One In Four Countries Beset By Civil Strife As Global Unrest Soars

January 16: A quarter of all countries experienced a dramatic surge in civil unrest last year in a worrying trend that is likely to continue into 2020, researchers have found.

Verisk Maplecroft, a leading risk analysis and strategic forecasting company, said in a report published on Thursday that 47 countries experienced a significant rise in the number of protests over the course of the past year. Hong Kong, Chile, Nigeria, Sudan, Haiti and Lebanon were among the states affected.

Sudan, where the 30-year presidency of Omar al-Bashir ended last year, overtook war-stricken Yemen to rank top in Verisk Maplecroft’s civil unrest index.

Hong Kong and Chile were deemed the world’s “riskiest locations” in terms of the severity and frequency of protests, said the report, which predicted that the situation was unlikely to improve in either country over the next two years.

North Korea was identified as the most dangerous place to be a protestor.

The research is based on a range of the company’s risk indices, including those charting civil unrest, security forces and human rights.

“The pent-up rage that has boiled over into street protests over the past year has caught most governments by surprise,” said the report, adding that even if tackled immediately, “most of the grievances are deeply entrenched and would take years to address”.

The researchers predicted continued turmoil in 2020 for “a host of governments ill-prepared to handle ongoing bursts of public discontent”. They said protests are likely to increase in 75 countries over the next six months, including China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Thailand.

“With protests continuing to rage across the globe, we expect both the intensity of civil unrest, as well as the total number of countries experiencing disruption, to rise over the coming 12 months,” the study says.

Sam Haynes, head of risk analytics at Verisk Maplecroft and a co-author of the report, identified the 10 countries most at risk of unrest as Venezuela, Iran, Libya, Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chile, Palestine and Ethiopia, “in that order”.

Miha Hribernik, the report’s other co-author and head of Asia risk insight at Verisk Maplecroft, said 10% of countries overall are rated as “extreme risk” in 2020, compared with 5% in 2016.

“The reasons behind the increase are complex and driven by a mix of domestic factors. Nevertheless, while each protest is unique, a large number of them have been driven by similar grievances,” said Hribernik.

“These include stagnating incomes and rising inequality in the decade following the global economic crisis, the loss of trust in traditional political elites, corruption, and the erosion of civil and political rights.”

East Africa witnessed the biggest increase in civil unrest over 2019, followed by east Asia, mainly due to events in Hong Kong, according to Hribernik.

“In east Africa, Ethiopia has been the most affected by an increase in civil unrest, dropping into the extreme risk category during 2019. This is explained largely by a surge in tensions between the government and ethnic minorities, who claim they are economically and politically marginalised,” he said.

Despite efforts by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to alleviate the tensions by co-opting major ethnic groups into the restructure of the ruling party, Hribernik said a further spike in civil unrest is likely in the next six months if elections are delayed or cancelled.

In Sudan, the absence of functioning institutions, he added, means “opposition groups and Darfur militias have little opportunity but to pursue civil unrest”.

Source: The Guardian / Saeed Kamali Dehghan

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