In this special report, ACLED Research Analyst Melissa Pavlik reviews key findings from 16 weeks of data recorded by our COVID-19 Disorder Tracker, highlighting the most significant changes to global political violence and demonstrations trends since the onset of the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought at least half of the world under lockdown (New York Times, 3 April 2020), and killed — at the time of writing — over half a million people (Johns Hopkins University, 31 July 2020). As humanity struggles against this deadly threat, the virus has transformed political priorities and behavior across the globe. Political conflict is a function of politics: as politics shift, so too do political violence patterns.
The end of June marked 16 weeks since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic (WHO, 11 March 2020). Since March, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) has monitored resulting shifts in political violence and protest patterns around the globe through the COVID-19 Disorder Tracker (CDT). The project has documented varying responses across countries and contexts. In some places, reactionary populist leaders refused to take the virus seriously, preferring to perform politics as usual against a backdrop of the rising death toll. In others, power shifted between the people and the state, with the pandemic bringing a halt to mass protest movements and increasing the opportunity for government repression (Foreign Policy, 21 July 2020). In still others, the political inequities and structural violence exposed by the state’s response spurred widespread demonstrations. While fragile peace agreements and global lockdown measures kept fighting to a minimum in some of the world’s conventional conflicts, in many others, armed groups exploited the global catastrophe to push the advantage, leading to an uptick in deadly violence.
What follows is an analysis of the ways in which the coronavirus has contributed to shifting — or static — political violence and protest patterns around the world, using the three-and-a-half months of ACLED data collected since the start of the pandemic (mapped in Figure 1). It shows the world’s population and politics attempting to adjust to the new normal. But above all, it shows that even amidst worldwide crisis and uncertainty, political actors will use violence to pursue their objectives — and while a pandemic alters their incentive structures, opportunities, and timelines, it does not alter this reality.
Before and After: Overall Shifts in Political Disorder
Globally, political violence has decreased in the months following the pandemic declaration relative to the months preceding it — a decrease of 10%. Meanwhile, demonstrations have significantly declined during this same period — a reduction of roughly 30%.
However, this does not mean that coronavirus stopped political disorder in its tracks — and indeed, not all types of disorder declined so steeply. The overall drop in disorder largely stems specifically from the plummeting number of demonstrations1See ACLED’s CDT spotlights, listed in the Appendix below, for more information on the countries and subjects mentioned in bold. since the outbreak of the coronavirus — a reduction of more than 8,000 events in total. Political violence at the aggregate level also decreased, but by a relatively smaller amount (see Figure 2). It is important to note that this decrease is largely driven by countries with a typically high number of violent events, such as Syria and Afghanistan, where the decline in events was largely due to pre-pandemic2Throughout the piece, ‘pre-pandemic’ refers to the period between 20 November 2019 and 10 March 2020 — the 16 weeks prior to the pandemic declaration. ‘Post-pandemic’ refers to the period between 11 March 2020 — when the WHO declared the pandemic — through 30 June 2020, 16 weeks after the pandemic was declared. negotiations, ceasefires, and non-coronavirus-related shifts in the battlespace.3See Inset 5.
In fact, some types of political violence have actually increased since the pandemic’s onset. Specifically, violence against civilians has increased by roughly 2.5%. Mob violence — where spontaneous groups, at most crudely armed, carry out violence against specific individuals or groups — has also risen: ACLED records over 1,800 mob violence events across dozens of countries in the 16 weeks following the pandemic declaration, an 11% increase. Similarly, state repression has increased by 30%, with close to 1,800 events of civilian targeting perpetrated by state forces since the pandemic began. The increase in violence targeting civilians occurred even as states broadly decreased their activity: state forces engaged in roughly 2,500 fewer events since the onset of coronavirus than in the months leading up to it. This decline contrasts sharply with other types of conflict actors: for example, communal militias actually engaged in more events since the start of the pandemic, with over 1,800 events involving communal militias during this period — a 70% increase, largely across East and West Africa.
