WPS GLOBAL EARLY WARNING TOOL May 2023 QUARTERLY ANALYSIS
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PLACES TO WATCH FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT
These are selected areas where the model predicts the likelihood of at least 10 fatalities in the next 12 months in a given first subnational administrative unit that have linkages to water challenges.
- Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia: Drought continues in the Horn of Africa for a sixth straight growing season. It is now the longest and most severe drought in recent history.
- South Sudan: Flooding is now continuing into a fourth consecutive year.
- Sudan: The conflict in Sudan threatens spreading instability in the Nile River area.
- Syria: Syria is facing violence and a severe drought, and devastating earthquakes are compounding the misery.
- Iraq: Drought and high temperatures continue, with devastating impacts on rural communities, though there is a short-term relief from upstream neighbor Turkey in increasing Tigris water flows.
- Afghanistan: The World Food Programme estimates that 20 million people – nearly half of the population – have been acutely food-insecure between November 2022 and March 2023.
- Pakistan: The devastating summer 2022 floods continue to impact safe water access, with flood-damaged infrastructure forcing 5.4 million people to source contaminated water.
- India: Saltwater intrusion and broken water infrastructure are driving up water prices in areas around Kochi.
- Philippines: Heavy flooding destroyed homes, infrastructure, crops and fishing boats.
PLACES TO MONITOR WITH WATER CHALLENGES
These are a selection of the many areas where the model predicts the likelihood of 0 to less than 10 deaths in the next 12 months in a given first subnational administrative unit, but where we are nonetheless following water-related challenges and their implications.
- Tunisia: Water cuts due to the drought are causing fears of social unrest.
OTHER REGIONS AND ISSUES OF INTEREST
These are a few of the areas that are currently outside of the model's geographic scope but have water-related challenges. We are also following certain issues of interest.
- Argentina, Uruguay and Chile: Droughts in Argentina and Uruguay have decimated crops and Chile is dealing with extensive wildfires.
- Europe: Dry conditions continued through the winter, failing to replenish groundwater and surface water resources.
- Mexico: Drought and low reservoir levels are causing officials to reduce water pressure.
- New Zealand: Cyclone Gabrielle, hitting New Zealand in February, was called the biggest natural disaster to hit New Zealand in this century.
- United States: Though winter storms in the western US have caused record snowfalls, reservoirs on the Colorado river system are not projected to reach full levels again due to increased demand.
- Global Food Prices: Food prices have continued to come down from a peak of 159.3 points in March 2022 to 126.9 points in March 2023.
PLACES TO WATCH FOR VIOLENT CONFLICT
KENYA, SOMALIA, AND ETHIOPIA: DROUGHT NOW impacting FIFTH CONSECUTIVE GROWING SEASON
Drought continues in the Horn of Africa for a sixth straight growing season. It is now the longest and most severe drought in recent history. The New York Times reports that 43,000 people have died in Somalia from the drought. Relief efforts in Somalia have been hindered by attacks from Al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgent group.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts ongoing conflict throughout much of the region over the next 12 months.
SOUTH SUDAN: fourth year OF FLOODING
South Sudan continues to struggle with four years of the worst flooding it’s seen in 60 years, creating some of the first permanent climate refugees according to Bloomberg. The World Food Programme, that has been providing aid to South Sudan faces a $567 million funding gap, reducing their availability to provide food, at a time when South Sudan is seeing refugees from the violence in Sudan. South Sudan is also seeing armed conflict between herders and the community in parts of the country and armed attacks on humanitarian workers in others.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool short-term forecast predicts continued conflict in South Sudan. The data is not currently available for the long-term forecast.
Sudan: Spreading instability in the Region
Sudan lies in a region surrounded by fragile states, that ‘faced war, violent civil unrest or political upheaval in recent years’. Many of these countries, like South Sudan face their own refugee crises and are unable to support Sudanese refugees, potentially leading to resource competition. In addition, Sudan is a key player in any Nile River water negotiations, already tense over Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts continued conflict in parts of Sudan.
Malawi, Mozambique, & Madagascar: Tropical cyclone freddy
Cyclone Freddy, which traversed the Indian Ocean from Australia to southern Africa and made landfall twice in early 2023, shattered records, becoming both the longest-lived tropical cyclone ever recorded and the planet’s most energetic storm. In the process, it was responsible for over 500 deaths and tens of thousands of displacements across Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar. It has also significantly exacerbated cholera and other infectious disease outbreaks across the region.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts conflict in parts of Mozambique and Madagascar, but not in Malawi.
syria: ongoing drought
We’ve reported that Syria was facing violence and a severe drought last quarterly update. Rains again failed at the end of 2022, but did come late, at the beginning of February, though the harvest is still uncertain. Paired with the devastating effects of the February earthquakes, Syria is facing two disasters. An estimated 8.8 million people were affected by the earthquakes.
