The Satellite Sentinel Project — initiated by George Clooney — combines satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google’s Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan. The project provides an early warning system to deter mass atrocities by focusing world attention and generating rapid responses on human rights and human security concerns.
This project is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between Not On Our Watch, Google, the Enough Project, the United Nations UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Trellon, LLC.
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 leads the collection and analysis of the images and collaborates with Google and Trellon 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 contributes field reports, provides policy analysis, and, together with Not On Our Watch, puts pressure on policymakers by urging the public to act.
In the end, neither satellite images nor the 10,000 peacekeepers in South Sudan can prevent the resumption of war. If Khartoum and the South are determined to settle scores violently, they will do so. However, if outside governments (like the China and the United States) use their relationships with Khartoum and the South to make war unattractive war might very well be averted.
The measure of success here is clearly the ability of this sort of monitoring to act as a deterrent. We have to assume that relevant government spy agencies are already privy to this kind of intel. The idea, it would seem, is to make this information directly available to the public–namely the activists in the Save Darfur movement–to give them ammunition to press leaders to do something to stop the violence. Smart idea. Let’s hope it works.