Human Security Report 2012 and Responses

The 2012 Human Security Report: Sexual Violence, Education and War: Beyond the Mainstream Narrative continues the examination of the human costs of war that started with previous reports while challenging certain widely held assumptions about the nature of sexual violence during war and the effect of conflict on educational systems.

Part 1 of the report reviews the data, fragmentary though it may be, on the impact of wartime sexual violence on adults and children and the effects of war on educational systems.
Part 2 of the Report updates the global and regional trends in the incidence and severity of organized violence published in previous materials from Human Security Report  Project, as well as highlighting new research on the deadliness of external military intervention in civil wars. The report challenges the popular notion that conflicts are becoming more persistent, and shows that even “failed” peace agreements save lives.
The publication of the report has generated much discussion and debate which has been collected here including a response from Human Security Report.

In one blog post,  Amelia Hoover Green, Dara Kay Cohen and Elisabeth Jean Wood discuss the HSR2012 claim that wartime sexual violence is in the decline (referred to as the global decline claim or GDC) and write that, “as scholars who research conflict-related rape and sexual violence—two of us provided input to the HSR —we are concerned about both the global decline claim (we’ll refer to it as the GDC throughout) and the disproportionate attention it has received. In particular, we are troubled that the debate over the GDC has overshadowed other findings that are both more important and more grounded in evidence.”

On Oxfam UK’s blog, Ed Cairns  (Oxfam’s Senior Policy Adviser on humanitarian advocacy research) expresses concern that the writers of the HSR  “seem to forget that short-term trends may – sometimes – be a better basis for policy than long ones. The current Report’s headline figures of the decline in conflict are true; there are significantly fewer conflicts now than in the early 1990s. But is that more relevant than the less prominent data of an upward trend in state-based conflicts in 2004-8, and no evidence of a reversal since then? ” Cairns has conflicted feelings about the report and says, “parts of the Human Security Report have real value. But, to be honest, I’m not sure about the rest. If this year’s Report encourages greater attention on male victims of sexual violence, domestic violence in crises, and all the other issues that it highlights, that will be very welcome indeed. But it would be tragic if its argument that ‘the level of sexual violence worldwide is likely declining’ encourages cash-strapped governments to stall the greater priority that sexual violence has, quite rightly, taken in the last few years.”

And the blog IntLawGrrls cautions that “there is the obvious point that sexual violence experienced by men and by women ranks consistently as the most underreported crime in most societies. The Human Security Report notes this, but does little more than pay lip service to the implications of this reality for data collection.” I could quote more from this post, but I will suggest you go and read the whole thing, because bits and pieces will not do it justice.

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