The WPS short-term Global Early Warning Tool predicts conflict throughout Syria, but at a decrease from previous levels. The data is not currently available for the long-term forecast.
In our last quarterly update, we reported that Iraq had been experiencing continuous drought since 2020. Unfortunately, the drought and high temperatures continue, with devastating impacts on rural communities. Climate change and the subsequent environmental consequences such as low rainfall and rising temperatures compound with structural and political challenges such as reduced river flows from upstream countries, lack of investment in infrastructure and poor water resource management. Consequently, tensions over water arise, sometimes erupting into violence, and forced internal migration due to loss of agricultural livelihoods.
In early April, Turkey increased water flows into Iraq via the Tigris River for one month. The move was in response to an acute water crisis and the result of a high-level bilateral meeting. The absence of a formal transboundary water treaty makes Iraq reliant on short-term and ad hoc agreements to address water shortages on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to replenish its depleted reservoirs.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts ongoing conflict throughout Iraq.
AFGHANISTAN: DROUGHT AND failed harvests
In our last quarterly update, we reported that Afghanistan was in the throes of unprecedented drought. Drought, flooding, and violent storms, together with the inability of the Taliban to manage water resources or water infrastructure in the country in an effective manner, and the economic implosion triggered by the Taliban takeover, were reasons why Afghanistan tops the list of insufficient food consumption globally. A recent report by the World Food Programme estimates that 20 million people – about half of the population – have been acutely food-insecure between November 2022 and March 2023.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts emerging and ongoing conflict throughout most of Afghanistan over the next 12 months.
PAKISTAN: devastating flooding
Extreme monsoon rainfall, together with an accelerated melting of glaciers due to soaring temperatures, utterly devastated Pakistan from June to October 2022. The devastating 2022 floods continue to impact safe water access, with flood damaged infrastructure forcing 5.4 million people to source contaminated water. The government estimates the floods will increase the poverty rate by 3.7 to 4.0%. Meanwhile, food prices in rural areas have increased by 45%, forcing over 1 million people to become reliant on humanitarian aid.
The WPS Global Early Warning Tool predicts emerging and ongoing conflict throughout Pakistan over the next 12 months.
India: SALTWATER Intrusion
Residents in coastal areas of Kochi, India, who had relied on local freshwater sources, now spend up to 15% of their income on imported water, due to increasing salinity of traditional water sources due to rising sea levels and broken water pipelines.
The WPS quarterly forecast is predicting emerging and ongoing conflict in most parts of India.
Daily heavy rainfall events in late December and January left several dozen dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The rains destroyed homes, infrastructure, crops and fishing boats.
The WPS quarterly forecast is predicting emerging and ongoing conflict in parts of the Philippines.
PLACES TO MONITOR WITH WATER CHALLENGES
Tunisia: DROUGHT CONTINUES
In Tunisia, a fourth dry year has left reservoir levels very low, prompting cuts in domestic water supplies for multiple hours each day and bans on the use of water for irrigation, watering lawns and public spaces, and washing cars. The Guardian reported “Tunisia is already reeling from a weak economy, high unemployment and rising living costs, and there are fears the water cuts could further stoke social unrest.”
The WPS quarterly forecast is not predicting conflict in Tunisia.
OTHER REGIONS AND ISSUES OF INTEREST
Argentina, Uruguay, & Chile: drought
The worst drought in over 60 years has decimated crops in both Argentina and Uruguay. Chile, meanwhile, has experienced the deadliest wildfire season in a decade. Argentina and parts of Brazil were also suffering through a blistering heatwave. Argentina is a top exporter of both soy and corn and could see up to $15 billion in lost export earnings this year.
EUROPE: DROUGHT AND WATER SCARCITY
France, the UK, Ireland, Switzerland, and parts of Italy and Germany all experienced lower than average rain and snowfalls this winter, failing to replenish groundwater and surface water resources, already low from droughts in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. In March, it was announced that Europe had endured its second warmest winter on record.
MEXICO: DROUGHT AND WATER SCARCITY
In our last quarterly update, we reported that Mexico was suffering through intense drought that was leading to water scarcity and rationing across large swathes of the country. In March this year, the Water Advisory Council warned that ‘Scarcity, overexploitation, contamination and lack of water access will cause social and economic conflicts if Mexico’s water stress is not addressed in a timely manner’. The Mexico City government responded to lowest ever reservoir levels by cutting water pressure in March.
