About the pilot early-warning system (ViEWS)

VIEWS started as an ERC-funded Advanced Grant project that ran between 2017-2021, the goal of which was to build a pilot early-warning system for fatal political violence in Africa. 
Called “The political Violence Early-Warning System (ViEWS)”, the pilot was built using what we now refer to as the VIEWS1 (2018-2019) and VIEWS2 (2020-2021) data infrastructures. They leveraged a set of prediction models that generated probabilistic assessments of the likelihood that given conflict thresholds would be met – for each country and 55×55 km location in Africa (and toward the end of the project also for the Middle East). 
Since the pilot project concluded, we have progressed to the VIEWS3 data infrastructure and continuous models that generate predictions for the number of fatalities at the same levels of analysis. Please consult the Methodology pages to learn more about these models. 
This page describes the background and scope of the pilot system.
  • Project duration: 2017-2021
  • Host institution: Uppsala University and Peace Research Institute Oslo 
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Project description

ViEWS started as an ERC Advanced Grant project in January 2017 in response to the need for a systematic and uniform means to monitor locations at risk of conflict.

The problem

Every month, thousands of people are killed in large-scale political violence. These conflict are highly destructive – beyond the immediate mortality and morbidity, conflicts lead to profound long-term consequences that impede the realisation of sustainable development. They severely hinder growth and poverty reduction, and they have severe detrimental effects on public health with the adverse impacts felt for decades after the shooting stops. Conflict is ‘development in reverse’.  Preventing and containing armed conflict is consequently high on policy-makers’ agenda. Early action, however, requires early warning. With a good understanding of where armed conflict will occur in the near future, for how long it will persist, and how lethal it will be, concerned governments, IGOs, and NGOs may engage in diplomacy efforts, alert the international community about the situation, prepare for humanitarian assistance, and allocate resources where most needed.  This is what ViEWS offered (now provided through VIEWS).  
The recent history of state-based violence in Africa, as recorded by the UCDP as of 1 June 2020. Red-colored cells suffered fatalities from state-based violence in April 2020. Purple cells have not experienced such fatalities in years.
Predicted probability of at least 25 fatalities in state-based violence in October 2020 (red dots) and September 2020 (grey dots), as seen from forecasts generated in August and July 2020, respectively.

The solution

The political Violence Early Warning System (ViEWS) was created to remedy the problem above and bridge the knowledge gaps concerning areas of risk. The system offered a novel integration of isolated causal factors – identified through decades of peace research – into a theoretically and methodologically consistent forecasting system, further informed by conflict data spanning nearly 30 years in time. ViEWS systematically monitored all locations at risk and produced uniform predictions of the risks of state-based, non-state, and one-sided violence, at both the country- and sub-national levels.
Coupled with state-of-the-art methodologies and an open-source ideology, the result was (and still is through VIEWS), an ambitious and objective early-warning system at the frontier of research – a fully transparent system that is continuously developed, tested, and iteratively improved.

The forecasting tool

Based on the solution above, ViEWS released monthly predictions of the likelihood that at least 25 battle-related deaths (BRDs) would occur in each country and month, and at least 1 BRD would occur in each PRIO-GRID-cell and month – for each of three different types of political violence (state-based, non-state, and one-sided violence, as defined and recorded by the UCDP), for all of Africa and the Middle East, and for each month in a rolling three year forecasting window.  The forecasts were released via our website, forecasting dashboard, the VIEWS API, and as written summaries in the Risk Monitor series. 
Prediction map for illustration of the ViEWS system
Predicted number of fatalities from state-based violence per country and month in October 2022, based on input data up to and including July 2022.