Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, Chilean students, Que se lixe a Troika, the Arab Spring, Movimento Passe Livre, Anthill, Los Viejitos,. all these names have been appearing periodically in the mass media, becoming vox populi challenging governments and, in general, the current status quo. These protests raise questions such as: is the perception that people are protesting more, real? Where are the main protests located? Who are they opposing? Have the methods of protest changed in recent years?
There is, however, a key question, which is absolutely necessary in order to understand these protests and the current context: why are people protesting, and what are the protesters’ main demands and grievances? It was these questions that motivated our recent joint research on world protests between the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung NY Office.
Through analysis of more than 800 protests (demonstrations, campaigns, strikes, occupations) in 84 countries, and globally, we find that people are protesting more. We are living in an historical context where protests are spreading all over the world. It is not just a dynamic of developed societies – although our research shows there are more protests in High-Income countries according to the World Bank’s classification – but also that protests are becoming a common trend in Africa, Asia and, Latin America, as Chart 1 illustrates.