The general reduction of political violence and demonstration events also appears to be more of a short-term than a long-term phenomenon. Though the number of protest events fell sharply following the onset of the coronavirus, reaching the lowest levels in over 16 months, in recent weeks these numbers have risen again. Similarly, violence targeting civilians quickly surged after a temporary dip in mid-March: by the end of the month, violence targeting civilians reached its highest level of 2020 thus far (see Figure 3).
In short, disorder is down, but this trend is neither universal nor permanent – nor does it apply to every type of political violence. The pandemic’s impact on the global political violence and protest landscape is unequal, and must be disaggregated across type, time, and context.
Demonstration levels worldwide have decreased by nearly a third since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The steepest decrease came in mid-March, immediately following the WHO pandemic announcement, though demonstration events continued to steadily decline until early April, when they began to increase again. These shifts largely held across different types of demonstrations — both violent and non-violent — but were predominantly driven by fluctuations in peaceful protests, which make up the majority of demonstration events. Every region covered by ACLED saw declines in demonstrations during this period, though the steepest decreases were in Africa and South Asia (see Figure 4).
However, at the country-level, the degree to which demonstrations decreased — or whether they did at all — differed substantially. In some cases, such as in Iraq and Lebanon, rising demonstration movements were abruptly cut short by lockdown measures,4See Inset 1. while in others, new demonstration movements — protests against government lockdowns or against poor political responses to the pandemic — broke out. In 52 countries, such as in Israel, Pakistan, and Brazil, the number of demonstrations actually increased in the three and a half months since the pandemic declaration. However, in 88 countries — the vast majority — the number of demonstration events fell (see Table 1).
Table 1. Countries with the largest decreases in demonstration events5Here and throughout the piece, ‘largest increases’ and ‘largest decreases’ is referring to the largest absolute difference in event counts — not the percent difference.
|Country||Number of pre-pandemic demonstrations||Number of post-pandemic demonstrations||Difference||Percent difference|
IN FOCUS: IRAQ & LEBANON
Mass demonstration movements in the Middle East and worldwide were cut short by the pandemic — but not forever.
- Iraq6See the ACLED report Iraq’s October Revolution: Six Months On for in-depth analysis of how Iraq’s demonstration patterns have changed in the post-pandemic era. had the third largest decrease in the number of demonstration events in the post-pandemic period. Iraq also saw the third greatest decrease in the number of violence targeting civilian events.
- Lebanon had the second largest decrease in the number of demonstration events in the post-pandemic period.
2019 featured waves of anti-government demonstrations in multiple countries around the world, including in Iraq and in Lebanon, where demonstrations ousted the countries’ prime ministers. Anti-government protests began in Iraq in late 2019, with demonstrators objecting to economic mismanagement, poor distribution of resources, and rampant corruption. A similar pattern played out in Lebanon. Anti-government demonstrations (known as ‘the October Revolution’) broke out in October 2019, with 100 times as many demonstrations recorded than at any point since before 2016 (when ACLED coverage of Lebanon began).
However, shortly after the declaration of the pandemic, demonstrations in both countries ground to a halt as lockdown measures and strict security protocols forced demonstrators off the street. The outbreak of COVID-19 threatened demonstrators’ ability to gather in large groups and provided a convenient excuse for state suppression — both slowing these movements’ progress and significantly challenging each country’s new government.
Now, amid loosening lockdown restrictions, demonstrations in both Iraq and Lebanon have begun to restart — indicating that widespread discontent has not vanished with the virus. In late April, demonstrations again spiked in Iraq and in Lebanon, corresponding to eased lockdown restrictions — though in neither country have demonstration movements returned to pre-pandemic levels, even as Lebanon especially sinks into an economic crisis. As COVID-19 cases begin to rise again in both countries (NPR, 30 June 2020; Reuters, 27 July 2020) demonstrations may again decrease in tandem. It remains to be seen whether these movements can survive another shutdown, and the state repression that comes with it.
