this issue. I really have to get cracking on writing some more posts.

  7. Hi Virgil

    Thanks for the comment. I will add you to my blogroll.


  8. Hi,

    I am having trouble understanding the layout and content of your site. I click “dictators” and all I can read about is the case in Guinea, with a reference to Niyazov.

    I would have expected a more comprehensive treatment of *all* conflicts, dictators etc. that just are not making the news. I live in Yemen where the government has been waging a war with Zaydi rebels for the last few years. Journalists have been shut out and thre’s hardly been a whisper in the media or from the US government, for whom Yemen is an ally in the “War on Terror”.
    But I have no idea if your site mentions this conflict – I wouldn’t know where to start looking.

    I think your blog needs more encyclopaedic content, sorted and searchable by conflict, actors, region, etc. – but that’s just my thoughts.

    Otherwise, good idea.

  9. Hello Marc,

    Thank you for your comments. I would love to be able to provide a comprehensive coverage of all conflicts and dictators that are ignored. Unfortunately, though, there are so many conflicts and dictators that are ignored (most of them are!), and I have just recently started this blog, so I still have written only 12 entries. I find myself quite busy with other work, and am only able to come up with about 1 blog entry per week. So at this stage, with few entries in each of the categories, it is probably best to look not at the “Categories”, but instead at the “Recent Posts” as they are slowly added.

    Furthermore, I tend to concentrate on Africa in this blog, because it is the host to almost 90 percent of the world’s conflict-related deaths in the last twenty years. Despite this, most are ignored. I am also trying to respond to major events as they happen (coups, massacres, and major developments in conflicts, for example), particularly those that seem to be ignored.

    That being said, thank you for the tip-off on the conflict in Yemen. This is indeed a stealth conflict. I understand that between 2 and 3,000 people have been killed since 2004 in this conflict, and you are right – there has been hardly a whisper. It would appear that it is uncomfortable for the US government to draw any attention to the conflict (which would make its ally look bad), and the media follows suit (as it usually does). I hope to be able to work in something about this in one of my future posts.

    I wish you all the best in trying to draw attention to this terrible conflict.

  10. As there are clearly several of you who are interested and involved in trying to inform the world about the many under-reported conflits in Africa and perhaps elsewhere, may I suggest that, instead of a blog, you start a wiki that focusses on conflict? Doing so would allow those with knowledge to share it, and prevent all the work from falling on just one person.

    If you are concerned about sabotage, you coould control who is permitted to add to to it and edit.

    Keep it up!

    p.s. I learned about your site through a NI blog posting.

  11. Thank you for the suggestion, Martin. Sounds like a good idea! I will definitely look into doing it. It would be a good way to get a broader group of people interested – including many who don’t happen to stumble upon the blog.

  12. Hi Virgil! I just saw your movie for the first time today. Nice work!

    I’ve been out of the loop for a few weeks, as I’ve just moved to Amsterdam, so I don’t know how long ago you put that up, but it is great intro. Anyway, hoping to get back into the groove soon.

  13. Hi Ken, and welcome back to the loop. I hope you are settling in there in Amsterdam. Thank you for the encouraging words on the video! I’m glad you liked it. I put it up in early February. You may have also noticed that I have started Stealth Conflicts Forum (just yesterday actually). I hope to have people with an interest in this issue writing posts. I know you are busy with your own blogs, but it would be great to have you write a short post for it if you have the time and the interest!

  14. Virgil,

    Yes, I’d be happy to jump in when I can. I have found a particularly interesting article (from Friends of the Congo) about the “arrest” of Nkunkda people interested in such things might find informative.


  15. Great! Will look forward to it!

  16. I embedded your video into my blog in order to spread your word!

  17. Thanks for that, Suzanne. Let us all continue to spread the message.

  18. Hi Virgil,

    this looks great, very interesting indeed. I’m just starting a blog up about Congo myself to discuss the under-representation of media reporting in the DRC to coincide with my thesis on the same subject. I’m also hoping to link together people like yourselves and hopefully spread the discussion.

