The Early Warning Project will be running a public opinion pool on the Good Judgment Project's website. Below is the background information and definitions required for the questions being asked.
Mass atrocities are rare yet devastating crimes. They are also preventable. The goal of the Early Warning Project is to provide governments, advocacy groups, and at-risk societies with earlier and more reliable warning, and thus more opportunity to take action well before killings occur. The Early Warning Project provides our audiences with annual statistical risk assessments and looks to opinion pool forecasts to provide policy makers and NGOs continuously updated and immediate forecasts of the risk of mass atrocities by both governments and non-state actors, especially in evolving situations.
We will consider a mass killing to have occurred when the deliberate actions of armed groups, including but not limited to state security forces, rebel armies, and other militias, result in the deaths of at least 1,000 noncombatant civilians targeted as part of a specific group, over a period of one year or less.
A noncombatant civilian is any person who is not a current member of a formal or irregular military organization and who does not pose an immediate threat to the life, physical safety, or property of other people.
The reference to deliberate actions distinguishes mass killing from deaths caused by natural disasters, infectious diseases, the accidental killing of civilians during war, or the unanticipated consequences of other government policies. Generally, fatalities will be considered deliberate if they result from actions designed to compel or coerce civilian populations to change their behavior against their will, as long as the perpetrators could have reasonably expected that these actions would result in widespread death among the affected populations. Examples of such actions include, but are not limited to: mass starvation, deaths resulting from the intentional confiscation or destruction of healthcare supplies, and deaths occurring during forced relocation or forced labor.
Typically, the perpetrators of mass killings target a discrete group. That group may be defined communally (e.g., ethnic or religious), politically (e.g., partisan or ideological), socio-economically (e.g., class or professional), or geographically (e.g., residents of specific villages or regions). Generally, unrelated executions by police or other state agents would not qualify as mass killing, but capital punishment directed against members of a specific political or communal group would.
The EWP tracks violence on an ongoing basis. Violence, meeting our criteria, that began before the question launched but that has not yet met the 1,000 casualty threshold, will be taken into consideration when resolving this question.
Recent examples of mass-killing episodes include:
Frequently Asked Questions on Good Judgment Open Challenge:
Are mass killings tracked within a calendar year?
Mass killings are tracked from the time they begin, not within a calendar year. For our coding purposes, we track these episodes on a continuous basis. When determining whether a mass killing episode has occurred, we examine all deaths (that fit our definition, i.e. non-combatant civilians targeted as part of a discrete group) since violence began. Thus, the goal of each question is to assess whether there will be any 12 month period of time in which more than 1,000 non-combat civilian casualties are killed before the question’s end date. In making resolution decisions, we continuously track the rolling 12 month total of non-combat civilians killed.
For example, a question on Burundi that was launched in February of 2016 asks whether there will be an episode of mass killing before the end of 2016. When a Human Rights Watch report was released on February 25, 2016, we examined the total number of civilians killed (in a manner reflecting Early Warning Project definitions of mass killing) in the 12 month period between April 2015 and February 2016 to determine if the 1,000 threshold had been reached. We make similar assessments as new sources become available.
Please note that this is different from most Good Judgment questions where events that occur before the question is launched do not count. For example, violence began in Burundi in April 2015. A question about the likelihood of a mass killing occurring before 1 January 2017 would be answered if 1,000 or more non-combatant civilians were killed, and targeted as part of a specific group, in any 12-month time period before 1 January 2017.
Are mass killings tracked across borders?
The Early Warning Project seeks to provide policymakers, NGOs, activists, and scholars with advanced warning of the likelihood of states committing mass killings. Our statistical risk assessments focus on state-led mass killings, which we understand as situations in which state security forces or closely allied domestic militias do the killing on the government’s behalf. Many of our opinion-pool questions widen that aperture to consider the risk that rebel groups and other non-state actors might be the perpetrators. Even then, however, we guide forecasters not to consider the risk that foreign militaries will perpetrate atrocities within the borders of the country in question. In neither case does our early warning system consider the risk that national military forces will perpetrate mass killings against citizens of another state on that other state’s territory.
Last updated: 22 August 2016 (FAQ section added)