Austerity cuts risk a UK Arab spring

Risk map of the world showing jhighest risk countries highlighted in redAusterity measures and spending cuts mean Britain has been named as one of 37 countries facing an increased risk of civil unrest, riots, strikes and student protests last seen in Middle East countries.

One of the world's leading political risk and terrorism experts Aon Risk Solutions has warned Britain could face its very own "Arab spring".

UK Downgrade

The global insurance broker has downgraded the UK in its 2012 Terrorism & Political Violence Map. It warned international firms with offices in the UK – and the 36 other countries it downgraded - to consider their business continuity plans in the wake of rising risks.

Neil Henderson, head of terrorism in Aon Risk Solutions' crisis management practice, said: "As can be seen from the number of downgrades, risks continue to grow. Companies that operate internationally have to keep up to date with potential risks around the world to enable them to protect their employees, physical assets and ultimately, their bottom line."

Dr. David Claridge, managing director of Risk Advisory Gorup, which worked with Aon on the report, added: "Once again the map highlights the challenges businesses face in ensuring the security and continuity of their global operations. For the first time since the map's inception, we have recorded significant negative ratings in Western Europe that reflect civil disorder in economies traditionally seen as stable.

"With further austerity measures still to be imposed and the Eurozone crisis only in remission, economic and social degradation are likely to be important drivers of future unrest."

Riot and civil unrest

Aon reported that as austerity measures and spending cuts took hold, civil unrest, riots, strikes and student protests were witnessed across large parts of Europe. This led to 43% of the downgrades.

The UK, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain were all downgraded from low risk to medium risk.

Dramatic political change in the Arab world continued to cause aftershocks in that region and beyond. Authoritarian governments in Africa and Asia took measures to protect themselves from similar challenges as civil unrest, property damage and localised protests continued in the Middle East and North Africa.

Terrorist risk

Aon also gave 46% of countries the risk of terrorist incident icon. It said: "The death of Osama bin Laden last year signified the decline of a truly globalised radical Islamist terrorism capability, but regionally active groups continue to be inspired by al-Qaeda's ideology."

While South Asia and the Middle East remain as focal points for Islamist terrorist groups, Aon said Africa had shown the most dramatic shift in terrorism threat in the last year. The ratings of six African countries have been downgraded with Senegal receiving a double downgrade from low to high risk.

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