New zealand: cyclone gabrielle
This cyclone, which hit the North Island’s northernmost and eastern regions in mid-February 2023, inflicted widespread destruction and was described by the prime minister as the biggest natural disaster to hit New Zealand this century. The cyclone left at least 11 dead and 2200 unaccounted for in the days following the disaster. The country’s finance minister estimated that the total cost to the government could be similar to the $8.42 billion it spent rebuilding the city of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake.
UNITED STATES: Competition over Water Resources
Drought conditions across much of the American West improved over the winter with two atmospheric rivers restoring California’s ‘water storage to 96% of the historical average for this time of year’, but also causing flooding in the state.
However, the Colorado river system is still only at 46% flow and the seven states that rely on it were unable to reach a compromise as of January 31st, forcing the Federal government to impose cuts on withdrawals from the river that 40 million Americans depend on. It is reported that though winter storms in the western US have caused record snowfalls, reservoirs on the Colorado river system are not projected to fill again due to increased demand.
GLOBAL FOOD PRICE SPIKES
In March 2022, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Food Price Index reached 159.3 points – a record since its inception in 1990. Since March 2022, food prices have continued to come down, to 126.9 points in March 2023, marking the eleventh successive month of decline in the index, which is a weighted average of world prices of a basket of food commodities.” Nevertheless, high food prices continue to exact a heavy toll on vulnerable populations worldwide.
ABOUT WPS AND ITS QUARTERLY ANALYSES
Water, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnership. The WPS Partnership offers a platform where actors from national governments of developing countries and the global development, diplomacy, defense, and disaster relief sectors can identify potential water-related conflict hotspots before violence erupts, begin to understand the local context, prioritize opportunities for water interventions, and undertake capacity development and dialogue activities.
The Long Term Global Early Warning Tool. Our Global Early Warning Tool provides the initial step in a multi-step process, employing machine-learning to predict conflict over the coming 12 months in Africa, the Middle East, and South and Southeast Asia. It does this on the basis of 15-20 global indicators that serve as model inputs. These indicators were selected as most significant in predicting conflict from among over 200 indicators tested. We define conflict as one that produces 10 or more deaths in any given second subnational administrative unit over a 12-month period. Generally speaking, our predictions of ongoing conflict are a lot more accurate than our predictions of emerging conflict. We continue to work on improving our model and extending its geographic coverage. So far it has captured 86% of future conflicts, successfully forecasting more than 9 in 10 “ongoing conflicts” and 6 in 10 “emerging conflicts”.
The Short Term Global Early Warning Tool. We also predict the intensity and direction of conflict events over the next two months. This sheds extra detail on areas experiencing conflict. Our predictions have been on average within 2 events of the actual events. Though the quarterly update focuses mainly on the 12-month forecast, information from the short-term forecast is also included.
Quarterly analyses. We are publishing quarterly analyses to accompany our updated maps. These quarterly analyses flag some of the hotspot areas we are tracking and describe what journalists and other actors are seeing on the ground. While we are primarily concerned with water- and climate-related conflict, the tool is designed to forecast any type of violent conflict (and can therefore be used by a variety of users interested in conflict).
Our multistep process. Early warning is very important, especially given limits to the number of problems that national and international actors can track and address at one time. Our Global Early Warning Tool ensures that emerging conflicts can get the attention they need, early enough that potential risks can still be mitigated. Our regional- and local-level tools then support the next steps in the process and can be used to verify (or disprove) global model predictions, better understand regional and local conflict dynamics, and begin to identify opportunities for mitigating risk. WPS partners offer training and capacity development to global-, national-, and local-level actors to help them better manage risks. We can also help build constructive dialogues among parties to disputes (and other key stakeholders) that can engender water-related cooperation, peacebuilding, and design of conflict-sensitive interventions.
Do you want to learn more about how the Global Early Warning Tool works or how you can use it yourself? The WPS partnership has recently launched the first two modules of a free online e-learning module. Module 2 is dedicated to the function, generation and application of the Global Tool, including a practical walk-through to explore the tools’ capabilities yourself. You can find the course here: Module 2: The Global Early Warning Tool.
 The trade-off for this high recall is low precision for emerging conflicts. Around 80% of all emerging conflict forecasts represent false positives, that is, instances where conflict was forecast but did not actually occur. Ongoing conflicts are much easier to accurately predict and have both high recall and high precision (<1% were false positives). We continue to work on improving the early warning model and expect that future versions will be able to better predict conflict.
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