A new website is under construction

ECW May 2019 Newsletter

First published 12th Jun 2019

May 2019 newsletter featuring Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians, UN-OCHA Report on 20 years of PoC, Developments with SDG Indicator 16.1.2: Conflict-related deaths, General Comment on the Right to Life adopted by UN Human Rights Committee...

Casualty Recorders Newsletter

May 2019

Welcome to the Casualty Recorders Newsletter from Every Casualty

Every Casualty produces this occasional newsletter to ensure that everyone working in the field of casualty recording is aware of significant developments at international level and able to use these to support their work. We hope that the information shared in the newsletter can be used by casualty recorders to strengthen their advocacy with national governments or other targets, by demonstrating high level international support for casualty recording. The newsletter also aims to promote best practice in casualty recording and share experiences from practitioners.

We encourage casualty recording practitioners to send us news and your feedback so that the newsletter can share your successes, ideas, and expertise with colleagues globally. 

- The Every Casualty team.

  1. Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians, and Secretary-General's annual report
  2. UN-OCHA Report on 20 years of Protection of Civilians
  3. Developments with SDG Indicator 16.1.2: Conflict-related deaths
  4. General Comment on the Right to Life adopted by UN Human Rights Committee 
  5. Every Casualty News


Security Council Open Debate on Protection of Civilians, and Secretary-General's annual report

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council's first Protection of Civilians mandate, which will be marked on 23 May at the UN Security Council annual Open Debate. States participating in the debate are expected to make reference to the Secretary-General's most recent annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which recommends that 'greater attention should be given where relevant and feasible to instituting the recording of casualties, such as that undertaken by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan' and encourages all state armed forces involved in military operations to conduct 'effective' and 'standardised' civilian casualty tracking.  

Every Casualty is using the Open Debate to advocate for greater support for casualty recording and casualty recorders. Specifically, we are asking states to use the debate to: 
  • express support for casualty recording and highlight the many benefits it brings;
  • recognise that civil society casualty recording organisations, in particular those led by conflict-affected populations themselves, are essential for gathering comprehensive casualty information, especially in the most critically-affected areas which external monitors may be unable to access;
  • commit to support independent civil society casualty recorders and urge other states to do the same;
  • provide more political and financial support to casualty recording within UN missions;
  • encourage UN entities, states and civil society to adhere to the Standards for Casualty Recording.
We will be tweeting highlights of the debate on 23 May and encourage others to re-tweet these to show global support for casualty recording.


UN-OCHA Report on 20 years of Protection of Civilians

At the beginning of May UN-OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) published a policy paper reviewing the development of the Security Council's approach to protection of civilians. The report, 'Building a Culture of Protection: 20 years of Security Council engagement on the protection of civilians’, explicitly endorses and encourages the use of casualty recording. Highlights include explicit recognition that:
  • Casualty recording 'can facilitate advocacy and contribute to a decrease in civilian casualties'. Using the example of UNAMA in Afghanistan, the report highlights that 'This engagement, in combination with measures adopted by parties to the conflict to reduce the impact of their operations on civilians, including through the establishment of dedicated civilian casualty tracking mechanisms, demonstrably mitigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan.'
  • 'Reliable, accurate and timely information on casualties ... is an essential component of allowing the [UN Security} Council to promote and pursue its PoC [Protection of Civilians] agenda. ... Such information can be used by the Council to understand protection concerns, define priorities and inform decisions to most effectively achieve the protection of civilians on the ground. It can also be used for advocacy and humanitarian diplomacy, including with parties to conflict, operational planning, deterrence and accountability efforts, as well as conflict analysis, prevention and response more generally. Recording casualties “can clarify the causes of harm to civilians as well as the actions needed to end such harm and prevent its recurrence”; therefore, such information management efforts “should be scaled up to systematically collect and analyse information and strengthen reporting on the protection of civilians across conflicts”.'
  • 'Monitoring and reporting mechanisms such as human rights monitoring, casualty recording and reporting, the MRM and the MARA, and reporting channels including via the Secretary-General, UN peace operations, working groups, committees and panels of experts, have created a feedback loop between the Council, Headquarters and the field enabling more informed, targeted and effective protection activity.'

The report concludes with recommendations to the Security Council that it should:

'• urge parties to conflict, including in multinational operations, to establish and implement civilian casualty tracking as proven means of informing military strategy to reduce civilian harm; 

• request and ensure adequate resources for more extensive civilian casualty recording and human rights reporting from UN peace operations, in line with UNAMA best practice; 

• encourage UN actors to implement a more efficient information management system across entities and data collection methodologies including clear guidelines on roles, responsibilities and information sharing practices; 

• promote the strengthening and improvements to the operationalizing of, and adequate resourcing for, the MRM and the MARA.'

