Economic Crisis Fueling Social Unrest

Economic Crisis Fueling Social Unrest

Police in Reykjavik, Iceland after a violent protest turned into a riot on January 20. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/finnurmalmquist/3215651009/">finnur.malmquist (flickr)</a>
Police in Reykjavik, Iceland after a violent protest turned into a riot on January 20. Photo: finnur.malmquist (flickr)

It’s a lot worse than just about everyone thought. By some estimates, the economic crisis could cost 50 million jobs worldwide. That's a catastrophic number, and even their potential loss is already fueling some discontent and sounding alarms.

Worried about the ripple effects of widespread unemployment, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency recently added the state of the economy to the agency's list of top security threats. Retired Admiral Dennis Blair, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, warned that "economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one-to-two-year period."

On the international stage, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his concern: "If not handled, today’s financial crisis will become tomorrow’s human crisis. Social unrest and political instability will grow, exacerbating all other problems."

Violent flare-ups over the economic recession and resulting unemployment are already occurring all over the globe.

In Pakistan, chronic power outages have forced many textile factories to close down for hours at a time, triggering thousands of angry protesters to set fire to the state-owned power company's office. Government cuts in Lithuania’s social programs prompted protesters to pelt the parliament building with eggs and rocks ; at least 14 people were injured and 84 detained. Chinese police officers are now undergoing special training to deal with expected social unrest over factory closings that have left millions of migrant workers out of a job.

Iceland and Latvia serve as extreme examples of the devastating consequences from the declining state of the worldwide economy: both countries’ respective governments collapsed under the pressure of the economic crisis.

However, security experts are concerned about other forms of collateral damage that extend beyond protests. Bruno Tertrais, a strategic and security expert at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris tells Time Magazine that he believes the biggest threat to international security is "the collapse of regimes vital to maintaining international order." Tertrais cites Somalia as an example — a place where, after the collapse of its government, piracy has gained a foothold and severely disrupted shipping routes along the horn of Africa.

Extreme poverty has always posed a threat, especially in the world’s emerging economies. However, the breadth and force of the current global economic crisis poses a threat to all nations, whether rich or poor.

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