Mapping Political and Ethnic Violence
"Mapping political and ethnic violence in Sri Lanka within the context of the conflict period" is implemented by the HUMAN RIGHTS ACCOUNTABILITY COALITION (HRAC) which consists of a diverse group of NGOs that are engaged in systematic collection, documentation and processing of Human Rights Violations to identify trends and patterns of violations:
- CONSORTIUM OF HUMANITARIAN AGENCIES Website: www.humanitarian-srilanka.org
- INSTITUTE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
- HOME FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (HHR)
- FORUM FOR HUMAN DIGNITY (FHD)
Background: Sri Lanka has a deep and complex history of political violence. Communal riots, political assassinations and internal conflict have colored the socio-political landscape for more than a century. As a result, every community and group can point to instances of their rights being violated, and every community and group can also be identified as a perpetrator of at least some human rights violations. This highly contested situation contributes to a climate of impunity in which human rights abuses are not accounted for, violators go unpunished, and victims' pain and suffering remain unacknowledged.
Over the past 20-30 years a large number of non-governmental organizations have collected information on human rights violations and political violence in Sri Lanka. Many of these organizations were partners of The Asia Foundation for more than a decade, supported most recently under its Human Rights Initiative. Asia Foundation support helped them to document, report, and investigate human rights abuses and to advocate for the prosecution of individual perpetrators. It also enabled the development of a vast reservoir of knowledge about specific human rights abuses and supported the collection of testimonies from hundreds of people who have borne witness to these abuses.
Yet the human rights data collected by the Foundation's partner organizations in the past was generally with more narrow purposes in mind. There has been no truly systematic data collection effort in Sri Lanka that could document abuses across society as a whole. In the wake of longstanding experience in supporting human rights monitoring organizations, The Asia Foundation laid the foundation for a landmark human rights documentation project with technical assistance from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Foundation support facilitated the creation of a fledgling coalition of human rights NGOs, calling itself the Human Rights Accountability Coalition (HRAC) of Sri Lanka. This coordinated group of Sri Lankan human rights NGOs has been working toward using more rigorous information management and statistical analysis methods to understand the overall extent, patterns and trends of human rights violations that have been committed in the context of Sri Lanka's long-standing conflicts.
This has been a slow and painstaking process of engagement which, during the past two years, has involved the development of common definitions of political violence as they are applied in the Sri Lankan context, pilot efforts at collecting and systematically coding human rights violations in a more consistent, systematic manner that lend itself to rigorous statistical review and analysis.
Project methodology: Traditionally human rights monitoring has been largely dependent on narrative style reporting which draws solely on qualitative analyses and legal argumentation. Such narrative style reporting usually involves describing a few particular incidents which involve gross human rights violations. Inherent in this type of reporting is the underlying implication that the particular incidents which are described in such case-level analyses are representative and indicative of the overall human rights situation. Such analyses are comprehensive when there are a relatively small number of violations and incidents to analyze. However, when faced with thousands of violations over a protracted period of time, such a case-by-case analytic approach is inadequate to uncover the overall magnitude, pattern and trend of violations, the complex demographic of actors (victims, perpetrators and beneficiaries), and the differing levels of responsibility for such violations
The Human Rights Accountability Coalition HRAC is a diverse coalition of human rights NGOs whose programs range from legal aid assistance, to human rights education, to humanitarian support, and even to medical and psychological support for victims of human rights violations. HRAC supports the efforts of its member organizations to collect, collate, systematically analyze, pool and share data on human rights violations in Sri Lanka. The HRAC was formed to objectively develop a clearer sense of 'who did what to whom, where and when''. The HRAC's 'Mapping Political and Ethnic Violence in Sri Lanka' Project is aimed at establishing large, objective, and accurate statistical record of past and present human rights violations in Sri Lanka.
The first and most apparent result will be that the analysis of human rights conditions will be augmented with quantitative findings. HRAC partners will gain the capacity to monitor human rights and to identify perpetrators and trends using statistical techniques and to make more rigorous and compelling arguments about patterns of both historical and current human rights abuses. Furthermore, HRAC organizations will also develop increased institutional capacity to harness information technology tools for their human rights monitoring and strengthen their IT and data security infrastructure against unintentional damage, intentional threats, and accidental disclosure. Thus, the project seeks to increase the capacity of human rights organizations to monitor and report on past and current human rights violations, trends and patterns in ways that are scientifically rigorous, accurate, objective, consistent, and most importantly, credible to both internal and external stakeholders.
