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Three in five countries or territories are at risk of some form of civil commotion in 2020 – Aon Risk Maps 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is a turning point and may well mark the end of an era. With over 188+ countries experiencing COVID-19 simultaneously, never before have so many governments taken extraordinary measures at once to exercise control within their borders, restrict movement and limit commercial activity; all with the goal of saving lives by flattening the curve and minimising the potential for health care systems to become overwhelmed.
Political and business leaders across the world have faced criticism, fairly or unfairly, for their response to the pandemic. The full repercussions of their decisions remain to be seen. But widespread unemployment, hardship and resulting instability are inevitable, as are sizable fiscal deficits.
COVID-19 Risk considerations
The socio-economic implications of COVID-19 are likely to be significant, creating complex security challenges in the long-term. Particularly hard-hit countries – such as those with a significant footprint in the tourism and retail sector, or where there are proportionally more deaths from the pandemic – have greater potential for civil unrest and government-focused protest regarding response and lockdown measures. Economic grievances may also incubate nationalist extremism or encourage the use of political violence at provincial levels.
“Organisations should consider whether their operations have the potential to be affected by widespread protest, review the impacts and how their current insurance programmes would respond. It is crucial to engage with your broker and insurer to better understand market appetite and how to build physical and financial resilience in the face of these evolving threats,” says Chris Caalsen, Property Manager at Aon South Africa’s commercial risk solutions division.
Aon’s 2020 Risk Maps - focusing on political risk, terrorism and political violence - found that people are frustrated at the inability of their political leaders to resolve the largest challenges of our time, across the globe and across the political spectrum.
Civil commotion risk is closely tied to imminent economic grievances and the general trajectory for 2020 is negative. “The COVID-19 pandemic has all but guaranteed that it will slow economic growth further, increasing the likelihood of a global economic downturn in 2020. This would be a widely destabilising scenario that heightens the risk of unrest worldwide; particularly in countries already struggling to address public grievances and experiencing hardship protests, as is the case in South Africa,” says Chris.
Addressing the risk
In the past five years, South Africa bared the brunt of localised riots, strikes and civil commotion, largely due to service delivery issues. These events are typically industry related and can cause tremendous destruction. Some examples are:
Riot wrap around insurance (available in the open insurance market) combined with Sasria cover (available through Sasria SOC Limited) is a comprehensive approach in addressing the risk. “Without Sasria cover, businesses and private individuals caught in the crosshairs of violent protests and riot action, run the risk of significant uninsured losses,” warns Chris.
“Both businesses and consumers need to consult with their brokers and insurers to ascertain whether their insurance coverage has been extended to include Sasria perils. While Sasria cover responds to material damage to a building or its contents, it does not extend to contingent perils such as suppliers that are rendered inoperable, denial of access to business premises or public utilities being halted as a result of civil commotion, to mention a few. It is therefore pertinent to review assets insurance, goods in transit cover (marine) and business interruption policies in conjunction with Sasria cover, to address the risk in its entirety,” he urges.
Whether you are a large or small operator, the peril remains imminent. “With South Africa being in a fragile position it is crucial to speak to your broker or insurer to address any gaps that may exist in your cover. An expert in the field will also be able to identify any exclusions that may exist on your policies, in order to avoid any unexpected surprises if your business and assets are caught up in a strike, riot, civil commotion, or the target of malicious damage,” Chris concludes.