DP27 Elephants, tigers and safety in post-conflict Sri Lanka

Development Policy Centre Discussion Paper No. 27

By Dinuk Jayasuriya and John Gibson

February 2013

Civilian suffering from civil war extends well after the ceasefire. Reliable ways to measure perceived safety are needed in post-conflict settings, since the extent to which safety improves may be crucial in maintaining the peace. Yet obtaining truthful reports from respondents in these settings is unlikely. Individuals traumatised by conflict may be reticent to reveal opinions that could expose them to sanction from either the authorities or their peers. List experiments, where respondents are given a list of statements and, without revealing particular answers, count how many listed items are true, can yield sensitive information. This paper uses list experiments to study perceived safety among civilians in areas where fighting was most intense during the recently-concluded 25-year civil war between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the government of Sri Lanka. The results show substantial differences in reported safety, depending on whether they were elicited through direct questions or indirectly through the list experiment. Biased answers to direct questions about safety could alter conclusions about which ethnic and gender groups are most fearful. Qualitative interviews reveal some unexpected sources of fear.

Jayasuriya, D. & Gibson, J. 2013, ‘Elephants, tigers and safety in post-conflict Sri Lanka’, Discussion Paper No. 27, Development Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra.

Karen Downing

Karen Downing is Research Communications Coordinator at the Development Policy Centre.