When it comes to preventing another civil war in the northeastern African country of Sudan, George Clooney is taking a decidedly high-tech approach.
The 49-year-old humanitarian/actor has long petitioned for greater world attention to the war-torn region; most recently devastated by the genocide in Darfur that claimed some 5 million lives. Back in October, Clooney traveled with Ann Curry of "The Today Show" to southern Sudan in an effort to drum up awareness of a brewing civil war. “If you knew a tsunami, or Katrina or a Haiti earthquake was coming, what would you do to save people?” Clooney asked then.
He later met with President Obama — his second private audience since Obama took office — to update him on the situation.
As expected, however, Clooney isn't waiting around for politicians to address the growing unrest in the region. Yesterday, his organization, Not On Our Watch — also co-founded by Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Jerry Weintraub and David Pressman — announced that they would be teaming up with Google, the United Nations and other anti-genocide organizations to launch satellite surveillance of the border between north and south Sudan.
According to reports, Not On Our Watch will fund the start-up phase of what's being called the "Satellite Sentinel Project" that will collect real-time satellite imagery and combine it with field analysis from the Enough Project and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. The data is meant to act as a kind of early warning system that will monitor the movement of troops, civilians and other signs of conflict.
The U.N. Operational Satellite Applications Program and Google will then publish the findings online.
"We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes know that we're watching, the world is watching," Clooney said in a statement. "War criminals thrive in the dark. It's a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight."
According to Reuters, people in Sudan's oil-rich south are "widely expected to vote to split away and form a new country in the referendum that was part of a 2005 peace deal ending civil war between north and south."
The Satellite Sentinel Project website is now online and will begin monitoring the Sudanese region and publishing information over the next few weeks. With the referendum over whether to break apart the country coming Jan. 9, expect a great deal of attention paid to watching this potential powder keg.
Thanks to Clooney and friends, we can all do our part to spread awareness and hope for the best. It's high-tech activism at its best.
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