Conflict Forecasting and Its Limits

13 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2017

See all articles by Thomas Chadefaux

Thomas Chadefaux

Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 19, 2017


Research on international conflict has mostly focused on explaining events such as the onset or termination of wars, rather than on trying to predict them. Recently, however, forecasts of political phenomena have received growing attention. Predictions of violent events, in particular, have been increasingly accurate using various methods ranging from expert knowledge to quantitative methods and formal modeling. Yet, we know little about the limits of these approaches, even though information about these limits has critical implications for both future research and policy-making. In particular, are our predictive inaccuracies due to limitations of our models, data, or assumptions, in which case improvements should occur incrementally. Or are there aspects of conflicts that will always remain fundamentally unpredictable? After reviewing some of the current approaches to forecasting conflict, I suggest avenues of research that could disentangle the causes of our current predictive failures.

Keywords: conflict, forecasting, tournaments, predictability, nonlinearities

JEL Classification: D74, F51

Suggested Citation

Chadefaux, Thomas, Conflict Forecasting and Its Limits (February 19, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Chadefaux (Contact Author)

Trinity College Dublin, Department of Political Science ( email )

College Green 2-3
Dublin 2


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