The best news as 2010 comes to an end may be that peace suddenly has a better chance in Sudan, where renewed civil war seems imminent, and the deaths of millions, possible.
What is new and transforming is the Satellite Sentinel Project, the brainchild of actor/director George Clooney and fast-tracked into reality by the Enough Project of the Center for American Progress and a consortium of groups including the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Google and fellow internet company, Trellon.
The story was broken by TIME magazine online and it has generated massive national and international coverage since. The story describes how the group plans to rent satellite time to monitor the border between north and south Sudan which is teetering on the verge of war. The oil-rich border region of Abyei is the likely flashpoint.
But the good news is that aggressive military action and human rights abuses can now be documented by satellite and the world notified. Satellite images have been used to document atrocities in Rwanda and Afghanistan and Darfur in the past. But satellite imagery has never before been used to try to deter military aggression and genocide. (Fellow kossack jhutson has been at the center of the development of this project in his day job at the Enough Project of the Center for American Progress.)
Make no mistake, folks. This project will transform the way peace is waged. In fact, this may be the first time the word "waged" may actually be an apt term to use.
Meanwhile, I have written an op-ed for the Progressive Media Project, (of The Progressive magazine) that was syndicated today by McClatchy/Tribune. You can read it at The Progressive's website. Here is an excerpt from Giving peace a better chance in Sudan:
A new human rights initiative may be the stuff of which peace is made.
The Satellite Sentinel Project is an unprecedented effort led by Not on Our Watch (an advocacy group of leading Hollywood figures) and the anti-genocide Enough Project of the Center for American Progress.
For the first time in history, they intend to provide peace groups with the capacity to monitor potential war zones via commercial satellites. The goal is nothing less than to stop wars and war crimes in their bloody tracks.
A pilot project will try to help head off a potential civil war in Africa’s largest nation — Sudan.
The brainchild of actor and director George Clooney, the Satellite Sentinel Project is the subject of a major story in Time magazine.
The project will monitor the border area between north and south Sudan, which have been engaged in an intermittent civil war for 50 years. An uneasy truce has prevailed since 2005, but there is a potential for further war in the run-up to a Jan. 9 referendum, when the oil-rich south will decide whether to secede from the north.
Border villages in the south have already reportedly been bombed, though the north has denied responsibility.
This situation underscores the potential value of independent groups being able to provide pictures of the smoking guns.
The satellites will also be able to document such features of war as burned villages, masses of people fleeing and movements of troops and tanks.
Again. This may be the most powerful tool ever to reach the hands of the peacemakers. Analyzed images are said to be ready to start coming out soon.
We were late to Rwanda. We were late to the Congo. We were late to Darfur. There is no time to wait in Sudan. Our mapping system will combine satellite imagery analysis and field reports with Google's Map Maker technology to deter the resumption of war between North and South Sudan.
Clooney and the Satellite Sentinel Project ask:
"If you could stop the next Darfur, would you?"
Stay tuned. You may have the opportunity to help in powerful ways.