UN Secretary General calls for common UN-wide system for recording casualties

In his tenth annual report to the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict (S/2013/689), the UN Secretary General emphasised the importance of casualty recording.

The report notes the importance of gathering information about the impact of military actions on civilians in order to improve compliance with international humanitarian law. The Secretary General highlights the distinction between casualty tracking and casualty recording, noting that:

Unlike tracking, which is undertaken by a party to conflict with a view to informing tactics and mitigating harm to civilians, casualty recording is undertaken by States, civil society and other actors, including the United Nations, to systematically maintain a record of deaths and injuries from armed violence in order to inform advocacy with parties to conflict.

report of the secretary general on the protection of civilians

The report goes on to state that there will be an inter-agency review of current UN mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on violations of humanitarian and human rights law. This review will make recommendations for the establishment of a common United Nations system to gather and analyse such information, and will consider the role of casualty recording in such a system. The report also recommends that:

United Nations actors … work together to establish a common United Nations system to systematically record civilian casualties as part of broader efforts to monitor and report on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, drawing on good practice and expertise from within the United Nations, Member States and civil society.

report of the secretary general on the protection of civilians

The Secretary General also highlighted the importance of casualty recording in his previous annual report on protection of civilians (S/2012/376), affirming the need for improved casualty recording. The report noted that casualty recording ‘can clarify the causes of harm to civilians as well as the actions needed to end such harm and prevent its recurrence.’