Demonstrations in the age of coronavirus have varied in their size, scope, and triggering events. Many countries which experienced increased demonstration levels (see Table 2) featured protests against the government’s handling of the pandemic response, taking aim at state mismanagement of public assistance and inadequate provision of support. Riots over food and aid distribution have taken place across multiple countries.
Table 2. Countries with the largest increases in the number of demonstration events
|Country||Number of pre-pandemic demonstrations||Number of post-pandemic demonstrations||Difference||Percent difference|
IN FOCUS: INDIA & PAKISTAN
India and Pakistan experienced opposite demonstration trends after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic — what accounts for the difference?
- India had the largest total decrease in the number of demonstration events in the post-pandemic period. India also saw the second-greatest increase in violence targeting civilians, and the fourth-largest increase in organized political violence.
- Pakistan had the largest increase in demonstrations of any country in the dataset.
Out of all countries covered by ACLED, India saw the steepest decrease in the number of demonstrations since the coronavirus outbreak. Its neighbor and regional competitor Pakistan, however, registered the greatest increase in the number of demonstrations.
Though India typically has among the highest demonstration levels in the world, the number of demonstrations has declined substantially in the wake of the pandemic. A nationwide shutdown in early April slowed major demonstrations against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, demonstrations which had spiked after the law’s passage in 2019. The decrease in demonstrations may also be a response to state crackdown and increased violence targeting civilians and protesters — political violence increased in India, even as demonstration levels dropped. This includes state violence targeting civilians, mob violence including the targeting of health workers, and clashes between Indian security forces and domestic rebel groups. Cross-border clashes between the military forces of Pakistan and India have also increased, with Indian authorities expressing concerns that militant groups will use the opportunity presented by the pandemic to infiltrate across the border while the government is stretched thin with coronavirus relief efforts.
Pakistan was slower to shut down after the coronavirus, likely allowing greater openings for protest and fewer avenues for state forces to suppress dissent. In fact, Pakistan did not enforce a total nationwide shutdown at any point — lockdown measures have remained at the local and provincial levels. As a result, and unlike most countries in the world, the number of demonstration events did not significantly dip due to safety precautions — on the contrary, demonstrations increased. Many demonstrations addressed the recent arrest of a prominent journalist on 12 March 2020, thought to be an overt attack on press freedom by the Pakistani government. These demonstrations have continued on a daily basis.
Moreover, demonstrations have increasingly faced intervention since the pandemic. The percentage of demonstrations in which state forces intervened has increased for both riots and protests. The rise in state involvement during demonstrations is likely due to several factors, chief among them new lockdown-imposed limitations on gatherings which encourage increased enforcement.
IN FOCUS: BRAZIL & SOUTH KOREA
A tale of two pandemic responses — Brazil and South Korea both saw significant increases in the number of demonstrations since the COVID-19 pandemic, for very different reasons.
- Brazil had the second-largest increase in the number of demonstration events in the post-pandemic period. Brazil also saw the greatest decrease in violence targeting civilians, and the third-largest decrease in organized political violence events.
- South Korea had the third-largest increase in the number of demonstration events in the post-pandemic period.
Brazil has seen the second-largest increase in demonstration events since the declaration of the pandemic, with an increase of over 34% during the 16 weeks since the pandemic declaration. Brazil’s government has faced challenges in agreeing on an appropriate strategy to address the coronavirus, with President Jair Bolsonaro continuing to minimize the situation’s seriousness and to call for the relaxing of restrictions — even after he himself tested positive for the virus. Intra-government tensions have resulted in two separate health ministers leaving their posts after disagreements with the president, further inflaming tensions and provoking demonstrations both for and against the president’s rhetoric and re-opening proposals. Many early protests came from within Brazilians’ homes in the form of pot-banging against the president’s continued minimization of the pandemic. However, public demonstrations and motorcades protesting the quarantine measures have also begun to rise. In late April, the total number of protests far exceeded pre-quarantine levels. Despite laws prohibiting mass gatherings, workers in hard-hit sectors — such as tourism — have begun holding demonstrations across the country, inflaming both political tensions and potentially contributing to Brazil’s already skyrocketing death toll from the virus.7For more, see ACLED’s report on pandemic-related unrest in Brazil and Nicaragua.
