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  • Nearly 40% of the world’s 195 countries will see civil unrest during 2020, according to Verisk Maplecroft.
  • Risk of backlash by security forces is deemed high in countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.
  • Corporations will be under increased pressure to avoid getting tangled up in this “new normal.”
Lebanese demonstrators erect a giant fist a protest emblem that was torched by an unknown culprit in the early hours of the morning in Beirut’s Martyrs Square during an independence day rally more than a month into unprecedented nation wide rallies against the ruling elite (Footage by AFPTV via Getty Images)

Almost a quarter of the world’s countries witnessed a surge in protest and unrest last year and that figure is set to rise further in 2020, according to a new study.

There are 195 countries in the world, if the Vatican and Palestine are included, and a newly released index of civil unrest has claimed that 47 of those states witnessed a rise in civil unrest in 2019.

The data model, published Thursday by socio-economic and political analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft, has also predicted that in 2020, the number will balloon to 75 countries.

The U.K. consultancy identified Hong Kong and Chile as the two flashpoints suffering the largest increases in unrest since the beginning of 2019. Neither country is expected to find peace for at least two years, according to the research.

Other areas now considered hotbeds of civil protest include Nigeria, Lebanon and Bolivia. Beyond these three, countries dropping into a category labeled “extreme risk” include Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Houthi rebels hold up their weapons during a rally against air strikes in Sanaa March 26, 2015.
Khaled Abdullah | Reuters

Since the previous index release, Sudan has overtaken Yemen to become the highest risk country globally.

Sudan has been locked in crisis since ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in April. The country has been beset by protests and killings as military forces battle pro-democracy supporters to control the country.

Conflict in Yemen has been raging since 2015 as Shia and Sunni Muslim forces wrestle for power.

No flash in the pan

Maplecroft’s predictions for 2020 are bleak with both the number of countries witnessing protest and the intensity of unrest tipped to rise.

The index predicts that 75 out of the 125 countries examined will see a deterioration in stability. That figure means almost 40% of all the world’s 195 nations will witness disruption and protest to some degree.

While the likes of Ukraine, Guinea Bissau and Tajikistan are forecast to experience the biggest rises in unrest, it is larger countries that could prompt the most concern.

Protesters march on a street during a rally against the extradition law proposal on June 9, 2019 in Hong Kong China. Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched in Hong Kong in Sunday against a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspected criminals to be sent to mainland China for trial.(Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

The analysis cross references predicted rises in unrest alongside the danger that protesters will suffer human rights abuses or sharp responses from security forces.

Countries identified in this troubling bracket include the highly influential nations of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Thailand and Brazil.

The U.K.-based analysts claim that as 2019 is unlikely to be a “flash in the pan,” companies and investors will have to adapt to increased unrest.

Maplecroft says there will be increased pressure on global firms to exercise corporate responsibility, especially those in countries “rich in natural resources where mining and energy projects often need high levels of protection.”

“However, companies are at substantial danger of complicity if they employ state or private security forces that perpetrate violations,” the report added.

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