Libya Tribune

By Hana Salama

Although Libya’s estimated rate of violent deaths is still far below those of Syria and several Central American nations, it remains significant, ranking eighth globally for 2016.

This unenviable situation is symptomatic of the ongoing turmoil and instability facing the country since 2011.

In fact, the human toll may well be much worse, as efforts to measure violent deaths in the country have been largely inconsistent and uncoordinated so far.

Actors working to measure these casualties often use differing approaches, definitions, and criteria which has resulted in widely varied death estimates and a lack of consistent reporting.

In this new Briefing Paper from the Small Arms Survey’s Security Assessment in North Africa (SANA) project, casualty recording expert Hana Salama investigates the various challenges to measuring casualties in Libya.

Salama carries out this analysis in the context of gathering data for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.1.2, which calls for states to report on ‘conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population, by sex, age, and cause’.

In doing so, the analysis seeks to support discussions on developing a standardized methodology and mechanism to meet Indicator 16.1.2 from the perspective of an ongoing conflict.

Overview

In Libya, many actors have been involved in measuring casualties caused by armed violence since the 2011 revolution, often using different approaches, definitions, and criteria for inclusion and exclusion. These differences have resulted in varied death estimates and a lack of consistent reporting.

This Briefing Paper investigates the various challenges to measuring casualties in Libya in the context of gathering data for Indicator 16.1.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which calls for states to report on ‘conflict-related deaths per 100,000 population, by sex, age and cause’.

In assessing the efforts of the organizations and entities that have measured casualties in Libya, the aim of the Briefing Paper is to support discussions on developing a standardized methodology and mechanism for meeting Indicator 16.1.2 from the perspective of an ongoing conflict.

Key findings

Estimates of conflict-related casualties in Libya vary widely due both to the approach used by organizations with different mandates and capacities, and to different definitions and inconsistent inclusion or exclusion criteria.

In Libya, it is difficult to distinguish between conflict-related deaths and deaths arising from generalized violence. This has an impact on casualty figures, and presents a clear challenge to the SDG 16.1 indicator framework, which assumes that homicides and conflict-related deaths can be accounted for separately.

In Libya, the small pool of credible sources in the ongoing conflict could lead to selection bias. Estimation approaches could be used either to complement or to validate recording approaches.

Given the methodological, practical, and political limitations to measuring conflict-related deaths in Libya, there is a need for a multiple-source and multiple-actor approach that is underpinned by a common methodology.

Download Counting Casualties: Operationalizing SDG Indicator 16.1.2 in Libya

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About the author

Hana Salama has been associated with the non-profit organization Every Casualty Worldwide since 2012. She has published articles about casualty recording in Syria, co-authored Stolen Futures—The Hidden Death Toll of Child Casualties in Syria (2013), and contributed to the Global Burden of Armed Violence report (2015). Hana also initiated and managed a multi-agency project, in which the Small Arms Survey participated, which resulted in the publication of the international Standards for Casualty Recording (2016). Hana holds an MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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About the Project

The Security Assessment in North Africa (SANA) is a multi-year project of the Small Arms Survey to support those engaged in building a more secure environment in North Africa and the Sahel-Sahara region. The project produces timely, evidence-based research and analysis on the availability and circulation of small arms, the dynamics of emerging armed groups, and related insecurity. The research stresses the effects of the recent uprisings and armed conflicts in the region on community safety.

The Security Assessment in North Africa receives core funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. In addition, the project receives ongoing support from Global Affairs Canada and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. It has previously received grants from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Federal Foreign Office, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the US State Department.

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