Weekly Wonder: U.S. Ranks 66th in Likelihood of Mass Killing

Photo by Colin Lloyd via Unsplash

By Stella Lorence
Boston University News Service

Extending the sentiment of Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day —  President Joe Biden proclaimed the week of April 4 to be a week of observance for the Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust.

“All of us must understand the depravity that is possible when governments back policies fueled by hatred, when we dehumanize groups of people and when ordinary people decide that it is easier to look away or go along than to speak out,” Biden said in the White House proclamation. “Our children and grandchildren must learn where those roads lead so that the commitment of ‘never again’ lives strongly in their hearts.”

In an effort to aid the prevention of mass killings and genocides, the Early Warning Project uses statistical modeling to estimate countries’ risk of experiencing a new mass killing, defined as 1000 or more civilians deliberately killed by state or non-state armed forces.

Launched publicly in 2015, The Early Warning Project’s mission states its main goal is prevention, as well as awareness. Their model is intended to help policymakers and analysts to focus on the countries with the highest risk of experiencing a new mass killing.

Out of 162 countries, the U.S. is the 66th most likely to experience a new mass killing, according to the Early Warning Project’s most recent statistical risk assessment report.

The Early Warning Project is a joint initiative of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College, according to their website

Nearly half of the 30 countries with the highest risk of experiencing a new mass killing are already experiencing one. Graphic by Stella Lorence / Source: Early Warning Project

By their model, the U.S. has a risk estimate of 1%. Pakistan, which tops the 2020-21 report list, has an estimate of 15.9%, down from 17.9% in 2019-20.

The model considers several variables, including whether the country has ever experienced a mass killing, whether a minority group controls political rule, whether any political parties are banned and whether men and women can move freely, among other factors.

The estimates come with a few caveats. The model estimates the risk of a new mass killing — not the continuation or escalation of one. For example, although Myanmar and Syria are both currently experiencing mass killings, they place 10th and 12th respectively.

In the top 30 countries with the highest risk for a new mass killing, only three have never experienced a mass killing, and nearly half are already experiencing an ongoing mass killing.

The report highlights three countries that jumped significantly in the risk estimate ranking between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 assessments. Columbia jumped 50 spots, from 65 to 15. 

The report notes increasing violence against human rights activists and other civilians, as well as between armed groups. Turkey and Nigeria also experienced large jumps in ranks.

Because the data from the report were gathered in 2019, changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic were not captured by the model.

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