Patrick Ball - Seeing the Forest

Thu, Mar 31, 2016    6pm

Analyzing hidden patterns using (mostly) public data about people killed in Syria, 2011-2015

Human violence is often hidden, even in war, and so what we can see happening may be a poor representation of what is really happening. Using four databases with lists of victims of the Syrian conflict, researchers at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group have estimated the total number of people killed during period 2011-2015 -- including those who were not observed. The estimates show how the data is itself a product of the dynamics of the conflict. This talk will explain how the estimate was made, how the likely true patterns of violence are substantially different from the patterns that can be observed directly, and what the difference means for a quantitative understanding the Syrian war and conflict in general.

Patrick Ball has spent more than twenty years conducting quantitative analysis for truth commissions, non-governmental organizations, international criminal tribunals, and United Nations missions in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, South Africa, Chad, Sri Lanka, East Timor, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Kosovo, Liberia, Perú, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

Patrick began working in the human rights field in El Salvador in 1991. From 1993 to 2003, he worked in several capacities in the Science and Human Rights Program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where he began recruiting colleagues to build HRDAG. From 2003 to 2013 he continued to develop HRDAG from within Benetech, a nonprofit technology company in Silicon Valley. A great deal of his, and HRDAG’s, work has been to support truth and reconciliation commissions through database development and data analysis.

Patrick provided testimony in two cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the first in the trial of Slobodan Milošević, the former President of Serbia. He provided technical advice to the Special Court in Sierra Leone and the International Criminal Court. In 2013 he provided expert testimony in Guatemala’s Supreme Court in the trial of General José Efraín Ríos Montt, the de-facto president of Guatemala in 1982-1983. Gen. Ríos was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity; it was the first time ever that a former head of state was found guilty of genocide in his own country.

Following this program, join GSAPP at the opening reception for Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation at the Arthur Ross Gallery from 7:30-9pm.