News / / 01.21.20

Foreign Policy: Satellite Surveillance Can Trace Atrocities but Not Stop Them

When I took an NGO job in Darfur in 2006, the ongoing atrocities there were well known enough that even my least internationally minded relatives asked me whether I was sure I wanted to go. Darfur had become a cause célèbre for figures like George Clooney, who helped bring obscure Sudanese terms like janjaweed into the mainstream U.S. consciousness.

But for all the effort and publicity, the United States, Europe, and the international community did little to stop the mass killings in Darfur. From my new position inside the country, it seemed reasonable that the disconnect might have to do with lack of evidence. The government was denying wrongdoing and even involvement. The International Criminal Court (ICC) was investigating the situation, very slowly. NGOs were debating the value of contributing to advocacy at the risk of being kicked out of the country and not being able to provide humanitarian aid. At the time, the relatively new idea of using satellite surveillance to not only document the attacks but also identify the perpetrators would have seemed like the perfect solution to make the horror stop…

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