    Who knows, it might even make it into the media one day….

    All the best,

  19. Oh, and I’ve already quoted you in my thesis…

  20. Thanks Simon for the words of encouragement and for quoting me. I’m very glad to hear about your blog and your thesis. This is very encouraging. Let us keep in touch and keep pushing.

  21. RaiulBaztepo Says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  22. Cool site, love the info.

  23. great site, keep the good work rolling. thank you for the informations, it’s open my eyes!

  24. I visited this site for the first time since I knew this issue at One World Festival. Then we talked about UN OCHA. I wonder how that study goes. I’d love to learn more about the stealth conflicts.

  25. Katsue san,

    Thank you for visiting our booth at the One World Festival, and thanks for visiting this blog! I hope you help spread the word, and that you can join in the next time we hold an event about these stealth conflicts.

  26. Looking forward to that event!

  27. Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other.


  28. Mr Hawkins

    I found your initiative very impressive, and wanted to read your book. In fact I will participate to the international AUSTRIAN STUDY CENTER FOR PEACE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION conference with an article. This years theme is about forgotten conflicts and media coverage. It is pitty that I learned about your book so lately. I could surely use it and could findvery impessive points to cite. So I searched the book in some libraries but couldnt find. I wish to ask if you know any place or publication center where I can find it ?

  29. Hello Samil.
    Thank you for your interest. The conference sounds very interesting. I checked Worldcat to see where copies of the book can be found. I don’t know if you are based in Austria or not, but there appear to be none there at the moment. There are copies in Slovenia (Institute of Information Science), Germany (Bavarian State Library and George C Marshall European Center) and Switzerland (ZHB and Zentralbibliothek Zurich). Perhaps you could put in a book request at a library near you, or use an interlibrary loan.
    I hope you get hold of a copy.

  30. Susan Blencowe Says:

    Just found the site – glad to be informed.

  31. i’d like to add your blog to my blogroll as well. do you mind?

  32. Thank you Masami. Please do.

  33. Dear Sir,

    I have just sent the following email to Anne Nolan,the Marketing Director of your publisher.Please read it and explain to me why don’t you do something to make your book available to the general public?!

    “Dear Madam

    I see that your book STEALTH CONFLICTS is sold in Amazon for $100.As it seems,this unique and original book is not written in obscure academic language.Why don’t you make it available to the general public at a …normal price? I would have liked to buy this book for myself,as well as to give it as a gift to friends and…politicians.However,your price is prohibitive.Only institutions and libraries can afford this price.From similar comments in Amazon,it seems that other people share my view.I’m sure this important book will sell a lot if you make it available as a paperback at a normal and affordable price.

    Hoping you will do it soon,


    Nicolas H.”

    Thank you.

  34. Nicolas,

    Thanks for the message. I appreciate your frustration. Unfortunately, the world of publishing can be a bit tricky at times. One of the downsides of publishing with Ashgate is the price – this is not just for my book, but it is pretty standard for all the books they publish. It is not negotiable.

    Having said that, I also want to get my book out in paperback at an affordable price. I have, in fact, written to the publisher more than once about this, but have yet to make headway. I think your message to me is a sign that I need to try again and make it happen.

    In the meantime, I wonder if you can find it in a library near where you are? Also in the meantime, I hope you continue to read this blog. I started writing this blog to get my message out to a much wider audience. While the information in my book is better backed up with references and data, and is more comprehensive and organized, the message, as you can guess, is quite similar.

    Thanks for the interest, and I’ll see what I can do to get the book out in paperback.

  35. Hi,

    My class (Media and Conflict) has been assigned a question directly relating to your work.

    This is the question:

    What are the strengths and weaknesses behind claims regarding “Stealth Conflicts” and the media?

    Any words of wisdom!

