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ACLED 2019: The Year in Review

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ACLED’s 2019 annual report reviews the past year of data on political violence and demonstration activity across Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and Southeastern and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Access the [full report]( as well as an executive summary of key findings below.

Executive Summary

Disorder rose. Political violence and demonstrations increased by 13% across all regions of ACLED coverage in 2019, driven by a surge in protest activity.

Conflict rates declined overall, but political violence increased in more countries than it decreased. ACLED records 91,448 total political violence events in 2019, a 2% decrease from 93,642 in 2018. Despite the overall decline, however, political violence was reported in 96% of all countries covered by ACLED, and the number of events actually increased in more countries than it decreased. ACLED records violent activity in over 23,000 locations last year, including nearly 9,000 new locations where events were reported in 2019 but not in 2018. Political violence increased most substantially in Ukraine, India, Libya, Myanmar, and Burkina Faso.

Most forms of political violence are on the rise. The drop in total political violence events is driven by a 15% decrease in battles. Yet all other forms of political violence increased from 2018 to 2019: explosions/remote violence by 5%, violence against civilians by 7%, and mob violence by 47%.

Total fatalities decreased. The total number of fatalities from political violence declined by 17% from 2018 to 2019: ACLED records 126,047 fatalities last year, down from 151,887 fatalities in 2018. Fatalities rose by 45% in Southeast Asia and 1% in Africa, however, with significant increases recorded in Myanmar, Burkina Faso, Libya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique. ACLED records the highest fatality estimates in Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, and Somalia.

Conventional conflicts continued to dominate. The conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Yemen generated high levels of political violence in 2019, together accounting for 61% of all violent events recorded by ACLED last year. The war in Afghanistan remained the deadliest in the world for the second consecutive year, followed by Yemen and Syria.

Although fewer civilians were killed in direct attacks, civilian targeting actually increased. ACLED records a 2% rise in civilian targeting last year, with 20,578 events reported in 2019 compared to 20,121 in 2018. At the same time, fatalities from these events decreased by 22%, with 22,365 fatalities in 2019 compared to 28,604 in 2018. Syria remains the deadliest and most dangerous country for civilians. These numbers include civilians who were targeted or killed directly, and do not include civilians killed by ‘collateral damage,’ meaning that the true civilian death toll from political violence in 2019 is far higher.

State forces remain the top threat to civilians. Governments continue to pose the greatest threat to civilians around the world, with state forces responsible for more than a quarter of all violence targeting civilians in 2019 — the largest proportion of any actor type. Of the top five actors responsible for the largest share of civilian targeting in 2019, four of them are state forces, and the fifth is a pro-government militia.

Mob violence spiked, causing more fatalities. The total number of fatalities from mob violence rose by 22% last year. While individual mob violence events typically result in few fatalities at a time, this increase in fatalities is driven by a broader increase in mob violence more generally, particularly in India, where it accounts for 57% of all political violence events in the country last year.

Demonstration activity escalated and expanded. ACLED records a 51% rise in the overall number of demonstrations in 2019, with demonstration activity increasing in 71% of countries covered in the dataset. Approximately 91% of all demonstrations were peaceful, while approximately 12% were met with some form of intervention. At the same time, demonstrations are increasingly deadly: ACLED records a 106% rise in the number of fatalities reported during demonstrations last year, particularly in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.