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Launching the 2022-23 Early Warning Risk List

—Early Warning Project

On February 9, 2023, the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide held a public launch event for the Early Warning Project’s latest global risk assessment report. Pakistan, Yemen, and Burma/Myanmar top the list of countries at risk for new mass killing in 2022 or 2023.

The virtual event included remarks from Rep. Young Kim (R-CA), Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Anne A. Witkowsky, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State. The event included a moderated panel with Evan Mawarire—Visiting Fellow at the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania and the Director of Education at Renew Democracy Initiative—and Anne Richard—Distinguished Fellow and Afghanistan Coordination Lead at Freedom House and a former assistant secretary at the US Department of State.

“We know that mass killings are not spontaneous and not inevitable,” said Naomi Kikoler, Director of the Simon-Skjodt Center. “Prevention is not only crucial but also possible when warning signs are heeded by the international community.”

Representative Jacobs stated, “This report is an essential tool for lawmakers to know where we should focus our energy and policies to prevent and respond to genocide and other mass atrocities.”  

“I value the work that is done here,” said Representative Kim,“ and I join you today in committing to defend communities at risk of genocide, something that was not done for the Jewish people of Europe before and during the Holocaust.”

Assistant Secretary Witkowsky said the assessment allows policy makers “to better understand and preempt the escalation of risk drivers by mobilizing US atrocity prevention efforts,” and added that the assessment and the Museum’s Lessons Learned in Preventing and Responding to Mass Atrocities project can “help policy makers quickly understand where we need to act, what tools are available, and what factors to consider in applying those tools.”

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Dartmouth College created the Early Warning Project’s annual Statistical Risk Assessment to identify countries at risk for mass killing, raise warning signs, and encourage policy makers to take action to prevent mass atrocities. Based on publicly available data, researchers built a model that, in effect, asks which countries today look like countries that have experienced mass killing in the past, in the two years before the violence began. This annual report is the cornerstone of the Early Warning Project, which was founded in 2014. 

One of the uses of the risk assessment is to identify countries that merit additional analysis. For selected high-risk countries—such as Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe—the Simon-Skjodt Center has undertaken deep qualitative assessments in partnership with country experts to better understand atrocity risk and opportunities for prevention.

Evan Mawarire drew attention to the recent history of systematic killings and the continued risks of violence against civilians in Zimbabwe, noting that “this is a very important report for Zimbabwe and a very important report for countries around the world.” He suggested listeners remember the human impact when discussing the implications of mass atrocities: "We are talking about people's lives here that have been taken in mass, and unless there is a robust system that enforces accountability and that follows up accountability, this will happen again, as in the case of Zimbabwe." He concluded that it is important for these types of reports to “find their way into the hands of those that are on the ground” to lead local responses in countries at risk.

Reflecting on her experience in government, Anne Richard suggested leaders should use this assessment “to devote time and attention” to heeding the early warning signs. Richard also discussed the continued risks of targeted violence against ethnic and religious communities, perceived opposition, women and girls, and several other groups in Afghanistan—which ranked seventh in this year’s assessment.

Dr. Ashleigh Landau, the Simon-Skjodt Center research associate for the Early Warning Project, explained the risk assessment’s methodology and key findings from this year’s report. She emphasized that the risk assessment should be seen as a starting point for additional analysis and encouraged users to ask questions about the results, including:  

  • Are countries at high risk receiving enough attention? 

  • What could trigger large-scale violence against a group of civilians?

  • What additional analysis would help shed light on the level and nature of atrocity risk in the country?

  • What explains big shifts in estimated risks?

  • What accounts for potential discrepancies between the statistical results and experts’ expectations?

In addition to drawing attention to the highest-risk countries—Pakistan, Yemen, and Burma/Myanmar—Dr. Landau also highlighted Afghanistan, Ethiopia, India, and Nigeria as consistently high-risk over multiple years; and Chad, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Turkey as shifting significantly in risk since last year’s assessment. 

Dr. Landau concluded the presentation by suggesting what policy makers should do with the information in the risk assessment. She encouraged Congress to draw attention to at-risk countries, use its role in oversight and provision of resources to monitor the implementation of the Elie Wiesel Act, ensure that foreign, defense, and development budgets reflect the risk level in key countries, and advance legislation prioritizing atrocity prevention. She also encouraged people working at executive agencies, NGOs, and think tanks to use the resource as a prompt for further analysis and for developing responses to at-risk countries.

The full program is available to watch on YouTube. Follow @CPG_USHMM on Twitter for updates. 

Download the full report here and learn more about how to use the Statistical Risk Assessment results, how the assessments are generated, and our interactive tool that allows users to change risk factor inputs and see how those changes would shift the risk for that country.