South Korea, on the other hand, saw a large increase in demonstrations for very different reasons. South Korea took drastic early measures to contain the coronavirus, and as a result did not implement some of the more stringent public health measures implemented elsewhere around the world. The government restricted demonstrations in specific locations — such as Seoul Plaza and Seoul Station — but apart from these areas, demonstrators have been free to gather across the country, albeit with certain social distancing restrictions. As a result, there was no coronavirus-spurred decrease in demonstration levels, and people continued to gather — often in creative new ways, such as from their vehicles. The demonstrations in South Korea since coronavirus have concerned both longstanding domestic political issues as well as coronavirus-specific problems. Labor groups and students have increased protests in response to pandemic-related work and school restrictions.8 For more, see ACLED’s infographic report on disorder in East Asia.
State Repression and Violence Targeting Civilians
Overall, there has been a slight decline in the total number of violent events targeting civilians9 ‘Violence targeting civilians’ is defined as any event in the ACLED dataset which involves any violent actor targeting either civilians or protesters with potentially lethal violence. since the onset of the pandemic — part of a broader trend of declining activity. This is true across many, but not all, forms of state repression and violence targeting civilians. Air and drone strikes, excessive force against protesters, and shelling/artillery/missile attacks have all decreased. However, close-proximity attacks, abductions/forced disappearances, mob violence, and even remote explosives and suicide bombs targeting civilians have all increased during this time (see Figure 5).
The general decrease in violence targeting civilians was driven by large declines in Latin America and the Middle East, while most other regions actually saw an increase in anti-civilian violence. Africa, South Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and East Asia all registered an increased level of violence targeting civilians in the 16 weeks following the declaration of the pandemic. In total, violence targeting civilians either increased or remained steady in 78 countries, while the number of events decreased in 55 countries (see Table 3).
The overall downward trend also fails to hold across all types of perpetrators. For instance, the number of civilian targeting events perpetrated by anonymous, unidentified armed groups has decreased substantially since the pandemic declaration — by nearly 600 events, or a decrease of nearly 20%. At the same time, as referenced above, the number of events perpetrated by state forces has increased by more than 350 events. These two trends are likely related: states which usually outsource repression to anonymous groups can (ACLED, 9 April 2015), with the excuse of the pandemic, do much of this work themselves. The number of events perpetrated by communal militias has also increased, by nearly 50%. This is likely due to a combination of factors, including to provide defense from increased state repression and opportunistic advancement of community interests, such as banditry and cattle rustling, amongst others.
Table 3. Countries with the largest decreases in the number of violence targeting civilians (VTC)
|Country||Number of pre-pandemic VTC events||Number of post-pandemic VTC events||Difference||Percent difference|
Different actors ramped up their targeting of civilians across countries, resulting in different forms of violence expanding across different regions. In Nigeria, the country with the largest increase in violence targeting civilians over the past three months, communal militias were largely to blame: ACLED records an increase from 70 events to 175 events of communal militia targeting of civilians across Nigeria during this period (see Inset 4). In India — which had the second-largest increase — violence by the state drove the uptick, while in Mexico, cartels and gangs expanded their targeting of civilians.
In some areas, violence targeting civilians has increased (see Table 4) as state forces resort to violence in an attempt to enforce strict lockdown measures. Elsewhere — such as in the Philippines, which saw a 22% decrease in violence targeting civilians — strict lockdown measures have had the effect of lessening usually high levels of political violence by state forces. Beyond state forces, extralegal groups have also contributed to the enforcement of lockdown measures, and have even targeted minority groups (such as Muslims in India) or healthcare workers suspected of spreading the virus.
Table 4. Countries with the largest increases in violence targeting civilians (VTC)
|Country||Number of pre-pandemic VTC events||Number of post-pandemic VTC events||Difference||Percent difference|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||274||358||+84||+31|
IN FOCUS: NIGERIA & THE DRC
A stark increase in violence targeting civilians across both Nigeria and the DRC shows how COVID-19 exacerbates pre-existing state capacity challenges.
