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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 4, 2020

A Pandemic of Violence? The Impact of COVID-19 on Conflict

  • Sara M.T. Polo EMAIL logo


This article examines the impact and repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on patterns of armed conflict around the world. It argues that there are two main ways in which the pandemic is likely to fuel, rather than mitigate, conflict and engender further violence in conflict-prone countries: (1) the exacerbating effect of COVID-19 on the underlying root causes of conflict and (2) the exploitation of the crisis by governments and non-state actors who have used the coronavirus to gain political advantage and territorial control. The article uses data collected in real-time by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Johns Hopkins University to illustrate the unfolding and spatial distribution of conflict events before and during the pandemic and combine this with three brief case studies of Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Libya. Descriptive evidence shows how levels of violence have remained unabated or even escalated during the first five months of the pandemic and how COVID-19-related social unrest has spread beyond conflict-affected countries.

Corresponding author: Sara M.T. Polo, Department of Government, University of Essex, Colchester, UK, E-mail:


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Received: 2020-08-04
Accepted: 2020-08-08
Published Online: 2020-09-04

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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