7 May 2014

The world’s worst countries for conflict and violence

Syria, Central African Republic and Iraq top a new index of conflict and political violence which gives 16 countries an “extreme risk” rating and sees Ukraine jumping to 35th most at-risk country.

The last six months have seen levels of conflict and political violence rise significantly for 48 countries around the world.

Syria’s ranking at the top for the last year, reflects the huge number of fatalities of the conflict – conservative estimates put the death toll at over 100,000 in three years – and the consequent impact on Syrian society. The country is now ranked by global risk analytics company Maplecroft as highest risk for sexual violence in conflict, child soldiers and internally displaced people and refugees.

Elsewhere in the middle east, Iraq rose to third place in the conflict and political violence index (CPVI), after enduring its bloodiest year since 2008: 3,278 incidents of terrorism were recorded by Maplecroft, resulting in 6,034 deaths and 15,023 injuries – a 50 per cent increase in the number of attacks, and a significant intensification of violence.

And the Central African Republic (CAR) has shot from 13th place to second, reflecting the deteriorating situation in the country. In March, the UN said “violations that may amount to international crimes have become widespread,” adding that deliberate violence against Muslims in an attempt to force them flee, may amount to forced displacement and a crime against humanity.

Sixteen countries are rated as “extreme risk” in the CPVI, which highlights the destabilising effects of popular revolutions and regime change as a key factor in the surge in risk.

Those countries which saw a significant increase in risk were: Central African Republic (ranked second most at risk), South Sudan (fourth), Somalia (sixth), DR Congo (seventh), and Libya (eighth).

Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest economy, was also rated as an “extreme risk” in the CPVI for the fifth year running, due to persistent insecurity, including increasing risks of kidnapping and piracy. The ranking for Nigeria follows the kidnap of over 230 teenage girls by Boko Haram in the north east of the country, which has sparked global outrage.

Arab spring effect

Many countries witnessing the largest upswing in risk have undergone political upheaval due to societal unrest, according to Maplecroft. The company says this has resulted in rising human rights violations by security forces, conflict and deteriorating security environments.

This trend can be seen in those countries which experienced Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, including Syria, Libya and Egypt, all of which are classified as “extreme risk”.

The CPVI is calculated twice a year by assessing the risk and severity of conflict and the impact of the violence on society for 197 countries. It identified Ukraine as seeing the greatest change in risk in six months, with a drop of 52 places to 35th most at risk.