Working paper

Forecasting and Foresight: Methods for Anticipating Governance Breakdown and Violent Conflict

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Source: drmakete lab / Unsplash
Sarah Bressan, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård, Dominic Seefeldt
30 Sep 2019, 
published in

The EU-LISTCO project researches how different risk factors contribute to tipping points for governance breakdown and violent conflict in Europe’s neighborhood as well as how the European Union (EU) and its member states can respond. One way to approach this challenge is by analyzing past instances of violence and breakdown of basic governance services, assuming that a better understanding of the past is a sufficient basis for developing the right tools to address future threats. However, while this traditional way of doing empirical research is important, the future tends to surprise us. The popular uprisings and subsequent conflicts across the Middle East and North Africa as well as the war in Ukraine are two examples of events within the EU’s immediate neighborhood that took both researchers and policymakers by surprise and challenged assumptions about how, when, and where security threats emerge.

This working paper presents the evolution and state of the art of quantitative forecasting and scenario-based foresight methods, both of which can be applied to help prevent governance breakdown and violent conflict in Europe’s neighborhood. The quantitative section describes the different phases of conflict forecasting in political science and outlines which methodological gaps EU-LISTCO’s quantitative sub-national prediction tool will address to forecast tipping points for violent conflict and governance breakdown. The qualitative section explains EU-LISTCO’s scenario-based foresight methodology for identifying potential tipping points. After comparing the two approaches, the authors discuss opportunities for methodological advancements across the boundaries of quantitative forecasting and scenario-based foresight — and how they can inform the design of strategic policy options.

Download the working paper.

This policy paper is part of the EU-LISTCO project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no. 769886.

EU-LISTCO investigates the challenges posed to European foreign policy by identifying risks connected to areas of limited statehood and contested orders. Through the analysis of the EU Global Strategy and Europe’s foreign policy instruments, the project assesses how the preparedness of the EU and its member states can be strengthened to better anticipate, prevent and respond to threats of governance breakdown and to foster resilience in Europe’s neighborhoods.