Uppsala University: Survey of violent political protest in UCDP

Violent political protest has become increasingly common across the globe, with the Middle East and Africa displaying the trend most often. This is shown in a new survey conducted by researchers into peace at Uppsala University. In conjunction with the survey, violent political protest has as of now been introduced as its own fourth category in Uppsala University’s conflict database, known as UCDP.

UCDP, or Uppsala Conflict Data Program, is a world-leading programme for collecting and documenting organised violence. The database reports data regularly to international authorities and bodies concerning ongoing conflicts and forecasts of where they believe conflicts could arise. Previous research has tended to focus on either armed uprisings or uprisings via non-violent methods, but one type of conflict that falls between these two stalls – violent protest – has not, so far, been systematically and globally documented. Until now, the database has been divided into three different areas: one-sided violence, non-state and state-based conflicts.

The entirely new category now being added has been named Violent Political Protest, or VPP. It will become an independent category with the same methodology, conceptual frameworks and threshold values for violence – at least 25 casualties per year – as other categories of organised violence in the UCDP. The violence that is defined here involves informally organised civilians challenging states in terms of either governance and leadership or territorial issues.

The researchers present the survey and new data set in the UCDP in a new article published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution. They describe the data collection process and show how empirical analyses work.

“Our new data set will be an important and accessible resource for research into peace and conflict. By introducing this category, we will be better able to understand the occurrence of violence globally,” explains Isak Svensson, professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, and one of the authors of the article.

Violent political protest often arises concurrently with state conflicts, but should not be viewed as a form of escalation of the conflict.

“They arise partially under the same conditions, however. We can see that there is a higher risk of violent political protest arising in societies with higher levels of inequality between the sexes, as in the case of state conflicts,” notes Susanne Schaftenaar, doctoral student at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University and another of the authors of the article.

The data can be used to more effectively study why certain protests become violent, what effects ‘non-violent discipline’ have on opposition movements’ opportunities for success, and to better understand how the character of different forms of organised violence can shift over time.