Monetary Payments for Civilian Harm in International and National Practice

How much is a life worth?

While it is impossible to put a price on life, there is an important conversation to be had around the various levels of payment offered to victims of violence in response to their losses. This report maps various programs and their implementation in settings of armed conflict and in response to serious crimes and terrorist attacks. The report’s aim is not to “set a price” on civilian losses, but rather to evaluate the consistency of current practice in providing monetary payments—both the amounts and the methodology used by the entity offering the payment.

The programs analyzed in this report vary widely due to economic variables (i.e. currencies, living standards, inflation), external variables such as the amount of funding available, and immeasurable factors such as the political importance placed on redress for victims. The analysis of rationales for programs, valuation methodologies, and allocated payments are based on open source information.

Great disparities exist among the various monetary payment programs in this report, including the categories of harm for which monetary payments have been made, the amount of payments, and the manner in which these amounts are determined. We attempt to explain and account for some of these disparities and inconsistencies in our analysis. The challenge of categorizing different kinds of loss make any evaluation of current practices, at times, a comparison of the incomparable. Perhaps such challenges are to be expected when assessing attempts to put a value on items that have no strictly set monetary value.

This report is the product of collaboration between the Amsterdam International Law Clinic at the University of Amsterdam and Center for Civilians in Conflict in Washington DC. 

Infographics by Jaime Hawthorne with Caroline Kavit.

Infographics: Monetary Payments for Civilian Harm



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