Launch event: 'Hitting the Target?' RUSI Whitehall Report, publishing paper from Every Casualty

First published 15th Mar 2013

The paper examines the relevance of casualty recording to the Protection of Civilians framework, using NATO's intervention in Libya as a case study. The Whitehall Report is a joint publication of RUSI and the Centre for International Intervention at the University of Surrey, and an earlier version of the paper was presented at the 'Hitting the Target' workshop at the University of Surrey in July 2012.

The RUSI Launch Event

The event will be held at RUSI, Whiltehall, London SW1A 2ET at 5.30pm on Tuesday March 26th. The launch is free and open to all, but registration is required. The following is a description of the event from RUSI's website:

"While the US drone-strikes programme is under renewed scrutiny, remotely piloted aircraft are but one element of modern precision-strike capability. Military action in Mali, Libya and elsewhere have demonstrated the continuing, critical reliance on advanced technological capabilities in modern Western intervention.

This raises a number of important questions about the thresholds for military intervention, the way it is carried out, and its consequences; in particular, whether ethical, legal, and policy frameworks have kept up with the pace of technological change, and how this affects the behaviour of those responsible for policy and for its implementation on the ground. Although intervention is a political act, and many of the activities that constitute contemporary military intervention are not new, some argue that unmanned capabilities will lead to a shift in the ease and conduct of warfare.

At this discussion event, to mark the launch of a new Whitehall Report, 'Hitting the Target?', a panel of experts will debate the practice of intervention in the context of emerging unmanned intelligence and precision-strike capabilities. What - if anything - has changed, and what does this mean for the West?

A panel discussion featuring:

  • Prof Sir Michael Aaronson (moderator): Executive Director of the Centre for International Intervention (cii) at the University of Surrey
  • Lieutenant General (Rtd) Sir Graeme Lamb: Former British Army officer and Commander, Field Army
  • Dr Lou Perrotta: Formerly of the UK Government's inter-departmental Stabilisation Unit
  • Dr Jamie Shea: Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, NATO

This Whitehall Report is a joint publication with cii – the Centre for International Intervention – at the University of Surrey, which researches the motivations and consequences of international intervention. It builds on a successful two-day workshop on this topic in July 2012, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Surrey.

The event will be followed by a drinks reception."

The Every Casualty Paper

Using original research and Every Casualty's previous research into casualty recording practice, the paper 'Casualty Recording as an Evaluative Capability', by Jacob Beswick and Elizabeth Minor, explores the relationship between UN Security Council Resolution 1973, its implementation in the NATO-led Operation Unified Protector, and the protection of civilians in armed conflict framework at the UN, to illustrate the importance of systematically recording civilian casualties. The paper demonstrates the variety of recording methodologies available (this analysis can also be found in the key publications of Every Casualty's two-year research project into recording practice), and argues that the pursuit of the core challenges to protection-of-civilians framework requires systematic information on casualties. Such information – its acquisition and analysis – should be given a clear and fundamental role when drafting Security Council resolutions mandating protection, according to Every Casualty.

The Libyan case illustrates areas where shortcomings in the mandating resolution undermined broader protection-of-civilian aspirations:

Mandates to protect civilians require clarity regarding the obligations – in terms of procedures and responsible parties – to collect information on civilian harm

Through the clarification and implementation of systematic assessment measures for casualty recording, accountability, compliance with the law and greater understanding as to the efficacy of missions to protect can be better realised. 

Within the UN Secretariat, numerous agencies are currently working towards building capacities to obtain improved information on civilian harm and casualties. There is an undeniable bureaucratic and logistical complexity in determining which agencies are most suitable for undertaking such assessments. However, the research findings on the range of existing practices set out in the paper and elsewhere provide a set of considerations which those drafting and operationalising mandates for the protection of civilians can usefully keep in mind. The paper concludes that at every stage of a conflict and well into the post-conflict phase, there is always more to be done – usefully and effectively – than has been standard state and UN practice up to this point.