Each year, Global Guardian publishes a risk assessment to help corporate leaders and travelers understand the global risk landscape. Our 2024 Global Risk Map highlights a worsening geopolitical climate and forecasts an uptick in terrorism and political violence impacting the security risk of regions around the world. Here are the risk factors our Intelligence Team are focused on this year.
By Zev Faintuch, Senior Intelligence Analyst
October 25, 2023
INSIDE THIS ARTICLE, YOU'LL FIND:
In last year’s iteration of Global Guardian’s annual risk assessment, we highlighted geopolitics’ return to prominence in the corporate risk environment and warned that latent conflicts could re-emerge front and center. And re-emerge they did. At the time of writing, Russia is mounting a largescale offensive in Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Azerbaijan recently retook the self-declared breakaway state of Artsakh, Jihadist activity in the Sahel is rapidly expanding, Ethiopia’s civil war continues, and China is increasing its bellicosity in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. But more importantly, the 07 October Hamas massacre in Israel and the ensuing war have already changed the paradigm in the Middle East and the impacts will be felt both regionally and globally in the years to come. What is more, the Israel-Hamas war already has the makings to be the most impactful event in the Middle East since the dawn of the Arab Spring in 2011.
An Update on the Risk Landscape
Indeed, this second major ongoing conflict — concurrent with the Russia-Ukraine War — is not happening in a vacuum. It comes at a time in which the perception exists – in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and Pyongyang – that the post-WWII international system has collapsed. When this fracture occurred will be subject for academic debate, but what is important is that between the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the 2021 American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the geopolitical order has become untethered.
Meanwhile, over the last year, the “Triangular Alliance” between China, Russia, and Iran has begun to cement and it sees now as its opportunity to chip away at the U.S.-led world order. From Ukraine to Israel to Taiwan, the actions of this tri-partite bloc will continue to be felt with destabilizing consequences across the globe. With Taiwan’s 2024 election looming and given Iran’s nuclear threshold status amid high tensions in the Middle East, we can expect more geopolitical crises emanating from this axis in the coming year.
But the geopolitical chessboard is not confined to “great powers” and aspiring ones, “middle powers” are now also exercising their power and imposing their wills in a world where increasingly might equals right. Malicious actors — from cartels to Russian private military groups — and unpopular autocrats are also making moves in light of the current geopolitical tumult. In Ecuador, local gangs with outside support from larger transnational criminal actors are now challenging government power and operating with impunity. In Africa, seven successful coups d'état have taken place since 2020 (two in 2023) and this year, both Sudan and Ethiopia have further plunged into civil wars. As a result, the belt of contiguous countries ranging from Mali through Ethiopia now represents the highest concentration of risk, globally.
"The 'Triangular Alliance' between China, Russia, and Iran has begun to cement and it sees now as its opportunity to chip away at the U.S.-led world order."
A Shift in the Middle East
In terms of terrorism, the tailwinds of peace in the Middle East, specifically the Abraham Accords, have shifted and a bloody reality has set in. Hamas’ war on Israel is a “Hail Mary” attempt, a last-ditch effort to unify the Palestinian people and galvanize Pan-Arabist sentiment that died when Egypt and Israel signed a peace accord in 1979. But in the Attention Age where information, disinformation, and graphic images travel instantaneously, the conflict has already spread way beyond the confines of the Middle East. Major protests — some featuring overt support for terror groups — and terrorist attacks on four continents are just the beginning. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a microcosm for political, religious, and other identity-related grievances and will continue to galvanize actors — both lone wolf terrorists and organized groups — to attack and intimidate other groups in their respective countries. Travel risks to Americans, and Jews specifically, have already increased globally. We can also expect anti-Muslim sentiment to increase as backlash grows, especially in Europe. ISIS and Al-Quada have called on their followers to attack Israeli, U.S., and Jewish targets, raising the specter of terrorism outside the world’s current Jihadist hotpots in Africa. In 2024, Jihadist groups will continue to control large swathes of territory in the Sahael, Nigeria, Somalia, and Mozambique.
"But in the Attention Age where information, disinformation, and graphic images travel instantaneously, the conflict has already spread way beyond the confines of the Middle East."
Areas of Potential Increased Stability
Despite the gloomy prognosis on the global risk environment in 2024, there are three positive stories we are also tracking. The United Nations Security Council has greenlit the deployment of an armed multinational police force to Haiti led by Kenya. While the devil is in the details, if implemented, intervention could help stabilize the situation on the ground. In 2023, El Salvador has become markedly safer, owing to a draconian crackdown on the nation’s gangs that we expect to continue to pay dividends in overall safety in 2024. Finally, following over 70 years of bitter enmity, a Japan-South Korea rapprochement was spurred by security concerns over North Korea and China.
How Businesses and Travelers ShoulD Prepare
Very few businesses and travelers are immune to the current threat landscape. It is imperative for travelers to be aware of these risk factors, and plan accordingly. Long gone are the days of seamless travel without the threat of being directly or indirectly impacted by crises from multiple vectors spanning from tornadoes to terrorism. It is incumbent on corporate decision makers to walk through the “what-if,” and explore various scenarios that could arise from the current threat landscape to promote resiliency, business continuity, and ultimately to protect the workforce. Now is the time for organizing tabletop exercises with key stakeholders and established vendors across the organization.
Global Guardian's yearly risk assessment displays country-specific security risk levels based on a series of indicators including crime, health, natural disasters, infrastructure, political stability, civil unrest, and terrorism.
This year, you'll also find the Taiwan Shock Index (TSI), attributes a Low to Extreme categorical risk rating, indicating the degree to which a China-Taiwan conflict could destabilize a given country.
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