The project aims to enhance the capacity of local organizations with the following objectives:
To support the Sri Lankan peace process by developing stronger, more reliable mechanisms to monitor the government and LTTE's compliance with their human rights obligations;
To promote among human rights NGOs in Sri Lanka the use of quantitative approaches and statistical tools and methods for the systematic collection, analysis, and reporting on human rights violations;
To provide human rights NGOs with tools (procedures, forms, software and technical expertise) to improve the accuracy, objectivity, consistency and credibility of their reports, and to ensure the security of their data on human rights violations;
To facilitate the pooling and sharing of human rights violations data among member NGOs and others in order to support the development of a massive, objective and undeniable statistical record of past and ongoing human rights violations;
To inject new, objective and scientifically-rigorous evidence into the local and international human rights discourse about violations connected to Sri Lanka's past ethnic and political conflicts;
To lay the foundation for a future truth-telling and reconciliation process that's based on a factual account of past injustices.
As the 'Mapping Political and Ethnic Violence' project evolves during the next 3 years, it will support the technical development of local NGO partners in a hands-on, systematic manner raising the standard of their analytical capacity and thereby the quality of their human rights documentation and reporting. To test the effectiveness of the training and capacity building, the local partners will be encouraged to make immediate practical use of their analytical skills by undertaking mini analyses of clearly defined moment in time or geographical space yielding a stream of small analytical outputs during the latter half of Year 1 and Year 2 of the project.
In the context of the uncertainties of Sri Lanka''s peace process, the project will assist human rights organizations in strengthening their monitoring of the human rights situation under a cease-fire agreement, and provide local and international actors with verifiable data to assess the compliance of both sides with their human rights obligations. At the same time, the Foundation will foster potential synergies between the national Human Rights Commission and human rights NGOs.
This project builds on the pioneering work of the Foundation and its local partners in Sri Lanka in systematically documenting human rights violations, and also capitalizes on the Foundation's leadership in supporting the use of information technology to strengthen human rights monitoring, investigation, and documentation. As the Sri Lankan peace process moves tentatively forward, a core component of the transition to a permanent peace will be to establish the truth about human rights violations. In the transition, there will inevitably be a debate about the patterns, magnitude, and responsibility for past violations as well as about allegations of ongoing violations.
A further outcome of the project will be to establish a scientifically rigorous record of reported and estimated total numbers of violations, patterns of violations, and the nature and identity of perpetrators and victims will help to clarify the past. Furthermore, maintaining a record of current abuses will assist in monitoring compliance with commitments made in the context of the peace process, and will also help to shape policy in ways that promote greater human rights protection and accountability.
Cost (specify currency):
900 000 USD
Source of Data:
Using a combination of own and existing data
Type of Data Collection:
Aggregation of multiple indicators using various d...
In depth interviews
Specifications of type of data collection:
Legal case files are also used. Questionnaires were sent out to two camps (each camp got 350 questionnaires) in each of the 7 districts.
Measurement Methods / Tools Generated or Used :
As a result of the collaborative data processing workshops regularly attended by HRAC data processing staff, the HRAC has developed formal qualitative and quantitative quality control measures. These quality control measures allow data processing unit supervisors to monitor how reliably the data processing staff members apply the controlled vocabulary to the raw information.
These measures assist supervisors to identify inconsistencies in the>
- identification of violations
- classification of violations
- counting of violations
The quality control methods pioneered by the HRAC are now being used in similar human rights data analysis projects in East Timor, Sierra Leone and Ghana. It is proposed that all project outputs be subjected to independent peer review.
All findings of the individual organizations will be presented to the local human rights community as well as to wider audiences of academics, government and civil society and feedback will be encouraged. The audience for these presentations will be a comprehensive one including the close contacts and links of our partner organizations as well as Asia Foundation's longstanding contacts within the human rights community specifically and government, the private sector and civil society, in general. Individual organizations will publish their findings and disseminate broadly both locally and internationally.
It is anticipated that coalition-wide HRAC publications will be disseminated even more broadly and subjected to international peer review by academics, government and civil society. There is considerable potential for dissemination to go beyond simply the presentation of findings to the general public. Findings would not only be presented to a broad policy audience, security forces, diplomatic missions and others, but our partners, like The Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) and the Institute of Human Rights, who have professional/training relationships with security forces, are likely to use the information as case studies in training and also, partners like Home for Human Rights and Lawyers for Human Rights and Development could well consider undertaking public interest litigation based on the information that emerges.
List of Indicators:
Coders' Manual - The coders' manual the coalition has developed, provides definitions of violations. Coders go by these definitions when they document cases as that would ensure consistency and clarity.