War and Casualty Recording in the 21st century


22 September 2016, 10 am to 4.00 p.m.
Keele University


lh1Lily Hamourtziadou: The ‘human security’ approach puts the individual, the citizen, the civilian, at the centre of understanding security, moving away from traditional, state-centric conceptions of security that focused primarily on the safety of states from military aggression, to one that concentrates on the security of the individuals, their protection and empowerment; drawing attention to a multitude of threats that cut across different aspects of human life and thus highlighting the interface between security, development and human rights; and promoting a new integrated, coordinated and people-centered approach to advancing peace, security and development within and across nations. Human security and human rights are mutually reinforcing, as they identify the rights that need to be protected and recognise the ethical and political importance of securing the holders of those rights. International humanitarian law prohibits all means and methods of warfare which fail to discriminate between those taking part in the fighting and those, such as civilians, who are not. The recognition of the importance of human rights and the right of each individual to life, security and liberty has placed great demands on governments and organisations to closely monitor and record human deaths from armed violence. Iraq Body Count is an NGO committed to casualty recording in the context of human security.

Chris Woods: cwoods

Airwars is a collaborative, not-for-profit transparency project run by a team of professional journalists based in Europe and the Middle East. Airwars tracks and assesses claims of civilian non-combatant casualties and ‘friendly fire’ deaths from Coalition and Russian airstrikes. Also monitor and archive official military reports of the war against so-called Islamic State (Daesh) and other parties in Iraq, Syria and Libya so that they can be measured against the public record. The commitment to protecting civilians and minimising civilian casualties during armed conflict was recently expressed by US President Obama in his ‘UNITED STATES POLICY ON PRE- AND POST-STRIKE MEASURES TO ADDRESS CIVILIAN CASUALTIES IN U.S. OPERATIONS INVOLVING THE USE OF FORCE’ signed on July 1st, 2016. He stressed the need to ‘review or investigate incidents involving civilian casualties, including by considering relevant and credible information from all available sources, such as other agencies, partner governments, and nongovernmental organizations, and take measures to mitigate the likelihood of future incidents of civilian casualties.’

Hamit Dardagan & John Sloboda: The Every Casualty project was initiated in 2007 as a project at the Oxford Research Group, by Hamit Dardagan and John Sloboda, who together had co-founded Iraq Body Count in 2002. The Every Casualty Campaign refers to the civil society organisations who endorse a call on states to agree an international framework on casualty recording, building on the Charter for the recognition of every casualty of armed violence. The Charter for the recognition of every casualty of armed violence is founded on the principle that no person should die unrecorded, and calls on states to uphold this principle for the victims of armed violence. The charter applies equally to every person and encompasses every party to armed violence. All casualties of armed conflicts must be promptly recorded, correctly identified and publicly acknowledged. Any personal details must be verifiably established and be made accessible to all. States and their military bear particular responsibility for populations under their control or jurisdiction, or who are endangered by their actions. For this reason, they must:
• ensure that the information produced is adequate and accessible as a basis for addressing the rights and needs of victims
• take all relevant actions at the national level
• work with others to develop an international framework for casualty recording.

Naveed Sheikh: For all parts of the inhabited world, violence has been a universal form of ‘doing politics’ in the course of history for as long as history has been recorded. The present meta-historical study provides for the first systematic attempt to quantify the human death toll from four categories of institutionalised violence, namely acts of war, civil war, democide and structural violence. In each case only “major acts” of violence were chosen, defined as carrying a death toll of over 10,000 lives. A survey of the available record from year 0-2008, shows 276 such events that in total lead to a global historical death-toll of between 469,240,000 (min.) and 672,260,000 (max.) lives. Adopting a taxonomy which divides the world into eight civilizational spheres (allowing for multiple and overlapping memberships as well as a residual unclassified category), the study proceeds to divide the data into civilizational shares, both by frequency and intensity. Each civilization are thus apportioned a number of events as well as percentage of the global death-toll, whereas an approximation of the changing population share allows for the calculation of Civilizational Violence Coefficients (CVC). The findings indicate that the Sinic civilization’s share of the global death-toll is the largest, whereas the Western civilization has contributed the second-largest in all three periods investigated (0-2008, 1500-2008, 1800-2008). Even when “Western” does not include the Orthodox or the Latin American geocultural realms, the Western civilization also has the highest frequency of events in each series, accounting for nearly a third of all events with a concomitant share of the global historic death-toll of 22.62% (using the mean figures for the entire 0-2008 series) and a CVC of 1.80. The Muslim civilization, contemporary media discourses notwithstanding, is thus far from the most bellicose, ranking only sixth in combined death-toll (with a CVC of 0.17), bettered only by the Latin American (CVC 0.09) and the Indic (CVC 0.01) civilizations. Although the average longitude of individual conflicts has overall decreased, violence for political aims has in the course of the last two centuries become both more frequent and more bloody, arguably both as a consequence of improved technology and a change in martial ethics. On both counts, the global emulation of the West may not be desirable.

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