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Presentation made to a symposium titled Documenting Mortality in Conflicts, organised by WHO/CRED with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and held in Brussels, 6-7 November 2008.

This slightly amended web version (published 2 February 2009) has been updated to reflect the latest statistics in the IBC database.

Incident details present for extraction in % of 12,934 DB entries

Jan 2006–Sep 2008

Number Killed 100.0%
Location (by nearest-town) 99.9%
Targeted or hit 96.8%
Exact Date 94.8%
Weapon 94%
Primary sources 86.1%
Location (within-town) 82.2%
Number Injured 80.9%
Time of day 76%
Perpetrator 23.2%

Putting the Data to Work slide 5

It might fairly be said that what most clearly defines IBC’s approach is a focus on specifics. Specific information about deaths, and specific information about incidents: where and when they occurred, who was involved, who was targeted, what weapons were used, who were the individuals killed, what was their age, their gender and profession, what was their familial relationship to other victims or to survivors.

When we began the project we assiduously flagged incidents according to a number of variables, chiefly as a means to prevent double-counting. With a grant given specifically for this purpose, we expanded and improved the formal dimension of our data-gathering in order to produce an analysis of the violent death and injury toll of civilians during the first two years, which we published as the 2003–2005 Dossier.1

Something that still surprises me even now is just how much detail accompanies the reports we collect every day, detail which is therefore available for extraction and analysis.

As can be seen above, some of the variables we monitor are defined for nearly every entry in the database, while even some of those that are much more problematic to derive still accompany, and illuminate, many entries.