Hazard of Onsets of Genocide/Politicide in 2015

RISK ASSESSMENTS 2015: POTENTIAL STATE PERPETRATORS OF GENOCIDE AND POLITICIDE 

By Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr

 

RISK ASSESSMENT VS EARLY WARNING

Risk assessments tell whether a country is at high, medium or low risk of genocide or politicide (G/P). Early Warning tells when a G/P may break out such a country.  Our previous global risk assessments (through 2010) were based on a model presented in Harff's 2003 APSR article:

  • 6 causal factors jointly differentiated with 74% accuracy between the 36 civil conflicts that led to G/P between 1955 and 2002, and 93 others that did not.
  • Accuracy increased to about 90% with a close examination of false negatives and positives.

THE ORIGINAL SIX RISK FACTORS

  • Political upheaval defined, as magnitude of past state failures, later replaced by State-led discrimination against minorities (a more powerful and immediate indicator)
  •  Past resort to policies of genocide
  •  Exclusionary ideology of the ruling elite
  •  Regime type (autocracy vs democracy)
  •  Ethnic character of the ruling elite
  •  Trade openness
  •  Another 65 factors were tested - demographic, societal, political leadership, economic and environmental (corruption, mil. expenditures. , youth bulge, etc.) - but did not improve the accuracy of the model.

 THE ADJUSTED MODEL BASED ON HAZARD ANALYSIS

In 2013 and again in 2015 the risk model was reanalyzed:

  •  variables were updated through 2014; 25% missing data were found and entered
  •  The model was re-estimated with hazard analysis, using data for all countries and all years from 1955 to 2014.

Only five variables turned out significant:

  •  State-led discrimination against any ethnic or religious minority
  •  Exclusionary ideology held by a ruling elite
  •  Minority elite or contention over elite ethnicity
  •  Type of polity, autocracy vs democracy using a 20-point scale
  •  Past use of genocidal policies

 

ADJUSTED MODEL FINDINGS 1955-2104

Past Genocide (0,1)

Negative

- 71%

Polity (0-20) full autocracy = 0,

     full democracy = 20

Negative

- 10%

Discrimination (0,1)

Positive

+ 112%

Elite ethnicity (0,1,2)

Positive

+ 63%

Elite ideology (0,1)

Positive

+ 114%

Trade openness (%)

None

N.A.

 

COMMENTS ON THE NEW FINDINGS

  • Previous analyses showed past resort to genocidal policies was a predictor of future genocides. 
    •  In new analysis it has a substantial inhibiting effect, which however wears off over time. After 40 years it becomes a positive risk factor.
  •  The trade openness variable was significant in earlier analyses.
    •  When missing data were added:, it was insignificant in the new analyses. 
  •  Indicators of interconnectedness (e.g., IGO membership) which were not important in earlier analyses were not reanalyzed.
  •  What remains is  in essence a "good governance" and "human rights regime" explanation that relies on few factors, and shows that history matters
  •  

INTERPRETING COUNTRY HAZARD SCORES IN THE FOLLOWING TABLE

  • Scores are the risks relative to the scenario in which all risk variables are at their zero score (i.e., the baseline scenario)
  •  The baseline involves annual risks of 1% - 2%. However, the accumulated risk for G/P across time becomes substantial. 
  •  In Cameroun, for example, if east-west civil war were to begin, the country would have three (2.976) times the hazard of the baseline scenario of a new G/P
  •  Sudan has less than half Ethiopia's risk for a new G/P

Most risk factors are slow to change. However country hazards can increase quickly if a key variable changes, for example a shift from democracy to autocracy, or onset of systematic discrimination against a minority. These kinds of abrupt changes should be seen as early warning signs. To the contrary, shifts toward democracy, or improvements in the status of minorities, will reduce hazards.

 

COMMENTS ON COUNTRIES AT HIGH RISK DUE TO INSTABILITY IN 2015

  • G/P's almost always begin in countries with civil wars and/or serious regime instability.
  •  In 2015, 20 countries had these conditions. In general few of these countries are at higher risk than the historical baseline scenario.
  •  Syria stands out: three times the historical average hazard. Politicide is in fact underway, against regime opponents
  •  Sudan, with a high hazard score, continues its long practice of genocidal policies against the Nuba and the people of Darfur. Our analysis shows is also at relatively high risk of initiating g/p against other groups.
  • Ethiopia, despite its high hazard score, has not yet resorted to genocidal policies in its decade-long fight with Oromo separatists.
  • Other unstable countries are at lower than the average historical risk of onset of genocide, which is good news
  •  But since change in a single risk factor has a potentially large impact, some countries should be on a watch list, including Myanmar, Libya, Yemen, and Turkey.
  •  The Central African Republic illustrates the point.
    • It had low-level risks in 2013 based on 2012 data. 
    • In March 2013 a rebel alliance based on the Muslim minority seized power.
    • The minority elite variable shifted from 0 to 1, Muslims were subject to mob attacks, and the hazard of G/P onset increased sharply

 

STABLE COUNTRIES AT RISK IN THE EVENT OF FUTURE CIVIL WARS AND REGIME INSTABILITY

  • The highest at risk countries (3 to 7 times the historical average)
    •  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Cameroon, Uzbekistan
  •  Medium at risk countries (1.5 to 3 times the historical average)
    •  Mauritania, Turkmenistan, North Korea, South Sudan, Egypt, Republic of Congo
  • Why are the risks in Saudi Arabia so high?   The country has four of the conditions associated with genocide and politicide in historical cases:
    •  Contentious elite ethnicity: the Sunni Sudairi clan dominates
    •  It is fully autocratic (0 on the Polity scale)
    •  Discriminatory policies are followed against the Shi'i minority
    • The elite enforces an exclusionary ideology, Wahabism
    • No previous record of G/P

 

NOTE ON THE FOLLOWING TABLE OF HAZARDS IN 2015 BY COUNTRY:  The hazards, or relative risks, in all countries will not change significantly in the near future unless any of their driving variables change. So these assessments can be expected to be valid through, say 2020, and quite possibly beyond.