- Nigeria had the largest increase in violence targeting civilians in the post-pandemic period. Nigeria also had the third-largest increase in organized political violence.
- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had the fourth-largest increase in violence targeting civilians. The DRC also had the fifth-highest increase in the number of organized political violence events.
Nigeria faces multiple overlapping security challenges across the country, many of which feature high levels of civilian targeting — such as armed violence in the northwest and the Boko Haram insurgency. Despite these already significant levels of anti-civilian violence, Nigeria saw the second-largest increase in the number of violence targeting civilians of any country across ACLED’s areas of coverage. State forces were responsible for some of the increase as they violently enforced lockdown measures. Rioters demanding economic relief also fought back against coronavirus lockdown measures, resulting in clashes with police forces. Meanwhile, Boko Haram factions remained active in Nigeria’s Zamfara state and across the country’s border with Cameroon. However, the largest increase in violence targeting civilians came from communal and ethnic militias, especially Fulani militias — a trend already begun before the pandemic, but exacerbated both by Islamist group co-option of the disorder, as well as lack of state capacity in the remote regions where they are active.
In the DRC, on the other hand, the majority of increased violence came from mobs and rebel groups. The increase in violence is a result of the inability of state and UN forces to effectively maintain control in the east of the country — a problem grappled with long before the virus. Mob violence is in part a response to this limited capacity, as local vigilante groups take justice into their own hands. The rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has also escalated its activity, expanding its insurgency from its base in North Kivu into neighboring Ituri province. ADF is associated with the Islamic State, which called on its followers to take advantage of the pandemic to perpetrate attacks worldwide. 10For more, see ACLED’s report assessing the possibility of an IS resurgence.
Organized Political Violence, Non-State Actors, and Conventional Conflicts
The total number of organized political violence events — battles, explosions/remote violence, and violence against civilians — decreased by roughly 11% over the past three months (See Figure 6). Nearly every type of event and sub-event type, save abductions/forced disappearances and attacks targeting civilians, declined during this time, though the biggest decreases were in battles and in various types of explosions/remote violence, especially air and drone strikes. In other words, event types typically associated with conventional conflicts tended to decrease since the virus outbreak (for more, see ACLED’s report on the UN’s call for a global ceasefire in response to the pandemic). This significant decrease in these specific event types, however, largely reflects the outsized impact of conflicts where high volumes of events are recorded. In Syria and Afghanistan, for instance, the combined decrease in organized political violence (roughly 4,000 fewer events in the period following the pandemic declaration) disproportionately affects overall trends.11 See Inset 5. If Syria and Afghanistan are not included in analysis, the number of organized political violence events actually increased by 6%. The decreases in both of these countries were in large part reflective of non-pandemic-related conflict developments. Fifty countries, including Syria and Afghanistan, have registered decreases in organized political violence since the pandemic (see Table 5), however, 75 have registered either increased or steady rates of conflict (see Table 6).
Different types of organized political violence engagements have changed in different ways over the course of the pandemic. State versus state political violence — where a state is fractured and fights against itself — actually increased in the period following the declaration of the pandemic. This is also true of communal violence — instances of both communal militias fighting amongst themselves, and with government forces, have increased in the wake of COVID-19. By contrast, rebel groups and state forces have engaged in significantly fewer clashes with one another.
Table 5. Countries with the largest decreases in the number of organized political violence (OPV)
|Country||Number of pre-pandemic OPV events||Number of post-pandemic OPV events||Difference||Percent difference|
It is also important not to attribute these shifts to the coronavirus alone. Many complex ground realities contribute to changes in the political violence landscape of conventional conflicts. For example, in Yemen and Afghanistan, ongoing ceasefire negotiations have contributed to different patterns of political violence outside of the impact of the pandemic. In Syria, a fragile pre-pandemic ceasefire between Russia and Turkey after escalation in Idleb led to falling event counts, largely not attributable to COVID-19. Meanwhile, in Libya, conflict actors have escalated their activity even as coronavirus threatens to spread — Libya registered its highest weekly event count ever recorded the week of 12 April 2020. During this week, more than 100 organized political violence events occurred, nearly double the previous record, as military leader General Haftar resumed an offensive on Tripoli in March.12See Inset 6. Patterns true to one country or conflict context fail to be generalizable to others.
