First open system providing warning of conflicts

4 June 2018

Hello, there Håvard Hegre, Dag Hammarskjöld Professor in the Department of Peace and Conflict Research. An initial version of the analytical tool called ViEWS (a political Violence Early-Warning System) was unveiled in June. What is it?

Portrait of Håvard Hegre.
Håvard Hegre, Professor of Peace and Conflict
Research. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

ViEWS is a system that forecasts where in the world armed conflicts are going to occur. In a first stage we are focusing on Africa. Analyses cover the next 36 months and will be presented in the form of maps on which areas of conflict are marked with colours. Red signals high risk for conflict, while purple indicates low risk.”

How does ViEWS work?
“The system is based on data in the Uppsala University Conflict Database (UCDP), which collects information about conflicts in the world on an continual basis. This information is supplemented with data on, among other things, terrain conditions and demographics. Conflicts arise where there are people, of course, and the main indicator for predicting where future conflicts will occur is what the situation looks like right now.

“Because the system is under construction, it will be supplemented by additional sources, such as data on peacekeeping efforts, presidential elections and military coups. We also want to look at how we can analyse large amounts of text from news sources to pick up information that points to conflict.”

How do you go about that?
“It is a matter of searching for specific words and phrases to try to identify triggers that in theory could cause tensions, such as various forms of protest and how governments are acting in such situations. The analyses are updated every month, and we will also be following up on how well our prognoses reflect the reality on the ground.”

All the data that is used for analysis is freely available for anyone to see. Why have you chosen to work that way?
“The principle of full transparency is very important to us. There are already analytical tools based on intelligence information and used by bodies such as the United Nations. We have chosen to maximise transparency and just use open data to see how far it can take us. This means that we may not necessarily have the best warning system, but it will be the most open. That will be our contribution.”

Related

​First forecast from ViEWS – the Violence Early-Warning System