 


Barbara Harff, "No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust? Assessing Risks of Genocide and Political Mass Murder since 1955," American Political Science Review 97 no. 1 (February), 56-73.

 

HAZARD RATIOS IN COUNTRIES WITH MAJOR CIVIL WARS AND POLITICAL INSTABILITY

Countries and 2014 Hazard Score

Recent Changes in Hazards

Current Instability

Contention re Elite Ethnicity

Hazard ratio:1.63

Regime Type 2015

Hazard ratio: 0.905

Targets of Systematic Discrimination

Hazard ratio: 2.112

Exclusionary Ideology

Hazard ratio: 2.140

Past Geno/Politi- cides

Hazard ratio: 0.29

Syria

3.119

Very high 1963- 1981, stable since 1982

Civil war since 2011

Yes: Alawite minority dominates

Full autocracy

Islamists, Alawites, Kurds+2

No

Yes: 1981-82

Ethiopia

2.670

No change last decade

Regional rebellion since 2006

Yes: Tigrean minority dominates

Partial autocracy

Oromo, Anuak

No

Yes: 1976-79

South Sudan

1.951

New state in 2011, sharp increase 2013

Violence between Nuer, Dinka

Yes

Transitional

Nuer, Murle

No

None

Sudan

1.131

Overall stable since 1989

Rebellion, repression continue in Darfur, Nuba

No

Partial

autocracy

Darfuri, Nuba, Korodofan

peoples

Yes: Islamist

Yes: 1956-72,

1983-present

Ukraine

0.786

Increase in 2014

Secessionist war in Donbass

Yes: Ukrainian vs. Russian speakers

Partial Democracy

Russian-speakers

No

No

Central African Rep.

0.629

Communal and civil war since 2012

Yes: Christian vs. Muslim coalitions

Transitional

Muslims

Bo

Communal massacres 2013-present

Yemen

0.566

Slight decline after 2011

Civil wars since 2004

No

Weak partial democracy

None

Yes: Islamist

No

Thailand

0.477

Tripled in 2014

2013-14 political crisis, coup

No

Partial autocracy

None

No

No

Myanmar

0.476

Major decline after 2010

Regional wars since 1950s

Yes: Burman majority dominates

Partial democracy

Karen, Kachin, Royhinga Muslims

Yes: Burman

nationalism

Yes: 1978

Turkey

0.463

Major decline after 2006

Kurdish rebellion since 1979

No

Full democracy

Kurds

No

No

 

COUNTRIES AT HIGH RISKS OF GENOCIDE/POLITICIDE IF CIVIL WAR OR REGIME INSTABILITY OCCURS

Country and 2014 Hazard Score

Recent changes in hazards

Current instability

Contention re elite ethnicity

Regime type 2015

Targets of systematic discrimination

Exclusionary ideology

Past geno/ politicides

Saudi Arabia

9.286

Persistently high

None

*Yes: Sunni majority, Sudairi clan dominates

Full autocracy

Shi’i

Yes: Wahabism

None

Bahrain

6.478

Sharp increase after 2010

Mass protests by Shi’i

majority

Yes: Sunni Al-Khalifa clan dominates

Full autocracy

Shi’i

No

None

Uzbekistan

3.229

No change since 1992

Low-level Islamist terrorism

No

Full autocracy

Tajiks, Islamists

Yes: Uzbek nationalism

None

Cameroun

3.541

No change since 1992

None

Majority ethnic elite: Christian southerners

Partial autocracy

Westerners, Bamileke, Bakassi

No

None

Mauritania

2.895

No change since 2009

Islamist terrorism

Minority ethnic elite: Beydane (White Moors)

Partial autocracy

Kewri, Black Moors

No

No

North Korea

2.262

No change since 1994

None

No

Full autocracy

None

Communism

None

Egypt

1.847

Sharp increase in 2013

Islamist terrorism

Yes: Secularists vs Islamists

Partial autocracy

None

Yes

None

DR Congo

1.829

Overall stable since 1997

Regional rebellions since 1962

No

Partial democracy

Tutsis, Batwa/Bambuti

No

Yes: 1964-5 1977, 1999

Turkmenistan

1.715

No change since 2003

None

No

Full autocracy

Uzbeks, Baloch, Russians

None

None

Russia

0.786

Stable 1999-2013, doubled 2014

Chechen rebellions since 1994

No

Partial democracy

None

No

Yes: 1920s,1930s


A three-category code is used: if the ethnicity (or religion) of the elite is politically contentious, the country is coded 1. If the elite in power represents a minority, like Alawites in Syria, the country year is coded 2. Otherwise the country year is 0.

The Polity scale is used, converted so that a fully autocratic regime is 0 and a fully democratic regime is 20. Transitional regimes have a mix of traits, scores +- 3.

From the Minorities at Risk project survey of groups subject to state-led discrimination (through 2006, http://www.cidcm.umd.edu.mar/) updated using information from the Minorities Rights Group’s 2011 report on other groups subject to widespread discrimination and additional reports plus recent journalistic accounts.

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