Political adversaries or critics are mostly abducted by the state or state-like institutions for political reasons, and to render them powerless. They are brought to secret places; are often tortured and murdered. Families are not only left in the dark about their whereabouts and condition but also about the reasons why they have been abducted and by whom. Furthermore, the very fact that they have vanished is not officially acknowledged.


A mix between democracy and autocracy in which, despite democratic procedures and elements, elites hold the power.


An autocracy is a form of government in which a country is ruled by one person or group (party, central committee, junta). Participation of the population is not wanted or only in part, as for instance is the case of the absolute monarchy or a dictatorship. Autocracies can be divided into authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. The use of force may be arbitrary and solely geared towards the personal interests of the ruler.

Child soldiers

Child soldiers are children up to the age of 18 who participate in a conflict or war as armed fighters or helpers of a group or armed force. Often they are forced into submission through indoctrination, threats and the use of violence or drugs to participate in war-like action such as laying mines or explosives, fighting, espionage, and carrying ammunition. Child soldiers have to live under extreme conditions, often without sufficient food or lacking access to medical facilities. Often, they are physically, psychologically and sexually abused.


The term democracy represents firstly the ideal form of governance that is legitimated by the consent of the majority and the participation of the population, and where the power emanates from the people (‘rule of the people’). Secondly, it represents some existing political systems in which the democratic principle is anchored in their respective basic laws. These systems are characterised by free elections, principles of majority, political representation and, above all, constitutionality and the protection of basic or civil rights. There are different forms of democracy. One generally differentiates between a direct and a representative democracy. In its original sense, democracy meant the rule of the people. (Greek, “demos”=people, “kratia”=rule). Today, elected representatives, the ‘government,’ rule the state.

Development, catching up

The process of change is inherent to development. But a normative aspect is added when the term is used for the change of a country, in particular of developing countries. The political and economic development of a developing or threshold country is to be guided by the example of “developed” industrial countries. In this context, development must be understood as ‘catching up’ and includes social, infrastructural and demographic aspects.

Ethnic minority

A group of people is called an ethnic minority when it represents a minority compared to other ethnic groups in a country. An ethnic group is characterised by people who are connected by a common history, uniform and independent culture and language, and a specific territory. Ethnic minorities can also be spread over state borders, when their home territory has been divided by various states. If this spread occurs worldwide, one speaks of diasporas.

Extrajudicial killing

Forms of extrajudicial killing are homicides and executions carried out or ordered by official state organs without a proper trial. When these killings are ordered by the state, they are mostly executed by the military, the police, private groups, security forces or agents. The victims, mostly prisoners, criminals or dissidents, are killed for religious, political, economic or social reasons.

Gini coefficient

The Gini coefficient, developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini, measures the inequality of a distribution between individuals or households within a state. It can calculate deviations from a theoretically absolutely equal distribution. The World Bank uses the coefficient to measure the inequality of distribution of income. The Gini Index lies between 0 (perfect equality) and 100 (absolute inequality).


When individuals, groups or social strata are kept from freely exercising control over their actions, it is called oppression. Such oppressive behaviour is justified by the apparent ‘inferiority’ due to their ‘otherness’ in contrast to one or more dominant groups. These groups as part of a state, or the state itself can oppress minorities. The threat of violence or persecution, the actual infliction of violence or the persecution of minorities are some manifestations of oppression.

Political prisoner

A political prisoner is a person who has been arrested for political or ideological reasons by the state. This arrest and imprisonment often violates fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of thought, of religion, of speech, of information, of assembly and without occurrence of an offence.

From a Western democratic point of view, such prisoners are often understood as political prisoners who have been arrested because of their opposition to a dictatorial regime (dissidents). From the point of view of legal theory, there is no clear distinction between political and legitimate prisoners as the arrests criticised by others as politically motivated are covered mostly by corresponding criminal offences in the respective (il)legal systems. Whether or not a prisoner is a political prisoner can only be judged against the different evaluation of the legitimacy of the national laws his/her imprisonment is based on compared to one’s own or internationally valid value systems and norms.

Political system / politics

In general terms, one refers to a political system as a state, a constitution, a governing system or an international organisation. It describes a set of principles relating to institutions, procedures, contents and processes that, when combined, result in a certain structure. Politics is the political process through opinion-making and a transferral of interest by parties, trade unions, lobby groups, professional organisations/stakeholders and individuals. These processes take place within the political system.


The struggle to survive at a bare subsistence level equivalent to a daily income of approx. one US dollar per day, according to the World Bank. More than one billion people live in poverty. Poverty is relative and has to be seen in light of various societies. There are vast differences between poor people in industrialised, threshold and developing countries. But also within individual countries, there is a widening of the chasm between rich and poor.


In general terms, those that are called refugees are people who leave their home country for various reasons that threaten their very existence and that seek protection elsewhere. If they flee within the borders of their country to another location, they are defined as (internally) displaced persons. Causes for flight can be manifold: war, social, economic, political, ecological reasons as well as the fear of persecution due to religion, nationality, political belief, ethnicity or membership of social groups. Those who flee often have to suffer poverty, the loss of their social standing, psychological hardship and an uncertain future. While the legal status of refugees is laid down in the UN Convention Related to the Status of Refugees (‘Geneva Convention’), people who flee for ecological or economic reasons do not carry the status of refugees.


