Satellite Sentinel Project uses space to make a difference

The Satellite Sentinel Project uses satellite images to document human rights abuses and civilian casualties in South Sudan. Their analysis complements on-the-ground reports collected by the Enough Project and helps to raise awareness of atrocities committed by armed groups that prey on defenseless civilians.

On a visit to war-torn southern Sudan in 2010, actor and activist George Clooney and human rights activist John Prendergast saw the suffering of the southern Sudanese people who had been forced from their homes and seen loved ones killed in the decades-long civil war. The Sudanese people had reported abuses and atrocities, but individual tweets and letters are too often dismissed as anecdotal without independent confirmation. Clooney wondered whether the atrocities would have happened had someone been watching and taking pictures as they happened. 

He and Prendergast founded the Satellite Sentinel Project to serve witness to the atrocities. DigitalGlobe - the satellite remote sensing company behind the Tomnod humanitarian crowdsourcing service - analyzes images of South Sudan collected by its network of satellites. Their analysts identify evidence of troop movements, bombings, and burned-out and looted structures. The Satellite Sentinel Project releases reports that combine the DigitalGlobe analysis with on-the-ground reports collected by the Enough Project.

In the press release announcing the Satellite Sentinel Project’s first report on the Sudanese Armed Forces deployment on the eve of South Sudan’s independence, the project quoted retired U.S. Army Major General Paul Eaton:

The Satellite Sentinel Project has broken new ground and is providing not just a new tool, but a new toolbox for promoting peace by safeguarding civilians.

The project has issued dozens of reports since then. They document atrocities committed against civilians in the conflict with Sudan and the internal violence within South Sudan. In a low-intensity war zone that gets relatively little media coverage, the Satellite Sentinel Project provides the world’s press and humanitarian rights officials with compelling evidence that may help stop the violence.