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Ragnhild Nordås , PRIO and Notre Dame Dara K. Cohen, University of Minnesota. SVAC S exual V iolence in A rmed C onflict Data collection, challenges and preliminary findings . Outline About the project Motivation Data collection Preliminary results Lessons and future work.

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svac s exual v iolence in a rmed c onflict data collection challenges and preliminary findings
RagnhildNordås, PRIO and Notre Dame

Dara K. Cohen, University of Minnesota

SVACSexual Violence in Armed Conflict Data collection, challenges and preliminary findings
  • Outline
  • About the project
  • Motivation
  • Data collection
  • Preliminary results
  • Lessons and future work

Oslo, November 2010

svac motivation and backdrop
SVAC - Motivation and backdrop
  • “Rape is one of the greatest peace and security challenges

of our time.”

UN secretary-general's special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallstrom

  • Current data are mostly case studies, focused on the same cases of the worst sexual violence (Bosnia and Rwanda)
    • A better research design would analyze a universe of all cases, including where sexual violence occurred and where it did not

To devise an effective prevention strategy,

more systematic knowledge is needed

project goal
Project goal
  • Forecasting for prevention
  • Data needs
    • A comprehensive dataset on sexual violence in armed conflict 1989-2009 by all major actor types (state and non-state)
      • First step: Pilot project on conflicts in Africa, 2000-2009
        • Pilot project funding: Grant from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Sept-Dec 2010)
      • Second step: Additional years and geographic regions
        • Research suggests that the problem is worldwide, not only Africa (Cohen 2010)
        • Pending additional funding
  • Long-term goal
    • To guide policymakers towards more effective measures against sexual violence in armed conflict and post-conflict situations
svac project staff
SVAC project staff
  • Head researchers

Inger SkjelsbækDara Kay Cohen Ragnhild Nordås Scott Gates Håvard Strand


  • Consultativegroup

Elisabeth Wood (Yale) Mia Bloom (Penn State) Chris Butler (New Mexico) Amelia Green (Yale)

ucdp prio armed conflict dataset v4 2009
UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Dataset v4-2009




Pilot: Region 1, conflictsactive in 2000-2009

svac data what is sexual violence and armed conflict
SVAC data: What is sexualviolence and ”armedconflict?”
  • SVAC will use the International Criminal Court (ICC) definition:
    • includes rape, sexual mutilation, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, and enforced sterilization
    • importantly, definition does not exclude the existence of female perpetrators and male victims of sexual violence
  • SVAC uses the UCDP definition (dataset) on Armed Conflict:
    • Defines conflict as “a contested incompatibility that concerns government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths”
      • ”war” = 1000 battle-relateddeaths in a calendaryear
    • Types of conflict:
      • Intrastate armed conflict
      • Internationalized internal armed conflict
      • Interstate conflicts
svac dataset unit of analysis
SVAC dataset: Unitofanalysis
  • Conflict-actor-year
    • A given conflictactor (state/militiagroup, rebelgroup)
    • In a given conflict
    • In a given year
      • Example: thesexualviolenceperpetrated by the RUF in Sierra Leone in 1995
svac dataset dimensions
SVAC dataset: Dimensions
  • Perpetrators: Who commitedtheviolence? (Armedgroup, ethnicity, gender)
  • Victims: Who werethevictims? (Gender, race, ethnicity, age)
  • Magnitude: How intense wastheviolence? (Isolatedincidents, widespread)
  • Location: Wheredidtheviolencehappen? (Part ofthecountry, location)
  • Timing: Whendidtheviolencehappen? (Early in thewar, during peace talks)
  • Form: What types ofsexualviolence? (rape, gang rape, forcedmarriage)
main data sources in pilot
Main data sources in pilot
  • Five major data sources
    • US State Department Human Rights reports (annual)
    • Amnesty International
    • Human Rights Watch
    • International Crisis Group
    • DCAF, SexualViolence in ArmedConflict
documentation and reliability
Documentation and Reliability
  • Conflictmanuscripts
    • Backgroundinformation in documentwithsearchable headings
  • Coding decisions are double-checked for consistency
    • detect any misunderstandings and/or systematic biases
    • calculate intercoder reliability scores
pilot sample
Pilot sample
  • 28 armed conflicts total that are active in Africa in 2000-2009
  • These involve 120 conflict actors
  • Initial phase of pilot are 8 high priority conflicts
preliminary findings from first 8 countries
Preliminary findings from first 8 countries
  • There is variation in perpetration of sexual violence both across and within these conflicts
  • Magnitude by actor group type
    • Most state actors are perpetrators
    • 25% of pro-government militias are perpetrators
    • Less than 50% of rebel groups are perpetrators
  • Variation over time
    • Both state and non-state perpetrators refrained from sexual violence in at least some years
    • Policy implication: Sexual violence is not a constant, inevitable consequence of wartime
preliminary findings post conflict violence
Preliminary findings: Post-conflict violence
  • Data show sexual violence by armed groups continues after conflict
    • 25% of conflict actors engaged in some sexual violence post-conflict
  • Only focusing on the period of conflict misses the full scale of conflict-related sexual violence
    • Implications for policy: Peacekeeper presence should continue even after deaths have stopped; peace processes should focus also on ceasing non-lethal violence
  • Suggests that lethal violence is not perfectly correlated with sexual violence
    • Implications for research: Need to collect separate data and to develop separate theories on sexual violence
lessons measuring sv challenges opportunities
Lessons: Measuring SV--Challenges/opportunities
  • Policy memo on challenges and opportunities for cross-national data collection on SVAC (February 2011)
      • What are the challenges?
      • Biases in sources
    • What is sexual violence?
    • Measuring magnitude
      • Under-reporting
      • Over-reporting
      • What counts?
    • Beyond magnitude
      • Who are the perpetrators/victims
      • Locations of violations
      • Timing
data methods recommendations
Data/methods recommendations
  • Importance of a clear, standard definition
  • Establishing a baseline measure from pre-conflict
  • Data on both perpetrators/victims
  • Time-variant data
  • Location data
  • Data triangulation – verification from several sources
    • More comprehensive search on selected cases
    • Comprehensive and narrow search to be compared for content


  • Will be most comprehensive data collection
  • Funding
  • Policy briefs (2011)