Violent Conflict: Public Sources of Data and Analysis

You hardly have to log in to your computer, turn on the news, listen to the radio or talk to a neighbour to get news of violent conflicts throughout the world. Mass murders in the US. Terrorist attacks in Paris. Drug violence in Mexico. Fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Election violence in Sri Lanka. These are a tiny fraction of the world’s conflicts which rage every single day.

Of course, these all represent direct, violent and obvious conflict, not structural violence such as gender inequality, racism, homophobia, lack of access to education or food insecurity.

Indirect or structural conflict, although more insidious and pervasive, is hard to measure whereas direct violence is easy to identify and quantify. So here are a few sources for online violent conflict data for information such as:

  • numbers of victims of various conflicts
  • places where violence is the worst
  • increases or decreases in [rates of?] violence

Note: conflict data can include state conflict (like the war between the U.S. and Iraq) as well as interstate violence (involving only one state) such as the Rwandan genocide.

1. The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP)

The Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala Unversitet is the world’s leading peace and conflict studies program. Its site links to the Conflict Encyclopedia, with data (1974 – 2014) on violent conflict. Data categories are:

  • war and minor conflict
  • non-state conflict and one-sided violence. For example, there are data for one-sided violence in Togo (the government attacking citizens) in relation to political instability in 1986, 1991, 1993, and 2005.
  • numbers of deaths are provided, as well as descriptions of the historical context including colonization by Germany in the 19th century, then by the British and French in the 20th century and independence in 1960.

The Geo-referenced Dataset (GED)  represents violent conflict through an interactive map. The 1990’s are often called a violent and bloody decade, a reality reflected by both the map and the bar graph provided.

The current data begin in 1989 and end in 2013 but dates roll over as new data are entered. Data can be downloaded in Excel, CSV, SQL, SHX, KML and SHX formats. There are an additional 16 datasets, including replication datasets (those included in published articles and academic publications).

 This site is the “go-to” source for violent data conflict used by researchers, students and international aid agencies. Data can be obtained by place, time, type of conflict, fatalities, actors, and intensity.

2. Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED)

A project out of the University of Sussex, the ACLED offers data from 60 countries in Africa and Asia (1997—date). It is designed for “disaggregated conflict analysis and crisis mapping” and the greatest focus is on modern African political violence.

The research investigates how violent conflict is geographical, political and social. Data include:

  • dates and locations of conflicts
  • types of conflict (riots, protests, battles, etc.)
  • events by range of actors such as rebels, militias, government
  • changes in territorial control
  • reported fatalities

All data can be publicly downloaded and updated real-time. The ACLED blog offers conflict analysis—as of the time of writing, analyses available were within ten days of the events in question—and suggests how researchers might use ACLED data, for both analysis and display.

A valuable library of publications based on ACLED data includes country reports, conflict trend reports, working papers, chapters and articles.

ACLED has a twitter handle: @ACLEDINFO. Maps and infographic are available on the Visuals page.

3. International Crisis Group

This is a premier source of information related to violent conflict worldwide. The target audience is probably those working in humanitarian or international organizations, so the focus is real world issues and it is an excellent source for students as it offers analyses in plain language for “busy readers.”

The group publishes Crisis Watch, which is “designed to provide busy readers in the policy community, media, business and interested general public with a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.”

The Crisis Watch Database includes descriptions of violence based on location and date as well as links to articles published in major newspapers, newswires, local newspapers from the country in question (with summaries in English), and political magazines. Users can search by:

  • place
  • type of publication
  • in multimedia formats
  • In very brief summaries

4. Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD)

Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) researchers based at the University of North Texas and the University of Denver created the SCAD database, which includes data (1990 – 2013) on:

  • protests
  • riots
  • strikes
  • inter-communal conflict
  • government violence against civilians
  • other forms of social conflict not systematically tracked in other conflict datasets

The data include all countries in Africa, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean whose population is greater than 1 million.

The project sources information from keyword searches in Lexis-Nexis, using the Associated Press and Agence France Presse news wires. Researchers reviewed thousands of articles and included those related to the social conflict events defined above. Additional research was done when there were differences in the sources.

Events are organized into ten types: organized demonstrations, spontaneous demonstrations, organized riots, spontaneous riots, general strikes, limited strikes, pro-government violence, anti-government violence, extra-government violence and intra-government violence.

Definitions of all of the categories are available and while SCAD excludes data regarding armed conflict, social conflict social conflict is normally a struggle for power and can be either violent or non-violent.

5. Global Terrorism Database (GTD)

The GDT is an open-source database that provides data (1970 – 2014) on over 140,000 domestic and international terrorist attacks. Data are searchable by a keyword or advanced search with a number of sophisticated options.

Results are very detailed and include:

  • the type of attack
  • weapons used
  • specific dates
  • regions
  • the names of groups responsible for the attacks
  • number of perpetrators
  • victims and details of the attack with source material where possible

There is also a data visualization tool (in beta) to show countries with the highest number of attacks per year, number of attacks and fatalities.

Jennifer Dekker is a Subject Specialist Librarian at the University of Ottawa serving the Faculty of Arts. She can be reached at jdekker [at] uottawa.ca. 

The High5 column brings together 5 key projects, databases or tools about subjects or issues of consequence to libraries and library users.