Heading into 2024, and reflecting on 2023, we highlight what's changed on our Risk Map 2024, examining the key drivers behind the updates to our risk ratings for each region of the world.
The security and operational risk ratings in Sudan have been raised to EXTREME following the outbreak of military conflict in April 2023 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Intense fighting, including airstrikes and artillery fire, have continued throughout most of the country in 2023, as highlighted by the surprise RSF offensive on Wad Madani in December. Although northern, eastern and southern areas of the country have been more stable and seen significantly lower levels of conflict activity, there remains a realistic possibility of further conflict escalation and sudden changes in territorial control. A HIGH risk zone has been created for Port Sudan, where the security situation remains relatively stable.
A MODERATE security risk zone for northern Ghana and HIGH risk areas for northern Togo and northern Benin have been created due to the spillover risks from active militant groups in Burkina Faso and Niger.
These regions have seen increasing cross-border incursions largely due to the porous borders with Burkina Faso and Niger, where several militant groups are active. Militant groups periodically cross the border into Ghana, Benin or Togo for logistical and recruitment purposes, despite heightened security. While these groups have not established a base in the Gulf of Guinea countries, an increase in violence and attacks have been recorded.
Ethiopia has seen a change in its risk zones, with the Tigray security risk environment lowered to HIGH and two security risk zones created to reflect the heightened risks in Amhara and Oromia.
Following the end of the Tigray conflict in November 2022 and the resumption of humanitarian operations within the state in January 2023, we have lowered the security risk rating to HIGH from EXTREME. The risk of isolated clashes between federal and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces will likely persist in 2024. A HIGH security risk zone was created for Oromia to reflect the risk of intra-state conflict between the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and the federal forces, with sporadic fighting reported since 2021. Similarly, a HIGH security risk zone was created for Amhara, which has seen continued fighting between Fano-militias and federal forces in most urban centres, including Gondar.
Middle East and North Africa
Southern border areas of Lebanon have been raised to HIGH owing to an uptick in cross-border hostilities with Israel.
The security risk rating for Lebanon's southern border with Israel (areas south of the Litani River) has been raised to HIGH from MEDIUM. The rating change comes amid near-daily IDF air and drone strikes on civilian and Hezbollah infrastructure since 8th October 2023. Following the incursion from Gaza by Hamas militants and the subsequent siege of the Gaza Strip by the IDF, tensions between Israel and Hezbollah have escalated, culminating in an Israeli airstrike targeting a Hamas deputy leader in Beirut. The cross-border conflict has largely been contained to targeted strikes on IDF and Hezbollah positions, with neither party showing the inclination to escalate the conflict beyond tit-for-tat strikes.
Numerous Mexican states were increased to HIGH owing to the entrenched presence of cartels, which have a significant impact on the security environment.
The security risk rating was increased to HIGH in Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Morelos and parts of Zacatecas and Jalisco. The deep-rooted presence of cartels in several states of Mexico directly impacts the security environment by increasing the risk of crime, kidnap and intra-state conflict. The lack of appropriate policing, sometimes due to corruption, in these states translates into elevated levels of armed carjacking, homicide, extortion and mugging. These threat actors are known to clash with each other and with the security forces, increasing incidental risks. Disputes for drug and human trafficking routes in areas close to the United States border are common. Cartel gunmen are commonly better equipped than the security forces and patrol unpaved, mounting checkpoints in non-toll roads.
In Ecuador, Border areas with Colombia (HIGH), Esmeraldas, Manabi, Guayas, Santa Elena, Los Rios, Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas and El Oro provinces have been increased to HIGH.
Numerous non-state threat actors take advantage of the porous border with Colombia to establish drug smuggling routes, which in turn increases risks linked to gang-related violence. Ecuadorian gangs rose in importance following the power vacuum created by the Colombian peace agreement with the FARC; Ecuador has become the main exporter of drugs produced in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Gangs demonstrate an elevated degree of capability across the coastal provinces, from where they ship cocaine and coca paste to Mexico, Australia and Europe.
The security risk rating in Belize City has been increased to HIGH.
Rival gangs commonly clash in several regions of the city, particularly on its southside, as the port is used for drug and human traffic. Belize City concentrates the vast majority of the 113 homicides and violent criminal activity, such as armed robbery and kidnap, of the nation. The security forces are not properly funded and equipped to rapidly respond to security incidents. There are only two roads leading in and out of the capital, increasing the risks associated with unrest and blockades can impede access to Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport (BZE). Increased natural disaster risks during the Atlantic Hurricane season; the city is also prone to flooding during the rainy season.
Hong Kong’s security risk rating was changed to LOW owing to a sustained reduction in the risk of unrest.
The frequency and intensity of protests have significantly reduced following China’s introduction of the Hong Kong National Security Law in 2020 after large-scale protests and unrest. The Hong Kong authorities’ plans to enact a new national security legislation in 2024 could lead to a further reduction in the risk of unrest. The overall risk environment is LOW, as the risk of kidnapping and terrorism has remained low, while owing to the de-escalation in protest activity and heightened security laws, the risk of unrest is low.
Europe and CIS
The security risk rating for eastern Ukraine was raised to reflect the ongoing conflict. Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk risk zone created to reflect Russia’s ongoing occupation of southern and eastern Ukraine, with an EXTREME risk rating. The remainder of Ukraine was changed to HIGH to reflect the generally stable nature of current frontlines and overall permissibility of travel in major cities away from frontlines. External conflict risks continue to be assessed as EXTREME across Ukraine due to the ongoing impact of the conflict, including Russia’s targeted drone and missile campaign.