Risk Maps Reveal Heightened Political Violence and Political Risk

Globe with construction cones surrounding it

May 03, 2018 |

Globe with construction cones surrounding it

Aon has published its 2018 Risk Maps, covering political risk, terrorism, and political violence. The maps were produced in conjunction with Continuum Economics and The Risk Advisory Group.

Terrorism and Political Violence

Political violence risks are rising globally, due to geopolitical tensions, a weakening of liberal democratic governance, and the repercussive effects of chronic conflicts around the globe.

For the third successive year, more country risk ratings have increased (17) than decreased (6). The following statistics show the percentage of countries that are listed as being exposed to certain risks.

  • 40 percent to terrorism and sabotage risk
  • 60 percent to civil unrest risk
  • 33 percent to insurrection, war, or coup risk

Forty-six countries or territories are now rated as high or severe risk, representing 22 percent of the global total.

The likelihood of interstate conflict, even involving major powers, is at the highest point since the end of the Cold War. Growing geopolitical competition and weak leadership in international diplomacy have contributed to sustained or increased risks of armed conflict over the last year. Growing rates of polarization over political, economic, and social issues in mature democracies, and divisions between Western powers in the face of complex threats and risks, has also contributed to worsening global security and greater strategic uncertainty.

The number of terrorist attacks in Western countries in 2017 (204) was roughly double that of 2016 (96), but the total number of casualties in both years was broadly the same (1,092 in 2017), meaning that the lethality of attacks has fallen.

Notably, the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) has stopped spreading, but has not yet receded. IS mounted terrorist attacks in 29 countries on 5 continents in 2017—the same number of countries as in 2016 and up from 19 countries in 2015—but the global reach of IS appears to have peaked, and it seems likely that the number of countries where it is able to mount attacks, or inspire others to do so, will fall in 2018.

In particular, the tourism sector is having to manage the risks posed by increased terrorism, with the sector a highly attractive target for some terrorist organizations. In 2017, there were at least 35 attacks worldwide that directly targeted commercial sectors that are critical components of the tourism industry, such as hotels and resorts, nightclubs, civil aviation, and visitor attractions.

Political Risk

Last year, political risk increased in 11 countries, compared to only 2 countries that saw reduced risk, showing the persistence of political risk across the globe, highlighted by increases in political violence and supply chain disruption. Many countries' risks of supply chain disruption have risen due to both climate shocks and weakening fiscal positions.

Notably, over the last year, Asian countries' trade linkages have been shifting away from the United States and toward China. This is due to China's economic development, and its rise as a trade giant. Amid China's rise, Asia's exports to the United States have edged down from around 23% percent of total exports in 2000 to stabilize at around 12 percent in recent years. By the same token Asia's exports to China have more than doubled over the past decade to around 23 percent currently.

Elsewhere, political risks in Latin America are increasing ahead of a busy election season, delaying major reforms in Brazil and stoking fears of reform reversal in Mexico. Major countries are at risk of electing populist governments, and smaller countries are experiencing their share of political noise.

More broadly, the region experiencing most downgrades is Africa. Ongoing conflicts within countries, the erosion of democratic governance, and increasingly frequent corruption scandals have led to more political violence. Groups such as IS and Boko Haram are taking advantage of fragile institutions and weak borders. Elsewhere, the Middle East contains some of the highest-risk countries in the world: Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Egypt. Instability and violence in the region have spilled over to neighboring countries, undermining trade and tourism.

Mark Parker, head of property, casualty, and crisis management at Aon Global Broking Centre, said, "The global geopolitical environment remains volatile. This is reflected in the 2018 Risk Maps, with the interlinked threats posed by Political Violence and Political Risks growing. Given this heightened level of risk, and the rapidly evolving landscape against which businesses are operating, it is essential the companies understand their exposures and the potential for political instability to impact their people, property, and supply chains. Ensuring that the right solutions are in place to mitigate and transfer risk is essential for firms operating internationally."

May 03, 2018