Threats to human security rise in more than 20% of countries

Our latest research shows that 43 countries have seen a significant increase in the risk posed to human security since 2020, leaving populations exposed to violence at the hands of state and non-state actors.

Our Human Security Index (HSI) – which encompasses issues such as arbitrary arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, kidnapping, torture, and human rights abuses perpetrated by security forces – measures the risk posed to business by possible association with violence in 198 countries.

The data adds a new lens to our previous research, which found that political risk reached a five-year high in 2023-Q1, according to our indices covering conflict intensity, civil unrest and government stability.

“As businesses focus on the protection of employees, assets and operations in an increasingly volatile risk environment, they become more reliant on both public and private security services – especially in jurisdictions where illicit armed groups operate,” says our Chief Analyst Jimena Blanco.

“Data from the HIS shows that the risk of having investments linked to human rights violations at the hands of security forces is rising.”

Africa and Asia highest risk globally, but no region immune

The significant increase in risk witnessed by just under a quarter (22%) of countries globally has also seen the extreme risk category of the index swell to 24 countries, up from 20 in 2020. Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Venezuela and Nicaragua have all slipped into the extreme risk category over the past three years, with Turkey, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria moving in the opposite direction.

Africa and Asia lead the way as the highest risk regions, collectively accounting for 23 of the 25 highest risk countries globally.

Hong Kong has seen the sharpest uptick in risk of any country worldwide, moving to 115th highest risk, up from 153rd three years ago. Afghanistan meanwhile has climbed 27 positions, up to 8th highest risk. Major commercial locations including India, China and the Philippines have also seen their index scores significantly worsen.

But this isn’t to say that any region can claim to be risk free. Indeed, when looking at the 10 countries that have seen the largest increase in risk since 2020, four are in the Americas and three are in Europe. All told, more than 83% of the global population live in countries with a high or extreme risk of human security violations.

Diligence key in era of instability

“As global business takes place in an era of heightened instability, companies will become more dependent on security protection from state forces as well as private providers - who often recruit former members of the security forces and are seldom well regulated in emerging markets,” adds Blanco.

“This means that companies must institute strong vetting protocols in their security service procurement process and develop stringent guidelines on the level of force that security providers may deploy when protecting company premises or employees.”

In this context, integrating the UN’s Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights into contracts and undertaking periodic human rights impact assessments are crucial practices that businesses must adopt to mitigate potential association with human rights violations.

Jess Middleton

Senior Data Journalist

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