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Early Warning Project Ranks Countries at Risk for Mass Atrocities

Today, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum publicly launched a first-of-its-kind tool to forecast which countries have the highest risk of state-led mass killings. The aim of the Early Warning Project is to help prevent civilian mass atrocities by providing earlier and more accurate warning to governments, advocacy groups, and at-risk societies on an ongoing basis.

The Simon-Skjodt Center is sharing its data at a moment when active crises threaten millions around the world. By making its analysis public, the Simon-Skjodt Center hopes to empower officials and advocates to take preventive action and adopt strategies to avert future atrocities.

"The critical early warning data provided by the annual statistical risk assessments and real-time, wisdom-of-crowds assessments of the Early Warning Project can help put us in a position where we are equipped to prevent atrocities, rather than simply responding to them after they occur," said Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center. "From past genocides in Darfur, Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust, we have learned what the clear early warning signs are that precede mass violence. Tracking those indicators in at-risk countries around the world will, for the first time, allow us to look over the horizon to implement smarter, cheaper, and more effective policies that prevent mass violence."

Michael Chertoff, former secretary of Homeland Security and current chairman of the Museum's Committee on Conscience, acknowledged the potential of the Early Warning Project. "When we look back on the Holocaust, it is glaringly obvious that the international community missed clear early warning signs of the risk of impending genocide. Today, the Museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is upholding the Museum's mandate to make 'Never Again' real by introducing a groundbreaking tool for early warning. No longer can governments say that they 'did not know' as a means of justifying their inaction. This early warning system will get vital information to decision makers, academics, and the public before atrocities begin, and in doing so, can help to save lives."

Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state and head of the Museum's Genocide Prevention Task Force, said: "The Early Warning Project is designed to answer the Genocide Prevention Task Force's call for earlier, clearer, and more reliable warning of mass atrocities. By building a trusted system grounded by qualitative and quantitative analysis, this system has the potential to drive a new policy agenda and have a lasting impact on the ground for at-risk communities."

Retired Lt. Gen. The Honourable Roméo Dallaire, founder of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, former force commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and a member of the Museum's Committee on Conscience: "Only when we understand the shifting paradigms between conflict and mass atrocity prevention in our time will we be able to generate new approaches and take effective action to prevent mass atrocities. Indeed, the early warning website is a timely initiative which should serve to enhance and complement existing early warning capabilities to prevent future mass atrocities. In a world increasingly dependent on social media, I hope that this new tool will help the public to hold decision makers to account for their actions and omissions wherever they fail to prevent conflict or protect civilians." 

The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide also announces the launch of its Early Warning Fellows Program to analyze risks facing countries on the list and to foster preventive policies.

The Early Warning Project has identified the top 10 countries most at risk of experiencing a new episode of mass killing. They are:

  • Myanmar
  • Nigeria
  • Sudan
  • Egypt
  • Central African Republic
  • South Sudan
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan
  • Yemen

Other countries of concern this year include:

  • Burkina Faso, which moved from just beyond the top 30 in 2014 to 16th in this year's list.
  • Ukraine, which ranked as a negligible risk in 2014 and is 20th in this year's assessment.
  • Libya, which climbed from about the 90th spot in 2014 to 24th in 2015.

The Early Warning Project was jointly created by the Museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College. The project is launching today, but has been run in a test phase in 2014 and 2013. It consists of two open and collaborative elements: a statistical risk assessment which uses a broad range of measures to rank countries that are at risk for mass atrocities, and a "wisdom-of-crowds" opinion pool updated with live expert feedback.

You can view the Statistical Risk Assessment online here: http://www.earlywarningproject.com/risk_assessments.

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