Are we living in the age of protest?
A working paper from the Initiative for Policy Dialogue tracked all protests from 2006 to 2013. The authors classified each protest according to the types of grievances and causes of outrage, the profile of demonstrators, size and the nature of opposition.
They found that protests are becoming more common worldwide and larger in size. The largest protests in human history (one exceeding 100 million people) have occurred in the past six years.
Increases in frequency are consistent across all types of protests, including economic justice, failure of political representation, rights and global justice.
Full on riots are fortunately few (only ~10% of all protests), but arrests and state violence are common. The biggest offenders include Iran, Russia, the US, Canada and Cameroon.
Developed countries account for the lion’s share of protests and the authors noted increased levels of “soft repression” in the form of surveillance and profiling.
More encouraging, they found that 37% of protests result in some kind of political change. These gains were mostly in the areas of political, legal and social rights. Global issues and economic justice, however, appear the most difficult areas to achieve change. No surprises here. These problems are vastly complex, entrenched, include numerous players and not easily solved.
I’ve written before on the issue of food prices and protest in South Africa and other authors have found similar trends in the Middle East. While the grievances of protesters often has little to do with food or issues of daily living, I’m wondering how economic pressures might be stimulating conditions favorable to demonstration. No doubt, we might look to solving the worldwide problem of volatile agricultural commodity prices and food availability.
Most interesting are the ubiquitous calls for “real democracy” or adequate representation of the populace in political matters. Policy makers would do well to respond to this simple and obvious call for inclusion. If not, we will see further unrest and potentially more violence and instability.
About Pete LarsonResearcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.
- New publication: Climate change related catastrophic rainfall events and non-communicable respiratory disease
- New publication! Snakebite victim profiles and treatment-seeking behaviors in two regions of Kenya: results from a health demographic surveillance system in Tropical Medicine and Health (BMC)
- New publication: Ambient air pollution and non-communicable respiratory illness in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review of the literature
- New publication: “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on temporal patterns of mental health and substance abuse related mortality in Michigan: An interrupted time series analysis” (Lancet Regional Health – Americas)
- New publication: “Long-Term PM2.5 Exposure Is Associated with Symptoms of Acute Respiratory Infections among Children under Five Years of Age in Kenya, 2014”