This is a beta version of the tool. It remains under development and features are subject to change. If you would like provide any feedback, please contact [email protected].

The Volatility & Risk Index is designed to support early warning and risk management. The index tracks rates of positive deviations from baseline violence levels to assess the frequency and intensity of conflict surges. Rather than predict conflict rates far into the future with limited applicability, the index evaluates the stability and frequency of the patterns of high and low violence rates in specific areas, offering more practical and useful information for monitoring conflict environments. 

Conflict patterns may be relatively consistent in areas with high levels of violence, and programming and planning can adapt to address stable conflict trends. Other areas may have comparably high violence levels but unstable patterns, with intermittent conflict spikes in already violent spaces, while still other areas may register low baseline rates even as they experience frequent intense bouts of conflict. In these cases, programming must account for the instability of conflict patterns, and the propensity for the political environment to quickly shift. This index quantifies the predictability and stability of the overall conflict rate for each country in the ACLED dataset.

The interactive dashboard tracks the volatility of political violence by first-order administrative divisions, or ADM1s (e.g. state, province, governorate, etc.), relative to a baseline level of conflict, in order to assess a basic risk level, outlined in the table below. These levels indicate the likelihood of a future spike in violence in the given ADM1.

Volatility/BaselineLow baseline (<1.5 events/wk)High baseline (>1.5 events/wk)
Low volatility (fewer than 6 weeks out of the past year see violence spiking 2 or more SDs above the country baseline)Low riskConsistent risk
High volatility (6 or more weeks out of the past year, violence spiked 2 or more SDs above the country baseline)Growing riskExtreme risk

A baseline level of violence is calculated from the average number of violent events per week, based on the last three years. A baseline level of violence of 1.5 events per week on average or higher distinguishes a ‘high baseline’ ADM1 — i.e. an ADM1 in which violence is common. 

Volatility is calculated based on the number of times the number of violent events in a given week surpasses two standard deviations over the baseline level of violence — i.e. how often spikes in violence are reported. Violence within two standard deviations over the baseline level of violence in a given week is within expected bounds; violence over two yet less than five standard deviations over the baseline level of violence in a given week represents high activity anomaly; violence over five standard deviations over the baseline level of violence in a given week represents extreme activity anomaly. When six or more weeks in a given year — or over 11.5% of weeks in a year — register such volatility, that ADM1 is classified as one with ‘high volatility.’

The graph in the dashboard depicts the number of events each week over the course of the prior year for a particular ADM1; the left-hand Y-axis represents the number of events each week, while the right-hand Y-axis denotes how many standard deviations from the mean that event count represents.

ADM1s that register a high baseline of violence — i.e. places where violence is common — and are highly volatile — i.e. where spikes in violence tend to occur more frequently — are classified as areas of ‘extreme risk.’ Those that register a low baseline of violence yet are highly volatile — i.e. where spikes in violence are common yet violence is usually less common — are classified as areas of ‘growing risk.’ These two contexts are of greatest concern for early warning.

ADM1s that register a high baseline of violence yet are not very volatile — i.e. places where violence is consistently common — are classified as areas of ‘consistent risk.’ Those that register a low baseline of violence and are not very volatile are classified as areas of ‘low risk.’  

How can you assess whether a volatile subnational region is located in a country where overall violence levels are rising? To better understand in what countries violence has recently spiked, please use the Global Threat Tracker.