IN FOCUS: SYRIA & AFGHANISTAN
COVID-19 likely played a comparatively minor role in the two countries with the greatest decreases in organized political violence events.
- Syria had the largest decrease in the number of organized political violence events of any country in the ACLED dataset. Syria also had the second-largest decrease in the number of violence targeting civilian events.
- Afghanistan had the second-largest decrease in the number of organized political violence events of any country in the ACLED dataset. Afghanistan also had the sixth-largest increase in the number of violence targeting civilian events.
A substantial portion of the overall decrease in organized political violence is attributable to two countries where conflict levels were already steadily declining pre-pandemic. The number of organized political violence events in Afghanistan significantly decreased during the first few months following the declaration of the pandemic, with a decline of more than 50%, or nearly 2,000 fewer events. In part, this reflects the Afghan government’s focus on the COVID-19 crisis. However, the federal government has been fractured and distracted since well before the pandemic. In fact, the level of political violence in Afghanistan has been decreasing steadily since a spike surrounding the contentious national election of September 2019. The parties only agreed to form a negotiated national government in May 2020. With the government at odds with itself and incapacitated, the Taliban has continued to perpetrate attacks against pro-government Afghan forces. Meanwhile, the American withdrawal under the US-Taliban peace plan of February 2020 remains on track, which has contributed to a substantial decrease in Taliban engagements with external forces (ACLED, 17 March 2020).
In Syria as well, the decrease in organized political violence levels began long before the pandemic. Syria frequently registers one of the largest numbers of organized political violence events of any country in the ACLED’ dataset. However, since the pandemic, Syria has seen the largest decrease in organized political violence events of any country in the ACLED dataset — nearly 3,000 fewer events occurred after the coronavirus pandemic began than before. However, this decrease is likely tied more to the ebbs and flows of the peace process than to external stimuli such as the coronavirus.13For more, see ACLED’s latest State of Syria control map. Political violence fell sharply in early March, largely as a result of the regime’s Idleb offensive ending in a very fragile ceasefire between Russia and Turkey. A similar pattern occurred after the previous Idleb offensive in August 2019: after the final ceasefire, there was a dip in organized political violence levels — though it did not last forever.
Table 6. Countries with the largest increases in the number of OPV
|Country||Number of pre-pandemic OPV events||Number of post-pandemic OPV events||Difference||Percent difference|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||498||685||+187||+38|
Various efforts, including a UN call for a global ceasefire, have dampened organized political violence during the coronavirus pandemic, with few signs of lasting — or even fleeting — success. Some groups, such as the Islamic State and several Al Qaeda factions, have openly called for increased violence during this period, and have ramped up campaigns across their areas of operation. Other groups, such as some cartels in Central and South America, have engaged in fewer armed clashes — at least temporarily — turning instead to enforcing lockdowns and providing public services in an attempt to win hearts and minds, and curb the spread of the virus and its corresponding impact on their illicit enterprises like drug trafficking. In short, interactions between the COVID-19 pandemic and various conflict contexts have resulted in differing impacts across groups and countries: for some, the pandemic reduced the incentive to engage in organized political violence, or provided an opportunity to strategically pivot. For others, the crisis presented an opportunity to escalate conflict or wage new types of campaigns.
IN FOCUS: YEMEN & LIBYA
Large increases in organized violence are not due to the coronavirus, but to pre-pandemic conditions and developments.
- Yemen had the largest increase in the number of organized political violence events of any country in the ACLED dataset.
- Libya had the second-largest increase in the number of organized political violence events of any country in the ACLED dataset.
