Not On Our Watch, a human rights group co-founded by what's best described, perhaps, as Ocean's Eleven luminaries (George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Jerry Weintraub), announced yesterday that it has teamed up with Google, the U.N. and several anti-genocide organizations in order to launch a satellite surveillance project to monitor the Sudan region. The project aims to prevent a new civil war from breaking out in the area.
According to The Washington Post, Not On Our Watch is funding the startup phase of the Satellite Sentinel Project which plans to collect near-real-time satellite imagery from Sudan and combine it with field analysis from several other humanitarian organizations, including the Enough Project and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
The satellite imagery should point out the movement of troops and civilians in order to gauge impending and ongoing conflict. The U.N. Operational Satellite Applications Program, with the help of Google and Trellon LLC, will publish the findings online so that the reports and maps are easily accessible.
"We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we're watching, the world is watching," Clooney said in a press statement. "War criminals thrive in the dark. It's a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight."
The group hopes that the satellite imagery will be able to gauge impending conflict and warn civilians in the area, hopefully according to the website "heading off humanitarian disaster and human rights crimes before they occur."
The project is another example of the ways in which real-time mapping technologies are being used to both prevent and respond to crises.
And the crisis in the Sudan region is hardly a new one. Southern Sudan is preparing to vote on a secession referendum in early January, something that has raised fears of a north-south civil war. The vote is a result of a 2005 peace deal, ending a 20-year conflict that has cost the lives of millions.