Backgrounder: Tracking Civilian Harm

This backgrounder explains the basic components of civilian harm tracking, analysis, and response, offers examples of its history and implementation, and answers questions surrounding the practice.

Tracking civilian harm caused by combat operations is an emerging best practice in places like Afghanistan and Somalia and—when properly implemented—has led to fewer civilian casualties. Any military operation that claims to prioritize civilian well being needs reliable data in order to understand how its operations impact the civilian population. The analysis of this data can allow a warring party to learn from their mistakes and appropriately respond to civilian harm by adjusting tactics and training and making amends  to civilians harmed.

Civilian harm remains a tragic reality in any conflict, not least in conflicts without clear battlefields to distinguish between combatant and civilian. By understanding the extent and circumstances of the harm through the process of tracking, analysis, and response, warring parties can get better at minimizing civilian suffering. 



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