Challenge to casualty recording: reliability of the data

Reliable information is essential to any recording mechanism that uses evidence to inform practices. There are a number of indicators that help to assess reliability. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has looked at three elements: the presence of validation mechanisms to verify the data that is gathered, the use of multiple sources to increase the comprehensive scope of the database, and the transparency of the systems.

The absence of any ways to ensure that data is accurate raises significant questions as to the reliability of the figures. AOAV’s research shows that instruments producing reliable data are more inclined to use that evidence to inform legal procedures, support victims’ rights, evaluate policies and programmes and inform academic research. When reliable casualty recording mechanisms are established as part of a peace negotiation, armed actors on both sides tend to be more considered in respecting the terms of any peace agreement. They know that possible violations will be reported and they will have a negative impact on their position at the negotiation table. On the other hand, mechanisms with less reliable and transparent information use figures on deaths and injuries for purposes that require a lower level of accuracy, for example to inform political debates and for general advocacy messages.

In order to assess the reliability of the data AOAV has considered three elements: the existence of validation mechanisms, the use of multiple sources of data and the transparency of these mechanisms.