A global conflict survey has found terror groups and paramilitaries now outnumber government forces on the battlefield.
The findings, published in the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Armed Conflict Survey (ACS), also suggest that while the total number of conflicts has fallen, wars are lasting longer.
In 21 of 33 active armed conflicts across the globe the number of non-state actors exceeded the number of state groups, with more of these groups operating under a decentralised chain of command.
The IISS also found many wars are lasting longer, due to the growing involvement of armed non-state groups.
The nature of 21st century conflict has also been found to be more complex, with the use of technology, such as drones, prolonging violence.
The 2020 ACS has covered key political, military and humanitarian developments in 33 conflicts, down from 40 in 2015, across six global regions, highlighting the evolution of those conflicts.
The survey found that more than 60% of armed conflicts have been ongoing for at least 10 years.
While regions like Central African Republic, Sudan, and South Sudan all saw a drop in violence in the past year, areas such as Libya and the Sahel desert in west Africa have seen unprecedented levels of conflict.
South Sudan, one of those nations where violence has fallen, has seen hundreds of British personnel deployed there in a peacekeeping role.
The country was the location of the UK's largest United Nations mission, until its conclusion in January after four years.
Another key finding was the internationalisation of conflict - in particular, the influence of Russia in foreign wars.
"In more and more conflict theatres, we see a growing number of actors from the immediate regions, but also from further afield becoming deeply entrenched in those conflicts," said Virginia Comolli, Senior Fellow for Conflict, Security and Development at IISS.
"We also see how the rivalries among those external actors are actually playing out and affecting the conflict."
Cover image: Islamic State positions being attacked in Afghanistan's Nangahar Province in 2017 (Picture: US Army).