George Clooney

Searching for the political situation in Sudan and the plight of the Nuba people in particular, Mr Clooney’s name popped up together with SSP (Satellite Sentinel Project).

Some  remarks on SSP:

SSP, “a game-changing collaboration, combining commercial satellite imagery, academic analysis, and advocacy to promote human rights in Sudan and South Sudan and serve as an early warning system for impending crisis’ was founded in 2010 on the initiative of George Clooney and John Prendergast. Several partners participate, such as, Not On Our Watch, the Enough Project, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative  (HHI), Google and Digital Globe.

They are the “anti-paparazzi”, in the words of George Clooney: “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”

Michael VanRooyen, Director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative adds: “The Satellite Sentinel Project is a clear example of how technology transforms the way we think about and prepare for crises. In the hands of well-trained and experienced analysts guided by humanitarian principles, prepare satellite technology provides a potent new way of ensuring that the world witnesses threats to “civilians.”

SSP uses the internet to publish the results of the observations on its free accessible website.

 Has SSP had any effect?

- The applications of satellite imagery analysis for preventing atrocities and holding perpetrators of war crimes to account is used by courts prosecuting war crimes. According to Time the ICC has made use of the SSP satellite imagery  in cases of atrocities in the Sudan.

-It certainly succeeded in putting the spotlights on the sufferings of the Nuba people and the war crimes committed in Sudan. It aroused action from the UN Security Council, the US Senate and the OAU.

Worldwide awareness for this case is achieved. But there also are critical remarks.

- Can SSP deter and prevent wars and protect human rights?

- Tim Brown in his article “Satellites for human rights” in 2011 was highly sceptical, referring to earlier uses of satellite imagery similar cases. 

-The interpretation of satellite imagery is debatable and might even be politically biased.

-The imagery might be used by parties to escalate conflicts instead of solving the problem.

 Internet is a powerful medium. More and more people have access to it and its content spreads quickly, be it entertainment or opinion making movies and pictures. Audiovisual media take over the role of paper. There are hardly any rules and everybody can make a case, manipulating facts by selecting and/or photo shopping images. Uncontrolled power is given to private citizens and groups, for good or for worse. It is democratic and dangerous at the same time.

SSP, with the help of George Clooney's name and fame, and viral video's like "Kony 2012" have achieved some success. They also have shown the power of the Internet.


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