  36. Hi Anon, and thanks for the message.

    It certainly sounds like an interesting question, but as it is (just from the question itself), I don’t think I can give you any words of wisdom.

    Perhaps it’s best that you first tell me your thoughts (from the class and from your readings), and then I can then offer my comments on them. I will look forward to hearing your ideas.

  37. Hi Virgil,
    I’m a journalist based in South Africa and am very interested in interviewing you about why Africa’s conflicts often get ignored by the international (and dare I say domestic) community – often accompanied by “well, that’s Africa for you”.
    Please mail me back with your thoughts as well if you Skype.

  38. Hi David,

    Thanks for the message. I’ll send you an email.

  39. I have read alot about this book and was wondering if it will ever be published in paperback so I can afford it?

    I studied African History at university and whilst I now do a completely unrelated job I am still very interested in it, and particularly the DRC. I have just purchased “King Leopold’s Ghost.”

    Are there any other books you can recommend on a similar topic? Especially regarding the notions of “tribalism” and the misconceptions and ignorance that this word generates.

  40. To Prof,Virgil.

    Thank you very much for today’s lecture.
    Im Yugo Yamauchi, working Kansai NGO council as a intern.
    Do you remember me? we were talking a little about facebook and something at passage after the lecture.
    Anyway, I was impressed in your words and suprised at real media’s situation.We have to get true information by our hand.
    I will talk my freind about today’s story, and publish true information of Africa for lots of people on the web.

    I hope to listen your grate lecture again.
    See you then.
    Yugo Yamauchi

  41. Dear Dr. Hawkins

    Since I joined the photo exhibition and heard about the detail from you in Osaka Univ., I have been concerned about the crisis in Congo and followed the news on it. I found this footage: http://congojustice.org/

    I hope the footage will be translated into Japanese. I could, but if you have someone appropriate in your lab, I think that’ll be better.

  42. NAKAJIMA Hideaki (Jimmy) Says:

    Thanks for your time yesterday, Virgil.

    I’ll keep tagged on your blog. Let me know when you need any info on Liberia.

  43. Hello Nakajima san,

    Thanks for the talk. I’ve just posted an article that might interest you. All the best in Liberia!

  44. Obora san,

    I’m really sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Actually the documentary about the crisis in the Congo (made by Friends of the Congo) already has Japanese subtitles. They were added by the same group that you mention – Congo Justice. You can find it here: http://vimeo.com/29126909

  45. conflictoftheday Says:

    thanks for your blog and the educational material about what’s happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’d be hard pressed to call it much of a conflict. The weaker side is so weak that they don’t generate any resistance. They don’t seem to generate resistance because they don’t seem to have any power. They don’t need policymakers, they need a champion. And they need to learn to be their own champion as well.

    My heart goes out to them who are being shot, raped, and ignored. Empower them. Help them to stand up and if they’re going to be shot to at least stand up and scream “I’m a human being and I don’t have to take this”. Help them to stand up to those in power by giving more power themselves. Do you feel that you are called to the Congo?

  46. Hi Mr. Hawkins,
    I am Endah Raharjo from Indonesia. I am using some of the info in your blog for my novelette. Of course, I am not just cut and paste. I place them as a part of a dialogue. I hope you don’t mind.

  47. You have to post more! From speaking to you at ISA I know that you have a lot to say on a broad variety of issues that not many of us know very much about. But you’ve only posted something like 4-5 blog posts in the past year. POST MORE POST MORE POST MORE!

  48. Conflictoftheday, Thanks for the comment. I think it is not so much a case of being ‘called’ to the Congo. The focus on the DRC in this blog has much to do with the huge gap between the scale of the suffering there, and the failure to attract attention. One is hard pressed to find a place where the gap is so great. Attention is not always a good thing, but it can do much in reducing the death tolls.

  49. Hello Endah. I am happy to hear that you are using some of my info for a novelette. I would appreciate it if you acknowledge the use of the info somewhere, and would love to read it when it is complete. Thank you.

