Current Trends in Violent Conflict

This report looks at literature on current trends in violent conflict, focusing on ideas that are prevalent from post-2015


This rapid literature review presents the key literature that discusses current trends in violent conflict. The focus is upon recent ideas that are prevalent in literature from post-2015. Drawing on academic and grey literature, the review includes both quantitative analyses of conflict data sets and qualitative analyses. There is much debate amongst conflict studies scholars regarding the decline (PRIO, 2017; 2018; Szayna et al., 2017), or not (National Intelligence Council, 2012; World Bank & United Nations, 2018), of violent conflict, over the past two decades with some highlighting a sustained downward trajectory and others a more complicated picture. Violent conflicts have also become more complex and protracted, involving more non-state groups and regional and international actors. They are increasingly linked to global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, cyber security and transnational organised crime. It is a commonly held view that the nature, intensity and frequency of conflict have evolved in recent years, shifting from wars fought directly between states to various forms of internal or intrastate violence, including insurgencies, guerrilla wars, terrorism, organised and large scale criminal violence and protests. However, the timing, speed, and permanence of these shifts vary and are not uniform for all types of violent conflict. This shift in nature of conflict, corresponds with a long-term decline in traditional symmetrical conflicts (e.g. between armies), to increasing numbers of intrastate conflicts and asymmetric wars (e.g. between state and militia).

K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.


Avis, W. (2019). Current trends in violent conflict. K4D Helpdesk Report 565. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies

Current Trends in Violent Conflict

Published 25 March 2019