George Clooney and Google Team Up to Stop Sudan Civil War
A map from George Clooney's Satellite Sentinel Project.
CREDIT: Satellite Sentinel Project
When southern Sudan votes on secession next month, not only will the international community be watching, but George Clooney and Google will be watching as well. Clooney has teamed up with Google to launch the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses Google's map technology to monitor the long-standing conflict in Sudan. By combining efforts with other humanitarian and advocacy groups, the project aims to pressure policymakers into taking more direct action if Sudan enters a period of more sustained civil war following next month's referendum on southern independence.
George Clooney has a history of advocacy on the subject of human rights in Sudan -- first in relationship to the genocide in Darfur, located in the west of Sudan, and now in anticipation of further conflict between the government in the north and the secessionist south. North and south Sudan have fought an intermittent civil war for the better part of twenty years, as the Islamic, Arabic-speaking government in the north has fought to control the oil-rich, Christian and animist south. Many observers expect the violence to flare up again once the provisional government of southern Sudan formally announces independence in January.
"We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we're watching, the world is watching," Clooney said. "War criminals thrive in the dark. It's a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight."
The project works like this: Commercial satellites passing over the border of northern and southern Sudan are able to capture possible threats to civilians, observe the movement of displaced people, detect bombed and razed villages or note other evidence of pending mass violence. UNOSAT, the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme, leads the collection and analysis of the images and collaborates with Google and Trellon LLC, an Internet strategy and development firm, to design the Web platform for the public to easily access the images and reports. Harvard Humanitarian Initiative provides system-wide research and leads the collection, human rights analysis, and corroboration of on-the-ground reports that contextualizes the satellite imagery. The Enough Project, an anti-genocide group, contributes field reports, provides policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch (the human rights organization co-founded by Clooney), puts pressure on policymakers by urging the public to act. Not On Our Watch has funded a six-month startup phase.
The unprecedented collaboration between Not On Our Watch, the Enough Project, UNOSAT, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Google and Trellon will provide an early warning system to focus world attention and generate rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns.
The Satellite Sentinel Project marks the first sustained, public effort to systematically monitor and report on potential hotspots and threats to security along a border, in near real-time (within 24 to 36 hours), with the aim of heading off humanitarian disaster and human rights crimes before they occur.
"Deterrence is our objective," said John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project. "We want to contribute to the prevention of war between north and south Sudan. If war does ignite, we want to hold accountable those responsible, and hopefully deter human rights crimes that would be committed in the context of war."