  • Africa: Egypt, Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Djibouti, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Kenya, Comoros, Republic of Congo, DR Congo, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mauretania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Somaliland, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Chad, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara, Central African Republic

  • Americas: US Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Curação, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guyana, Grenada, Greenland, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Caiman Islands, Columbia, Cuba, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uruguay, United States, Venezuela

  • Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Hongkong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Korea, Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, East Timor, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

  • Australia: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna

  • Europe: Aland Islands, Albania, Andorra, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, United Kingdom, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland, Island, Italy, Jersey, Kosovo, Croatia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Maldives, Malta, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Cyprus, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Rumania, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Vatican City, Belarus, Cyprus

  • Middle East: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Georgia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Yemen, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Territory / border

The territory is an area that belongs to a state and is separated from its neighbours by a border. This border is mostly characterised by natural and more ‘obvious’ borders, such as mountains, rivers or lakes, deserts, forests or jungles. These borders often correspond with linguistic or cultural boundaries. When artificial borders are drawn, for example by colonial powers in Africa, border disputes can often arise and escalate. Corresponding territorial claims can be raised by population groups separated by borders or historically founded claims by a group on a certain territory or cultural assets on this territory.


Torture is the threat of or purposefully inflicted physical or psychological pain to obtain information, a confession or to break the will of the victim of torture. Amongst others, the use of violence and of measures that terrify, cause agony or humiliate the victim are common; the death of the tortured person is an accepted outcome. The torturer is often part of a political, military and/or state group.

Typologies of conflict and war

It is a matter of interpretation when or whether a conflict is called a war or a conflict and it depends which definition is taken as a basis. There are quantitative approaches that mostly refer to the number of deaths per year and qualitative approaches that define war according to characteristics, causal patterns or functional logic. The HIIK (Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research) for instance defines war as the highest of five levels of conflict, which, like a crisis, is amongst the violent conflicts. PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo) defines a conflict with the number of battle deaths (between 25 and 999). A greater number of deaths is then called a war (cf. violent conflict according to PRIO/UCDP). The Correlates of War (COW) approach of the University of Michigan, which defines war as an armed conflict with more than 1000 battle deaths. The AKUF (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kriegsursachenforschung) on the contrary defines disputes as conflict when not all conditions of their definition of war are fulfilled.

(Detailed explanations can be found in the backgrounder on violence, conflict and war as well as in the info texts on violent conflict).

Violent conflict according to PRIO/UCDP

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) and the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo (PRIO) define armed conflict as resulting in a minimum of 25 battle-related deaths per year and in which at least one actor is the government of a state. Reasons for armed conflict range from disagreements over the government or over territory. Conflicts regarding disagreements over the government are generally intra-state conflicts that can be triggered either by the wish to change the political system or by the wish for a new government or its composition. Conflicts regarding territory are either about disagreements between two states or about intra-state efforts of secession or autonomy.

Violent crime

Definitions of violent crime are controversial as the term ‘violence’ itself is not defined and has changed with societal developments and newly created structures. Violence can be considered an act that can have a detrimental effect on or lead to a change of a person. Violent crime subsumes offenses that imply the use of massive violence, such as manslaughter, grievous bodily harm, rape, extortion, robbery, coercion and homicide. Violent crime is mostly committed by male perpetrators who were affected by social influences, such as personal experience of violence (also through media) and a strong discontent with personal and societal living conditions.


War in general is understood as a systematic violent conflict between two or more organised groups over a longer period of time. The classic definition of war is based on the assumption that one of the two actors is a state. A war is organised and is fought with weapons. Its goal is to enforce one’s own superiority and to defeat the opponent by waging a war of aggression, of intervention, of sanctions, a defensive war or a war of liberation. During a war, opponents are killed or injured, and it causes massive damage to infrastructure and the (natural) bases of life. Reasons for war often are economic or ideological interests.

Wartime rape

Rape is defined as an action that involves the penetration of the mouth, vagina or anus by any object or bodily part and that is forced or non-consensual.1 Compared to times of peace, wartime rape is strongly influenced by war and its dynamics: it is decisive to who rapes whom, why, how, where and when. This is how wartime rape differs from other abuse in terms of the rapist and victims, the motivations for the rape and the rape itself.

This definition of rape is based in large part on the definition offered in the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Elements of Crimes, Article 7 Crimes Against Humanity, 7 (1) (g)-1, Crime against humanity of rape.

Buchhandlungen bangen um die Buchpreisbindung

Data tables

For some select map layers, the information portal ‘War and Peace’ provides the user with all used data sets as tables.

More ...
Magnifying Glass in front of a Boston map

Country portraits

In the country reports, data and information are collected by country and put into tables that are used in the modules as a basis for maps and illustrations.

More ...
Compass with Mirror

Navigation and operation

The information and data of each module are primarily made available as selectable map layers and are complemented by texts and graphs. The map layers can be found on the right hand side and are listed according to themes and sub-themes.

More ...