African Social Conflict Database Introduced by Strauss Center’s CCAPS Program

March 10, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — A  database and Web site tool that tracks social conflict in Africa has been created by the Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.

The Social Conflict in Africa Database (SCAD) provides information that has never been tracked before on more than 6,300 social conflict events across Africa, including strikes, riots, protests, coups and communal violence from 1990 and 2009.

Cullen Hendrix and Idean Salehyan, assistant professors of political science at the University of North Texas and members of the CCAPS research team, created the database. Previous datasets have collected information on civil and interstate conflict in Africa, but none have systematically looked at these other forms of unrest.

"Conventional datasets on civil and international war were missing a lot of significant events, whether it was electoral violence in Kenya or protests for independence in southern Sudan or the current crises in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia," Salehyan said.

"SCAD provides an important new tool for analyzing conflict patterns and intervention strategies in Africa," said Ashley Moran, CCAPS program manager. "In responding to issues like climate change, building resilience is dependent on a firm understanding of how environmental stressors, conflict and governance intersect. SCAD allows this now on a more full range of conflict in Africa."

Using SCAD, Hendrix and Salehyan found that conflict in recent years has been more common in extremely wet and dry years than in years of normal rainfall. Violent social conflict is more common in the wet years, as they reported in a recent CCAPS policy brief. Climate forecasts suggest major disruptions in typical African rainfall patterns, raising the possibility of future social conflict.

"Understanding the threat of climate-driven instability in Africa requires a nuanced definition of conflict-one that includes episodic unrest, riots and demonstrations as well as interstate and civil war," said Hendrix. "Our findings indicate that rainfall has a surprising influence on the prevalence of social conflict in Africa."

SCAD has been used primarily to analyze the links between climate change and conflict. But it also tracks a wide range of issues and has broad applications for conflict patterns related to natural resources, elections, economic downturns and ethnic tensions.

SCAD offers data on more than 70,000 fatalities due to social unrest that were overlooked in datasets on civil and international war. It is designed to complement existing well-regarded data sources on conflict such as the Uppsala Armed Conflicts Database. The data are derived from Associated Press and Agence France-Presse newswires. SCAD is available through a search interface or as a complete dataset download at www.scaddata.org. Each record includes information on the event type, location and magnitude along with a brief event description and several other attributes.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative, the Strauss Center's program on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) aims to assess where and how climate change poses threats to stability in Africa, develop strategies to build government capacity to respond and evaluate the effectiveness of foreign aid for climate change adaptation in Africa. For more information, visit: http://ccaps.strausscenter.org.

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