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Impact of COVID-19 on protest and riot risks

16 April 2020 James Petretta

Our risk team took a look at the impact of COVID-19 on protest and riot risks globally. We considered the COVID-19 virus's impact on existing grievances and conflicts, as well as its impact on those triggered by the pandemic.

  • Lockdowns in Asia have been enforced strictly by security forces, particularly in South Asia. Post-peak debate around state responses and availability of financial support will likely trigger anti-government sentiment and protests and riots across South Asia and in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
  • In Europe protests and riots will be negligible in the immediate term given lockdown conditions. However, localized short lived civil unrest caused by a lack of access to basic goods is a low-level risk. Longer term economically motivated anti-government protests are probable across the wider region if economic recovery is slow and uneven.
  • There is a high risk of panic-buying degenerating into looting across Latin America. Small outbreaks of violent confrontations between security forces and local residents refusing to follow government social distancing guidelines are likely in most countries.
  • There is a low risk of protests and riots in urban areas across the MENA region, particularly in key outbreak countries such as Iran. However, remote areas of Tunisia, Lebanon, and Iraq are especially vulnerable to this risk due to very low government oversight. Longer term the most vulnerable countries for destabilizing unrest are Iran, Algeria, and Tunisia with anti-Netanyahu protests in Israel likely in the aftermath of the outbreak.
  • Major social unrest in Sub-Saharan Africa would most likely take the form of rioting and looting in densely populated urban areas. Individuals and businesses linked to Asian or European descent and wealthier nationals or diaspora returnees are at risk of harassment, theft, and looting. Post-pandemic risks of larger outbreaks of unrest will be higher in countries with disputed electoral processes like Guinea, Malawi, Ethiopia, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

A country-by-country review with additional details is available for purchase.

Posted 16 April 2020 by James Petretta, Associate Director, IHS Markit

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