Every Casualty strongly supports these recommendations for developing more consistent, comprehensive and reliable casualty recording by UN entities. However, we will continue lobbying to ensure that this is done as well as - not instead of - independent civil society casualty recording initiatives.


Developments with SDG Indicator 16.1.2: conflict-related deaths


In 2017 the UN General Assembly adopted a ‘Global Indicator Framework’ to measure progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This include Sustainable Development Goal 16.1, to ‘Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere’. 

To measure implementation of this SDG, two indicators were introduced. Indicator 16.1.1 measures non-conflict-related intentional homicide. Indicator 16.1.2 measures “Number of conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population, by sex, age and cause”.

OHCHR is the ‘custodian agency’ for Indicator 16.1.2. It has led the development of the methodological and data collection approaches for the indicator. This approach was given formal approval at the IAEG-SDG meetingat the end of March this year. 

Two types of data will be used to report on SDG indicator 16.1.2: individually documented deaths (casualty records), and estimated undocumented deaths (statistical estimates). Data will be disaggregated at minimum by:

  • Sex of person killed (Man, Woman, Unknown) 
  • Age group of person killed (Adult (18 and above), Child (below 18), Unknown) 
  • Cause of death (Heavy weapons and explosive munitions; Planted explosives and unexploded ordnance (UXO); Small arms and light weapons;; Incendiary; Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN); Electromagnetic weapons; Less lethal weapons; Denial of access to/destruction of objects indispensable to survival; Accidents related to conflict; Use of objects and other means; Unknown) 
  • Status of the person killed (Civilian, Other protected person, Member of armed forces, Person directly participating in hostilities, Unknown) 

What happens now

During 2019, OHCHR aims to collect data on individually documented direct conflict-related deaths of civilians for the years 2015 - 2017, and will submit a report on this in 2020. It will then continue to report annually on global conflict-related deaths (both direct and indirect, civilian and military, documented and estimated).

To produce its reports OHCHR will compile information on conflict deaths from various data providers. It has stated that ‘mechanisms, bodies and institutions that have the mandate, capacity and independence to document and investigate alleged killings related to conflict will be prioritized’. Specifically, this includes ‘UN entities working on casualty recording in the framework of their operations (e.g. peacekeeping operations, commissions of inquiry, humanitarian operations and human rights offices), national human rights institutions and national statistical offices.’ However, OHCHR has also stated it will use casualty information from civil society organisations which can demonstrate their ability to provide credible and reliable data and apply the verification standard required by OHCHR’s methodology. 

OHCHR will seek resources to increase the technical support it can provide to relevant stakeholders engaged in casualty recording work. It will also conduct capacity-building activities with relevant stakeholders at national, regional and international levels.

Every Casualty is closely following developments on SDG indicator 16.1.2 to ensure civil society casualty recorders are fully represented and included. We hope to arrange consultations between members of the Casualty Recorders Network and OHCHR shortly to discuss potential future collaboration. Further information will follow.


General Comment on the Right to Life adopted by UN Human Rights Committee

In October 2018, the UN Human Rights Committee adopted a General Comment 36 on Article 6, the right to life, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is currently available in English only on the Committee website. Versions in additional UN languages will follow.

The General Comment includes references to several issues relevant to casualty recording, including:
  • States' obligations to investigate possible violations of the right to life in situations of armed conflict, in accordance with international standards (para.64).
  • States' duty to investigate whenever civilians are found dead in circumstances fitting a pattern of alleged violations of the right to life by State authorities (para.29).
  • Recognition of enforced disappearance as a violation of the right to life, and States' obligations to ensure prompt and effective investigation of cases of disappearances, ensuring that victims' relatives are provided with full reparation and means to regularise their legal status in relation to the disappeared persons after an appropriate period of time, without being obliged to declare them dead (para.58).
If you are submitting a report to the Human Rights Committee in future relating to casualty recording issues in your country, you may find it helpful to highlight connections with these provisions of the General Comment. You can see when your country is next scheduled for review on the OHCHR website. For information or assistance with NGO alternative (also known as 'shadow') reports, please contact us.


Every Casualty News

Every Casualty is delighted to announce a new staff member will be joining us in August. The new Casualty Recorders Network Development Coordinator will lead the Standards implementation studies, the translations of the Standards, and other outreach activities focused on the Network.

Work has begun on translation of the Standards for Casualty Recording. We expect to have completed translations into Arabic, French and Spanish by the end of 2019. In addition, there will be a revised 'Plain Language' version of the English original. We welcome involvement of Network members in reviewing the translated texts and advising on specific terminology. Please contact us if you are willing to help.
We hope this newsletter was useful. Please  send us your feedback, including any requests for information on specific issues in the next edition.