If you have minimal knowledge about a conflict, the Conflict Description will be easier to follow if you begin by reading the background section first, followed by the parties to the conflict section and then the summary.
Below are explanations of each section within the Conflict Description:
The Conflict Descriptions report on the most recent full calendar year. For example, Conflict Descriptions for the Armed Conflicts Report 2011 cover the period January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 unless important events or developments occurred in early January, in which case the report will also include information from the first month of 2011.
The first entry for each conflict provides an overall summary of the conflict: what has happened over the year, including the number of fatalities (or trends), plus any significant changes that have occurred in any of the sections. (For example: a change in government or the emergence of a new rebel group.)
Political developments refer primarily to developments that have made matters worse (a newly elected leader who is more militant) or more hopeful (peace efforts). Attempts at peace negotiations (e.g. UN or regional body efforts) are included even if they appear to be going nowhere.
Typical economic factors include general conditions such as poverty and marginalization and conflict over natural resources (diamonds, oil, timber, etc.). Not every conflict has an Economic Factors section.