George Clooney, ever heard about him? It's probably a safe bet to say that most people reading this article are well aware of this hollywood actor who to date has won three Golden Globe Awards as well as an Academy Award, but perhaps might be less aware of his humanitarian work, including the fact that he has served as one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace since 2008.
Mr Clooney and Mr John Prendergast, co-founder of Enough Project, conceived the Satellite Sentinel Project, a non-profit organisation which focuses on human rights, civilian protection and Humanitarian response, in 2010. As the name reflects, Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) uses satellite imaging technology to promote humanitarian issues,particularly those linked to peace and conflicts. The satellite images, taken in specific locations, act as an early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention on areas where tensions might be hostile and then generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns. The idea for SSP was hatched during a trip to Sudan in 2010 with the aim of producing field reports on the state of the conflict in the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan. SSP works with Digital Globe (who implement a number of satellite tracking projects) to produce satellite imagery and analysis.
One of the primary goals of SSP is to use technology as a means of preventing a full-scale civil war between northern and southern Sudan and also to document and assess the human security situation, identify potential threats to civilians, and detect, deter and document war crimes and crimes against humanity faced by the civilians living on the both sides of the border. Satellite images provide real-time snapshots of the tensions in the region, chronicling the situation to ensure that preventative action can be taken as swiftly as possible, if needed.
The DigitalGlobe satellites capture imagery of possible threats to civilians in Sudan and South Sudan by noting evidence of mass violence, seeking out bombed and razed villages, detecting whether artillery is being prepared for invasion or if heavy armor is moved over a road. Enough Project works with experts at DigitalGlobe analyses the collected images and combines withinformation obtained on-the-ground toproduce reports on the situation status. If an atrocity such as those outlined above is detected, they sound an alarm by bringing in all major news channels, social media networks and also by releasing these reports to the press and policy-makers.
So far SSP has notified the world of heinous crimes and produced evidence of alleged mass graves, razed villages, and forced displacement. It keeps a strict watch on Sudan to avoid any future atrocity and informs the perpetrators that the world is watching their every move. The high resolution images are available to everyone, from journalists to the politicians and the reports generated have also been used as evidence in the International Crimal Court investigation of recent alleged crimes in Sudan.
Clooney, speaking about SSP and potential perpetrators of war crimes, draws a parallel between this observation of Sudan and the kind of constant observation he faces from the paparazzi, told TIME magazine that, “We want them to enjoy the level of celebrity attention that I usually get...If you know your actions are going to be covered, you tend to behave much differently than when you operate in a vacuum.”
Enough Project Executive Director John C. Bradshaw said on the website:
“The evidence of atrocity crimes that we have compiled is extensive and needs to be reviewed by the UN. SSP has documented the deliberate burning of 292 square miles (756 km²) of farms, orchards, and grasslands used for grazing cattle, and the deliberate destruction of 26 civilian villages in South Kordofan state and 16 villages in Blue Nile state. These actions appear to represent widespread and systematic government activities. Establishment of a U.N. commission of inquiry and possibly further investigations by the U.S. government and other international actors is necessary to uncover the full extent of the Sudanese government’s crimes.”
According to the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the strength of SSP's service has resulted in prominent coverage of the situation in Sudan and South Sudan media outlets such as the New York Times, New Yorker, Newsweek, NPR, Time, PBS Newshour, the BBC, the Guardian, and the Associated Press.
To keep updated on SSP initiatives and posts, follow their feed on Twitter and Facebook.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial
Follow Ajay Pal Singh Chabba on Twitter @AjaySinghChabba