Forgotten conflicts

It is a rare occurrence that the average citizen can identify important issues outside of regular media coverage. When asked about conflicts currently occurring around the globe, most people could name the most popular of issues.

The conflict in Israel-Palestine and the War on Terror are reported on frequently by the media. The current civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or issues within Thailand and Somalia are reported on regularly.

But few people would be able to give details on conflicts in places such as Burundi, Nigeria or Yemen despite the multitudes of deaths occurring there each year. In Burundi death tolls equalled 140, in Nigeria over 500, and in Yemen it is estimated that the number reaches over 1,000.

The Armed Conflict Report compiled by the non-governmental organization Project Ploughshares tracks the number of conflicts occurring each year. These numbers however come only from direct fighting and do not account for structural violence that occurs from poverty, hunger and disease.

Edmund Pries, a global studies instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University, provided a potential reason for why some conflicts are often omitted by mainstream media reports here in the West.

“The amount of attention a conflict receives is usually directly related to the amount of economic investment the wealthy nations have in the particular conflict region,” he explained.

“The greater our investment, the more attentive our media interest is also.”

Pries emphasized that human rights tend to take a backseat when we intervene in conflicts.

“The right to life and right to live in peace are not considered as important as the economic wealth we can extract from that part of the world. That is one of the great moral issues that should trouble us,” he said.

To sum up the West’s approach to conflicts and therefore their media outlets’ approach to conflicts, Pries quoted US Assistant Defence Secretary Lawrence Koth when the US and its allies initially invaded to free oil-rich Kuwait from Iraqi control in the First Gulf War. “If Kuwait grew carrots, we wouldn’t give a damn.”