  50. Nehama, thanks for the comments, and for pushing me to write more… Yes, I know…I really should. Time always seems to be so limited, and this blog has gotten the short end of the stick… I shall endeavour to rectify the situation!

  51. Hi Mr Virgil ;
    It is always good to find some one like you who talks and writes about the African issues in a perspective that most of the people and the media can not do , always the media tend to live out the most important things about conflicts in Africa simply because they think they are irrelevant , But please thank you for the great work l wish to continue having and reading more of your work keep it up please

  52. Great, £47 for a book….get real, put it out on paperback for £5 for all to learn from it. Thats the problem, most people can read and understand, but no all can afford £47.

  53. John (the first one)
    Thank you for the encouraging words. I will keep trying to put posts up.

    John (the second one)
    I understand your concern. The book was put out by an academic publisher, which is what makes it expensive, and it means that it tends to end up in libraries, where it can be read for free. If you are a student, it might be in your university library, or you might be able to get it through an inter-library loan.

    I have been trying to ‘get real’, and to get a paperback version published, but without success so far. I am also trying to get started on writing another book dealing with this subject that is less academic and will be available at an affordable price from the outset.

    In the meantime, I am trying to write blog articles when I can and put them up, and these are all in line with what is in the book. All the articles here are free, and I assume you have read a number of them. Criticism is welcome, but so is being nice.

  54. I’m swedish, living in Sweden. 1993 to approx. 2002 I lived in France and in Belgium. There I could read about the conflict in Congo a lot more than since I returned to live in Sweden. When I came home to Sweden I actively looked for news from Congo and also from Algeria and some other places. Nothing or almost nothing. In your opinion, concerning the Congo-conflict, has language played som kind of role in the newsflow especially in the englishspeaking/englishdominated world?

  55. Thank you for your comment/question, Lena. Yes, I agree that language certainly plays a role. It can be a little difficult to quantify, and the case of France/Belgium reporting on the DRC is not only a case of language – for Belgium it is, of course, a matter of a former colony. But according to a number of studies, trade levels also play a large role – the larger the volume of trade between the countries, the greater the coverage (although there are many exceptions). I think this applies in the case of France and Belgium, although the levels of trade also have something to do with language (it’s easier to do business). I think the language difference has played a role in the English-language newsflow, but there are a number of other factors (complexity, the complicity of Western allies, access) that get in the way of just how much this is a barrier. Language ceased to be a barrier in the case of Darfur, for example, when other factors make it more ‘newsworthy’.

  56. Rod Bradbury Says:

    Another full-page review of your book in the Swedish (independent, right wing) daily Svenska Dagbladet 22 Jan. entitled: The largest wars in the world are invisible in the media.

  57. Thank you Rod. Yes, I have been in contact with the author and he informed me about the article being published. I am grateful for it.

  58. Hi Virgil! Will you be in the UK at some point from October to mid-March? The Cambridge University Russell Society is very keen to invite you as a speaker. We would send a more formal email but cannot find you address, sorry! Just email me back and I’ll send over some more info. Thank you and kind regards, Sophia

  59. Felix Cassim @ Mzuzu University Says:

    Prof. Hawkins
    Am a student at Mzuzu university. Am anxiously waiting to hear from you on stealth conflicts and the media when you visit us. Wishing you nice travel.

  60. nice info sir..
    thank’s u..

  61. This is very insightful. Thanks and keep posting!

  62. There are enough “stelthies” around
    I for one have witnessed the casamance massacre. Not quite as spectacular as palestine…but has handicapped over 30.000 people, thanks to landmines…sold by, lo and behold, defence merchants from the US and also France.
    Its quite surreal seeing kids of 4-7 walking arond in “prothese” (i dont know the english word exactly). Quite an education 9n how stupid we can become when confronted with our creation (money/cash/moolah/dosh/paisa…..)

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