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In focus: Hamit Dardagan on why we need casualty recording

We’ve met Hamit Dardagan, Co-Director of Oxford Research Group’s Every Casualty programme, who told us why casualty recording is so crucial in armed violence reduction.

Who is Hamit Dardagan?

Hamit Dardagan is Co-Director of Oxford Research Group’s Every Casualty programme. Hamit became ORG’s Consultant on Civilian Casualties in War in 2007. With John Sloboda, he now co-directs ORG’s Every Casualty programme. He is Co-founder and Principal Researcher at Iraq Body Count (IBC), where he has taken the lead on the development of IBC’s analytic tools and outputs.

He has written for Counterpunch, and has undertaken research for a number of organisations, including Greenpeace. He has been chair of Kalayaan, a human rights campaign for overseas domestic workers in the UK, which led to significant enhancement in their legal rights.

What is the Every Casualty programme?

The purpose of the Every Casualty programme is to enhance the technical, legal and institutional capacity, as well as the political will, for every single casualty of armed conflict throughout the world to be recorded, civilian as well as combatant. Civilian deaths are particularly poorly documented, and often not recorded at all. Where death tolls are limited to purely numerical assessments, exaggerated, politicised claims and counter-claims frequently abound. By contrast, where Western nations are engaged in conflicts, they record their military dead not as numbers but by name.

Detailed, verifiable and comprehensive recording, when extended to all victims, provides both a memorial for posterity and public recognition of our common humanity. Careful and respectful records ensure that the human cost of conflict is better understood and can become an immediately applicable resource for conflict prevention and post-conflict recovery and reconciliation.

The Every Casualty programme (formerly known as the Recording Casualties of Armed Conflict programme) is divided into two parallel but interrelated streams, which complement and support each other:

Practice Stream: The support and development of effective practice in casualty recording

This stream focuses on those organisations and individuals that have already made direct contributions to the work of casualty recording. Our aim is to bring these organisations and individuals – previously operating in isolation – into productive dialogue and peer exchange.

Advocacy Stream: The development of international norms and standards

In this stream Oxford Research Group works to develop the concepts and tools which will be necessary for governments and intergovernmental organisations to come together in a concerted effort to support the spread of effective and credible casualty recording. Our strategy includes detailed research into existing international regulatory instruments, including their unrealised potentials and possible shortcomings, and carefully-framed proposals on how to more effectively embed casualty recording within international systems. It also includes engaging individuals and organisations as well as state actors well-placed to act as champions for casualty recording on the international stage.