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Security risk assessment

Global Security Threats: Find out about the threat of civil unrest and disorder around the world.

Find out about security threats around the world, from terrorism, serious crime and kidnap to natural disasters, overseas emergencies and cybercrime.

Global Security Threats

Civil Unrest & Disorder

Civil unrest
  • Civil unrest and the subsequent disorder can be extremely volatile and can rapidly escalate into uncontrolled violence. Dangerous for participating parties, law enforcement and innocent bystanders. 

  • Disorder within any country around the world can erupt at any time, from volatile nations and regions to previously stable countries and governments and can all descend into a serious security situation and threaten the safety of those caught within or near the event.​​

Civil unrest, disorder, protests and riots may be planned or occur due to any number of causes, in any city or hotspot around the world. Civil unrest can rapidly and unpredictably spread and descend into a dangerous situation for those in close proximity to the activity, as well as ill-prepared persons and premises caught in the disorder and poor security situation. 

The terms civil unrest, disorder, civil disturbance or other, relate to the activity proceeding a mass act of civil disobedience. These acts can present themselves in the form of riots, protests, demonstrations or strikes, or can evolve from these events, in which the participants become increasingly hostile toward a body of representative authority or the government as a whole, giving way to disorder or violence that authorities are unable to control or struggle to maintain public safety and order of the streets or area, over a disorderly group or crowd. 

The causes of these events can be relatively simple in nature or extremely complex, with the resulting disorder being comparable. The basic component that is required for unrest (post-event) to be triggered and descend into disorder, is the presence of a crowd. The descent into disorder can be particularly dangerous, as individuals within a crowd often behave differently, as there is a sense of anonymity and an individual's sense of responsibility is shifted to the crowd and the perception is, that during these events, norms of individual responsibility does not apply and does not remain with themselves. Additionally, as disorder breaks out, individuals start to imitate acts carried out by other, more willing participants. These acts can take shape in the form of destruction of property, threatening behaviour, violent acts, or other, against targets that may be wholly innocent. Furthermore, an undisciplined body of the authorities, for example, riot police, military or others, may conduct themselves in the same way and act in a more violent manner, including towards innocent bystanders.

Any number of conditions or events may cause civil unrest and disorder, whether it is a single issue cause or a combination of causes. However, a vast amount of these eventualities originate from economic grievances, political grievances or disputes, religious or racial tension, social discord, terrorism, or the involvement of foreign agitators.

Civil disorder arising from political grievances may include a complex range of events, from a simple protest to mass civil disobedience. These events can be spontaneous and rapidly develop but are usually planned, and generally begin non-violently. However, these events can quickly turn violent, especially when agitators attempt to provoke authorities to take a harder line or provoke law enforcers into overreacting.

Civil disorder originating from economic disputes and social discord is generally charged with substantial amounts of emotion. For example, poverty-stricken or underprivileged people may protest actual, or perceived, injustices against them. The emotion of this civil action is often exacerbated if cultural differences are involved, which creates an atmosphere of suspicion, scapegoating, animosity and mistrust of innocent parties and can potentially turn violent toward these individuals or groups of people.

Disaffected groups may organise civil disorder with the intent of provoking authorities to overreact, in order to embarrass the government, gain attention, or generate sympathy for their cause. Additionally, foreign nation-states may use proxy individuals or groups to direct civil disorder, in order to advance a political or nation's interests. Proxies can use overt or covert means to accomplish this end, for example, through political or other fund-raising, political and organisational membership drives, infiltrating opposition groups to increase their potential for action, violence, vandalism, crowd manipulation or other. The overall objective is to provoke a target nation into overreacting, which supports or creates a narrative of government oppression towards a particular group or the people in general, which can be used as propaganda. 


During civil disorder, most participants engage on foot. However, often there are instances of extreme escalation where vehicles are used as a weapon by violent individuals within a group, or by ill-disciplined law enforcement breaking from normal practices and using a vehicle against a crowd, potentially causing serious injury or loss of life.  

If a formally non-violent crowd descends into violence, effectively becoming a 'mob,' it may execute physical attacks on people and property. Including, using disturbances to mask robbery, looting and carrying out gang violence with impunity. This situation may rapidly deteriorate and the risks to those in the vicinity may greatly increase. After this point, improvised weapons, or other, may be used including, broken concrete, building material and other blunt improvised weapons,  glass bottles, fireworks, Molotov cocktails, sharp objects, knives, small arms, and improvised incendiary or explosive devices.

Additionally, a mob may erect barricades to impede or prevent, the effectiveness of the authorities. This can involve physical blockades or other (i.e fires started with accelerant and combustible material), overturning civilian or police vehicles to effectively block roads and walkways, subsequently blocking routes for innocent people to get away from the escalating violence. In more serious cases in more volatile nations, police and military units can use firearms against the people and mobs can similarly uses firearms or plant hidden explosive devices and use military-grade weapons. This poses a serious risk to those in the vicinity and can unwittingly be potentially caught in the ensuing crossfire. Panic, which can rapidly take effect, is extremely contagious and affects crowd behaviour by influencing their ability to reason, which can lead to frantic, irrational behaviour, that cannot only endanger the crowd but also wholly innocent bystanders.

The risks involved in these actions can be considerable, for the individuals using direct action, law enforcement, bystanders and people travelling into the country and caught in the event itself, trapped within an area or country as a whole, or people trying to leave a country when 'total disorder' has taken hold. These conditions can be extremely dangerous and create a poor security environment to be in.

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AG Global Strategies London Security Ser

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