Yemen saw the greatest increase in the number of organized political violence events since the declaration of the pandemic. Fighting in the years-long civil war continued mostly unabated, despite the UN call for a ceasefire because of the coronavirus. Fighting between Houthi and anti-Houthi forces increased throughout April, and other rebel groups — including those associated with Al Qaeda and with the Islamic State — have taken advantage of a thinly stretched security apparatus to engage in increased attacks across the country. A temporary ceasefire unilaterally declared by the Saudi-led coalition failed to substantially decrease violence on the ground, and the coalition continued to conduct airstrikes soon after the ceasefire declaration, while all warring parties have launched offensives across the country – the Hadi government in Abyan, the Houthis in Marib and Al Bayda, and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) in Abyan and Socotra.
Violence in Libya has also increased since the pandemic. April marked the one-year anniversary of the Libyan National Army (LNA)’s assault on Tripoli. In mid-March, LNA leader General Khalifa Haftar resumed military operations in Tripoli, and the warring parties have generally used the pandemic as an excuse to increase the pace of conflict, specifically in western Libya. Though Turkish-backed forces have increased engagement in response to Haftar’s push, many European countries have reduced operations in the country as they face pandemic-related challenges back home. Pro-GNA forces have pushed back on Haftar’s assault, and succeeded in recapturing territory skirting Sirte. The Egyptian parliament also has approved a motion to authorize military intervention in the conflict, threatening to further increase violence.
The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on political disorder is large, but multifaceted. Certain types of political violence — such as mob violence and state targeting of civilians — have increased, while many others — such as demonstrations and battles — have decreased. These trends vary substantially based on political context: in some areas, lockdown measures have led to significant decreases in violence as individuals stayed home and off the streets. In others, armed groups have taken advantage of the catastrophe to broaden and intensify their operations. Across the world, violent mobs formed to attack individuals in an attempt to take justice into their own hands, or to punish those they feared were spreading the virus. Populist leaders held rallies against the advice of medical experts, and ceasefires were signed and ignored. Even as some demonstration movements faded, new waves of demonstrations calling for racial justice erupted in the US and around the world (see ACLED’s US Crisis Monitor for more on political violence and protest patterns in the US). Despite an overall decrease in global levels of political violence and protests, the COVID-19 pandemic has not produced a universal reduction in violence. Instead, it has abruptly shifted the political contexts that shape violence patterns in many countries — the long-term effects of which remain to be seen.
Appendix 1. List of COVID-19 Disorder Tracker (CDT) Spotlights
In reverse chronological order:
- Labor demonstrations in Chile
- Protests in Serbia
- Demonstrations in East Asia
- Hong Kong
- Demonstrations in Sudan
- The Battle for Southern Yemen
- Protest and conflict in Ukraine
- Growing pressure in South Sudan
- Algeria & the Hirak Movement
- South Africa
- Violence Against Civilians in the Philippines
- Mob violence
- The PKK & Turkey
- Al Shabaab in Somalia
- Political violence in the wake of Cyclone Amphan
- Attacks on civilians in Colombia
- Prison unrest
- Continuing conflicts in India
- Demonstrations in Mexico
- A new wave of unrest in Lebanon
- State force in Uganda
- Targeting civilians and demonstrators in Nigeria
- Escalation in Mozambique
- Political violence targeting women
- Conflict & Crackdowns
- Demonstrations Interrupted
- Increasing demonstrations in Venezuela
- Social unrest in Iran
- National & local tensions in Brazil
- The Taliban in Afghanistan
- Healthcare workers under siege
- Navigating a violent insurgency in Mali
- Islamic State Attacks
- Mexican cartels
- Israel and Palestine
- Fighting in Libya
- The Philippines
- Media targeting
Other COVID-19 coverage from ACLED:
- Call Unanswered: A Review of Responses to the UN Appeal for a Global Ceasefire
- Widespread Violence Rises Ahead of Burundi’s 2020 Election
- States, not jihadis, exploiting corona crisis in West Africa
- Demonstrations Spike in Tunisia Despite COVID-19 Pandemic
- Central America and COVID-19: the Pandemic’s Impact on Gang Violence
© 2020 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.