Regions at Risk – Predicting Conflict Zones in African Civil Wars

Sebastian Schutte , International Conflict Research Group at ETH Zurich

A long-standing, but understudied problem in Peace Science is the spatial prediction of zones of violent conflict. The relevance of this problem is twofold: First, a far reaching understanding of what conflict parties are fighting over partially translates into what they are fighting for, thereby allowing theoretical claims on motivation to be tested from a different angle. Second, reliable predictions of conflict zones can inform humanitarian relief operations and help to anticipate refugee flows. To solve this problem, a method for estimating conflict zones in civil wars based on Spatial Point Patterns Analysis (Baddeley, 2008) is presented in this paper. The study region is delimited to eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have experienced civil wars. Following the classic literature on counterinsurgency (McColl 1969) and contemporary research (Raleigh and Hegre 2009; Hegre et al. 2009), stylized models of guerrilla activity are derived and checked for their predictive performance. All out-of-sample predictions are also visualized to allow side-by-side comparisons with the empirical record. Generally, predicting regions that face an increased risk of becoming conflict zones in civil war seems possible based on the presented approach.

About the speaker
Sebastian Schutte is PhD Student in the International Conflict Research Group at ETH Zurich and has assisted in teaching methodology at the Universities of Freiburg and Zurich. He has published in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, as well as in Political Geography. His PhD topic explores the relationship between geography, violence, and mobilization in civil wars. A central contribution lies in the combination of theoretical claims with GIS technology and Agent-Based Simulation. He studied Anthropology, Computer Science, and Cognitive Science at the University of Freiburg, as well as Political Science at ETH Zurich and holds two MA degrees. His current research interests include: complex dynamics in insurgent civil wars, methodological problems of prediction and risk analysis, and empirical Agent-Based Simulation.

Venue: Conference Room

Date: 22 September 2011

Time: 12:30 - 01:30