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Assessing Risks of State-Led Mass Killing Onsets in 2017


Which countries in the world are most likely to see the start of new episodes of state-led mass killing in 2017?

To help us answer this question, we’d like you to vote in our fourth annual wiki survey. Participation can take as little or as much time as you like, and even just a few minutes of your time will improve our results. To participate, please go here:

State-Led Mass Killing Onset Survey (2017)

wiki survey involves a single question with many possible answers on which participants vote, one pair at a time. In this particular survey, the question is “Which country is more likely to see a new episode of state-led mass killing in 2017?”, and the potential answers include all the countries in the world with populations larger than 500,000.

As you’ll see when you follow the link, the survey presents you with a pair of countries and asks you to select which country has a higher risk of a new episode of state-led mass killing. You can also choose not to vote on a particular pair for various reasons (e.g., the risks seem equal, or you don’t know enough about one or the other) by clicking on the “I can’t decide” button under the pair. Once you vote on one pair, you’re presented with another, and you can repeat this process as many times as you like.

Our survey on risks of state-led mass killing in 2017 will run until December 31, 2016. After that, you’ll still be able to view the results, but you won’t be able to vote any more. Until then, though, please vote as often as you like.

For purposes of this survey, we consider an episode of state-led mass killing to have occurred if the deliberate actions of state agents or other groups acting at their behest result in the deaths of at least 1,000 noncombatant civilians over a period of one year or less.

In countries where at least one episode of state-led mass killing is already occurring—e.g., Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Myanmar/Burma, Nigeria, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria—we are not asking you to assess the chances that the ongoing episode will continue or intensify. Instead, we are interested in the risk that a new episode with a different target group (e.g., opposition party supporters in Sudan) will begin before 2018.

Our criteria for an episode of state-led mass killing includes the following factors:

  • State-led refers to cases in which the relevant violence is carried out by uniformed troops, police, or other agents of state security, or by other groups (e.g., militias) acting at the behest of government officials. In cases where the state’s role is ambiguous, we look for evidence of government encouragement of violence or coordination with state policies or military operations.
  • noncombatant civilian is any person who is not a current member of a formal or irregular military organization and who does not apparently 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. Fatalities should be considered intentional 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. Note that this definition also covers deaths caused by other state actions, if, in our judgment, perpetrators enacted policies/actions designed to coerce civilian population and could have expected that these policies/actions would lead to large numbers of civilian fatalities. Examples of such actions include, but are not limited to mass starvation or disease-related deaths resulting from the intentional confiscation or destruction of relevant supplies and deaths occurring during forced relocation or forced labor.
  • To distinguish mass killing from large numbers of unrelated civilian fatalities, the victims of mass killing must appear to be perceived by the perpetrators as belonging to 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). In this way, apparently 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. 

Finally, to make each vote as informative as possible, the software running the survey doesn’t select answers for each pairing at random. Instead, it uses an algorithm that favors answers with fewer completed appearances. This adaptive approach spreads the votes evenly across the field of answers. The resulting pairwise votes are converted in near-real time into aggregate ratings using a Bayesian hierarchical model that estimates a set of collective preferences that’s most consistent with the observed data.

Tags:   early warning project

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