Our Research Team is starting to wrap up its work on identifying and evaluating the risk factors which increase the likelihood of  genocide in a given country. This effort began last year with a literature survey of various scholarly sources outlining the characteristics that predispose societies to genocide, instability, and ethnic conflict. Models from various scholars were used, including that of Ervin Staub, Barbara Harff, Ted Gurr, Helen Fein, Frank Chalk, Romeo Dallaire, Jay Ulfelder, and Benjamin Valentino, among others. This survey was not fully comprehensive but is a good starting point and as our early warning system (EWS) evolves over time we will continue researching and incorporating additional work by various scholars in order to strengthen it.

A total of 94 risk factors were identified in the initial survey, which is when the real work of evaluation began. The challenge here was in the fact that not all of the factors were suitable for the Sentinel Project’s work so the strengths of each model were selected to be complementary when combined. Of the original group of factors, just over a third were discarded as being either inappropriate, redundant, or requiring further information and clarification to be used effectively. The remaining risk factors were then grouped into several categories that emerged during the evaluation process. These are:

Political (characteristics of state power structures and elites which have been divided into two sub-categories)

Institutional (relatively static characteristics which are more or less constant regardless of the group in power)

Regime & Ideology (factors that describe the ruler or group in power at any given time and their way of thinking)

Economic (factors relating to the quality of life and distribution of wealth within a country)

Sociocultural (longstanding historical, cultural, and inter-group relational factors)

Conflict & Upheaval (factors describing both violent and non-violent oppositional activity such as war, rebellion, and protest)

The next task is to begin merging similar factors since there is significant overlap between many of the different models. For example, Harff & Gurr identify “economic hardship” as a risk factor while J.A. Ausink & P.H. Baker list “sharp and severe economic distress.” While these may not be identical risk factors, they are similar enough that keeping them separate would make our own risk factor list cumbersome. Thus, merging them in such a way that the significance of each is retained will streamline our list and its application. Ultimately, this list of risk factors will be used during the first of a multistage process  in the EWS. It is to function as a sort of “checklist” which will be applied to various countries on a periodic basis to determine if they have characteristics that warrant more engaged monitoring as an official situation of concern (SOC). The final list will soon be complete and then published in full on this blog.

This is an example of economic risk factors with some highlighted for merging or further evaluation.

In the spirit of keeping our work open and transparent, we welcome any questions, comments, and constructive feedback that you may have. These can be sent to us through this website.