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August 15, 2014
Ben Goldsmith is an associate professor of political science at the University of Sydney who studies international conflict, international public opinion, and U.S. foreign policy. In 2010, Ben began work on forecasting genocide and politicide. I first met him that year, in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association. We talked over lunch about statistical forecasting of rare and calamitous political events and have stayed in touch ever since. It's been great to see his project develop, and I'm glad to be able to spotlight it here.
August 13, 2014
Two recent reports released by Human Rights Watch offer further confirmation of episodes of state-led mass killing in Egypt and South Sudan, beginning in 2013. In our 2013 risk assessments, South Sudan and Egypt were ranked 4th and 6th, respectively, as countries most likely to experience state-led mass killing.
August 7, 2014
One of the first things I did as part of my work on the Early Warning Project was to scan the field and see who else around the world was doing what to assess risks of mass atrocities. That research led me to the Sentinel Project and its executive director, Christopher Tuckwood, whose work I continue to follow and admire. I recently emailed a few questions to Chris; here are his replies.
July 18, 2014
This is the first in what we hope will be a long series of Q&A sessions with people doing interesting and important work on atrocities early warning or prevention. We thought it fitting to start the series with Ben Valentino, associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, who got the ball rolling on what would become the Early Warning Project while on a fellowship at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
July 14, 2014
Advances in technology and the popularity of individuals like Nate Silver have given rise to the exciting idea that political scientists can predict the future using statistical models. Despite the recent attention forecasting has received, it is still difficult to do well, especially for rare political events like the onset of mass atrocities. In order to address this challenge, the Early Warning Project has developed a system that combines statistical forecasting with crowd-sourced forecasts. This combination serves as the focus for this post.
June 30, 2014
We recently added the following question to our opinion pool:
Before January 1, 2015, will the leader of another major militia group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo surrender?*
This might seem like an odd topic for a system designed to assess risks of future mass atrocities. As this question implies, however, we also plan to use the system from time to time to assess prospects for the cessation or reduction of atrocities in cases where they are already happening. Our open question on the possibility of a peace deal this year in Colombia is another example.
June 28, 2014
The evolution of Kenyan politics since its last episode of mass killing, after the country's December 2007 elections, hardly appears promising. In 2013, during a presidential election widely considered freer and fairer than its predecessor, the Kenyan electorate returned to power two of the alleged instigators of the 2007–2008 violence. In 2012, a newly assertive military began operations against al-Shabaab in southern Somalia. In the two years since, the insurgency and its Kenyan affiliates have used the military's operations to justify reprisal attacks in several major Kenyan cities.
June 24, 2014
Can we predict when and where violence will likely break out within cases of genocide? I present a theoretical model to help identify areas susceptible and resistant to violence during genocide. The model conceptualizes violence onset as a function of elite competition for control of the state from above and the ethnic segregation of society from below.
June 18, 2014
A couple of recent posts on this blog (here and here) have examined whether UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) can help prevent mass atrocities and reduce battlefield violence, especially in the context of South Sudan. The conclusions reached on how peacekeepers can shelter civilians and save lives are well taken.
June 14, 2014
Since the start of the year, our early-warning system's opinion pool has included a question about the risk of a new episode of state-led mass killing* occurring in Iraq before 2015. As noted in a recent post, our forecasters have consistently seen that country as one of the cases at greatest risk worldwide, and their concern increased significantly in May as the civil war in predominantly Sunni parts of the country escalated.