"Everyone knows that in conflict people die, but they are not just numbers. They are people with dreams, with hopes, with families, with suffering, with all of that."
Quote from one of the casualty recorders interviewed for our research
Oxford Research Group (ORG) has completed its two-year study into casualty recording practice worldwide. Violent deaths in conflict should and can be recorded, our new study has found - the largest ever research project into casualty recording practice. The study, authored by Elizabeth Minor, Research Officer on our Documenting Existing Casualty Recording Practice Worldwide project, investigates the work of 40 casualty recorder groups and individuals, based in different conflict and post-conflict environments. It shows that, despite widespread neglect, recording casualties is entirely practicable.
The project has made crucial findings that are useful to recording practitioners, their supporters, and policy-makers, towards the goal that every casualty of armed conflict will be recorded. It provides insight into casualty recording practice that has, until now, not existed. The research also highlights the immediate and long-term benefits that make this work vital.
In armed conflicts all over the world, many violent deaths, particularly of civilians, fail to be officially recorded, which adds to the harm already done. In many cases, civil society organisations step in to fill this gap as best they can. Our study of the work of these organisations reveals how and why these organisations record casualties, often to the level of named individuals, and even in the most dangerous and repressive of environments.
ORG began this project in 2010 to provide a detailed overview of how work to document deaths from armed conflict was being carried out around the world. The two major objectives of the project were to:
- build up a knowledge base on practice in casualty recording that could help current and future casualty recorders with their work
- gain solid information about the range of casualty recording work, which could be shared with a broader audience including policymakers
From our research we have produced a:
- Policy paper: "Towards the Recording of Every Casualty: Policy Recommendations and Analysis From a Study of 40 Casualty Recorders"
- Collection of five practice-focused papers: "Good Practice in Conflict Casualty Recording: Testimony, Detailed Analysis and Recommendations From a Study of 40 Casualty Recorders"
The Policy Paper
The policy paper provides an overview of why casualty recording is important and useful, and demonstrates that it can be effectively carried out under varying conditions both during and after conflict. The analysis of this policy paper is directed at a wider audience and contains recommendations for states, global civil society and inter-governmental institutions on how casualty recording can be better supported both domestically and at the international level. These recommendations are intended for the immediate improvement of casualty recording worldwide.
The Practice Papers
The collection of practice-focused papers is aimed primarily at those, who record casualties, are intending to do this work, or are interested in understanding casualty recording practice better.
In our in-depth survey, we asked casualty recorders, working in conflict or post-conflict environments, a detailed series of questions about their organisation and their work via online questionnaires and extended interviews. The questions covered areas, such as:
- the definitions used by recorders in their work
- their sources and confirmation methods
- the challenges they face and the things that help them
- how they release the information they collect
- their aims and audiences
- and how their work is used
The practice-focused papers are a collection of analytical papers, looking at key themes in practice, and how casualty recorders in different situations worldwide are addressing these. The collection aims to provide practitioners with a reflection of their field, which might help them strengthen their own work further.
The collection should also assist discussions on possible standards for the field, and how different practices connect. These aims are being pursued further through the on-going activities of the International Practitioner Network of casualty recording organisations (IPN), convened by ORG.
On 22 October 2012, the policy report was publicly launched in Washington, D.C. by Elizabeth Minor, Research Officer of our Documenting Existing Casualty Recording Practice Worldwide project, and author of the reports. The launch took place at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), who are a co-funder of this project, together with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
See here for more info about the Every Casualty programme at Oxford Research Group.
Photo Credit: The 'Wall of Names' at the Kigali Memorial Centre, Rwanda, remembering victims of the Rwandan genocide (© Igor Roginek) 2012