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Can We Predict Political Uprisings?

Image courtesy of MudflapDC/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 19 June 2017.

Forecasting political unrest is a challenging task, especially in this era of post-truth and opinion polls.

Several studies by economists such as Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler in 1998 and 2002 describe how economic indicators, such as slow income growth and natural resource dependence, can explain political upheaval. More specifically, low per capita income has been a significant trigger of civil unrest.

Economists James Fearon and David Laitin have also followed this hypothesis, showing how specific factors played an important role in Chad, Sudan, and Somalia in outbreaks of political violence.

According to the International Country Risk Guide index, the internal political stability of Sudan fell by 15% in 2014, compared to the previous year. This decrease was after a reduction of its per capita income growth rate from 12% in 2012 to 2% in 2013.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Coping With Disruptive Change

La Constancia

Courtesy latitudes-flickr/Flickr

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 21 October 2016.

Synopsis

The fourth industrial revolution will benefit mankind tremendously. We can also expect disruptions. Upholding state centrality will ensure continuity and stability amidst this seismic shift.

Commentary

The first, second and third industrial revolutions gave mankind steam power, electricity and electronics respectively. We are now entering the era of the fourth industrial revolution – a seismic shift that will give us a set of radically new technologies. When these technologies materialise – namely artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet-of-Things (IoT), 3D printing, bio printing, gene editing, autonomous vehicles (AVs) and so on – the world as we know it today will be dramatically transformed.

We can look forward to enhanced longevity. Given persistent shortage in human organs for transplant, bio-printing – a process which draws on 3D printers to create human organs – will let hospitals ‘print out’ human organs on-demand. Cutting down on their development cost, new drugs can be experimented on 3D-printed human organs to quickly establish their efficacy and safety. Gene editing can mean that babies in future will be born free of many genetic disorders.

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Thailand: a New Constitution for a New Kind of Democracy?

Protesters in Bangkok, December 2013. Image: ilf_/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by ASPI Strategist on 4 May, 2015.

For many years Thailand was admired for its rapid economic growth. It was a good security partner for the US and Australia, and many foreigners liked visiting the country. The zigzag course of its political development, alternating between democratically-elected governments and military regimes, has prompted frowns at the appropriate times from Western governments, but the widespread assumption was that there was an underlying upwards trajectory. The election of Thaksin Shinawatra—a wealthy communications tycoon—as Prime Minister in 2001, held out the prospect of a more contemporary and business-oriented style of government. » More

A Vulnerable Peace: What’s at Stake in the Upcoming Burundian Elections

Flag of the National Council for the Defense of Democracy–Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD); a political party and former rebel group in Burundi. Image: MrPenguin20/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the IPI Global Observatory on 20 February 2015.

Starting in May, Burundians are scheduled to go to the polls for the third time since the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement and subsequent cease-fire agreements ended the Burundian civil war in 2003. These are important elections with significant consequences for the consolidation of peace and economic recovery in the country, as well as for democracy in the wider Great Lakes region.

The ruling party, the CNDD-FDD, is a former rebel movement that belatedly signed a cease-fire agreement in 2003 and then went on to win the first post-war democratic elections in 2005, and the second ones in 2010. Complex power-sharing provisions were agreed upon during the Arusha peace negotiations and enshrined in the Burundian Constitution, which intended to ensure a certain degree of inclusivity in governance. While the civil war was fought partly over the issue of ethnic exclusion, the Burundian Constitution requires that executive and legislative organs are multiethnic. » More

The ‘Wikipedia Dispute Index’: A Collaborative Seismometer?

Exploiting online networks in order to map and predict cross-linked social phenomena such as the commonality in consumption (Amazon), electoral behavior (Google), the spread of civil unrest (Twitter) or even the outbreak of diseases (Google and EMM) continues to be both an intricate and promising field of research.

Thus, it comes as little surprise that Gordana Apic, Matthew J. Betts and Robert B. Russell from the University of Heidelberg recently suggested an indicator for measuring geopolitical instability by applying the principle of association fallacy, primarily used in life sciences, to online encyclopedia Wikipedia’s entries whose impartiality is contested. In their brief research paper titled ‘Content Disputed in Wikipedia Reflect Geopolitical Instability‘, the authors accordingly argue that “quantifying the degree to which pages linked to a country are disputed by contributors” correlates with a country’s political stability. In other words: since instability is best represented by its underlying conflicts, the multitude and diversity of user-generated associations, namely: disputes, is believed to reveal some form of qualitative pattern that can be arranged as a stability ranking. » More