What happens when intervention and humanitarian efforts are blocked at the highest levels of government? Despite the technological progress society has enjoyed, the unprecedented spread of information and the ongoing development of international laws, interventions in humanitarian crises and mass atrocities are still impeded by the very systems established to bring them to an end. This reality reflects the impasse between the logic of appropriateness and the logic of consequence in international relations / politics. These two logics, coined by March and Olsen, lie at the heart of the idealist / realist divide. The latter concerns political action and outcomes, whereas the former promotes an understanding of political action as a product of rules, roles, and identities that stipulate appropriate behaviour in the international environment.
Though the two logics are not mutually incompatible, history has consistently shown that the logic of consequences frequently tends to trump the logic of appropriateness. In his analysis and research on sovereignty, Stephen Krasner notes how this results in the tendency for promises, statements, and denouncements to be decoupled from action when there is a crisis of international concern taking place in a context where political response is costly (in realist terms). The sad truth of it all is that states are still predominantly concerned with their own national security and interests and this does not always translate into the well-being and human security of civil society and vulnerable groups.
What is the answer to this conundrum? Third-track diplomatic measures combine a top-down, bottom-up approach which synergizes cooperation between grassroots movements and elite-level institutions. As global threats grow, civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are steadily increasing their influence by applying innovative solutions to the world’s most persistent problems.
We have taken this to heart at the Sentinel Project and our Threatwiki software, a premiere early warning tool, is the brainchild of our research and technology teams. Synergy and teamwork has been the lifeblood of the Sentinel Project from the beginning. Although we are just beginning to examine the potential of our products, with respect to institutional heavy hitters such as governments, our work has already produced some inspiring spinoffs.
Our first situation of concern, the persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís, was our pilot monitoring endeavour during which we noticed that our dataset lacked a strong baseline to compare our recorded operational stages of the genocidal process. The post-1979 revolutionary era in Iran was of utmost political and social significance to our work, bearing the hallmarks of Gregory Stanton’s eight-stage model of genocide. After a partnership with the NGO Mid-East Youth, we were able to acquire information on anti-Bahá’í persecution from 1979-2009. This dataset not only had the only instances of outright extermination events we have come across, but it will help us to complete a 34-year retrospective analysis of anti-Bahá’í persecution in Iran (coincidentally, our own records in Iran begin from 2009). We are working to slowly incorporate this information into our systems as some of the earlier revolutionary events occurred in provinces that either no longer exist or were amalgamated into others.
Recently, our Iranian Bahá’í dataset was used to map anti-Bahá’í persecution in the context of statistical recurrence (for hotspots) and in the context of population density. Some of the images below are from that analysis.
Timothy Quinn from our tech team created Hatebase, a tool to track and store instances of hatespeech worldwide. This tool was put together to assist NGO’s , research orgs and other individuals to use the vector of hate speech to predict regional scale violence. A complimentary tool was recently created called HateBrain, which will track hatespeech on Twitter by user and location (where such info is available) employing rich contextual layers to establish relevance and meaning for the instances of hate speech. Both of these tools will be a potential boon for the Iranian situation of concern as well as our other SOC’s, due to the fact that dehumanization an operating process is typically private and hard to track. As most hate speech can have a dehumanizing element this will be of particular advantage to our SOC’s and threatwiki that had to rely on purely overt instances for the dehumanization operating process stage in the past. (I.e. cemetery desecrations, statements made by officials )
Recently our ThreatWiki visualization was used in US senate discussions, considering a resolution to condemn anti-Bahá’í persecution in Iran…a refreshing change of focus given the predominance of the nuclear issue where Iran is concerned.
Today, we are proud announce a partnership between the Sentinel Project and SpaceUnited, this partnership will provide sophisticated satellite imagery to the Sentinel Project via, SpaceUnited’s Satellite Humanitarian Imagery Mission (SHIM 1) the Sentinel Project is excited to use these products to diversify our sources (apart from solely open sources) and fine tune the level of analysis that we currently undertake upon our situations of concern.
No NGO or CSO stands alone, Patrick Meier of Crisis Mappers emphasized the importance of analytical philanthropy, the public sharing of analysis and data philanthropy the public sharing of data. It is truly inspiring what can be accomplished when disparate organizations work together. As pressing and horrifying human security crises occur while their interventions are impeded at the international level, CSO’s and NGO’s are spreading their web of relationships allowing innovative perspectives, strategies, and knowledge to abound potentially bypassing such blockades. This not only helps to provide a rich, resilient and global data commons, but it allows both CSO’s and NGO’s to fullfill their niche within an ever expanding division of labour. I have experienced this first hand at the Sentinel Project and it has been truly exciting. I look forwarded to seeing what the future will bring.
Image 1 Credit: http://foter.com/photo/humanitarian-assistance-arrival