The design and planning process is crucial to the implementation of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) mechanisms geared toward investigating violations of international law, including human rights, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law. However, many disagreements exist about how MRF actors should weigh different factors in their design and planning decision-making processes. This paper — to provide a point of reference indicating the implications of different methodological choices — examines areas of methodological agreement and disagreement, trends of professional decision-making, and normative perceptions that practitioners hold about best practices regarding the design and planning of MRF mechanisms. Based on an assessment of fifteen MRF missions implemented over the past decade, this paper analyzes how commissioners on these missions interpreted the mission’s investigative scope, examines the factors that guided decisions about the activities that the mission would undertake, and offers an overview of common staffing dilemmas. Overall, the paper aims to present a portrait of the state of MRF practice, in terms of how practitioners approach fulfilling their mandates.
2013 was another important and impactful year for humanitarianism. From Syria, to Sudan, and the Philippines, we have witnessed and responded to new global health challenges in an ever changing humanitarian landscape. We at HHI are committed to creating new ways to serve our local and global neighbors in greatest need, and to making the world a safer place for those who are threatened, displaced and dispossessed. This report provides a review of HHI's activities in 2013, and includes research program achievements, highlights from the Humanitarian Academy at Harvard, and an overview of events and publications from the year.
Communities in South Sudan have endured decades of conflict. Protracted conflict exacerbated reproductive health disparities and gender inequities. This study, conducted prior to the country’s 2011 independence, aimed to assess attitudes toward gender inequitable norms related to sexual relationships and reproductive health and the effects of sex, age, and education on these attitudes.
Al Shabaab's horrific attack of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi generated over 730,000 tweets during the four-day siege in Spetember 2013. The purpose of this study is to analyze the authors, content and frequency of these tweets in the hour leading up to the attacks and during the two hours after the onslaught began. The Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) partnered with GNIP to collect the 730,000+ tweets within hours of the attack unfolding. QCRI Research Assistants Ms. Brittany Card and Ms. Justine MacKinnon carried out the subsequent categorization and analysis of tweets under the guidance of QCRI's Director of Social Innovation, Dr. Patrick Meier.
At the evolving frontier of modern humanitarianism, non-governmental organizations are using satellite technology to monitor mass atrocities. As a documentation tool, satellites have the potential to collect important real-time evidence for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, the field remains experimental and ill-defined, while useful court evidence cannot be produced without a standard methodology and code of ethics. In this paper, members of the groundbreaking Satellite Sentinel Project review the historical development of satellite documentation and some of its landmark projects, and propose necessary measures to advance the field forward.
While the existence of monitoring, reporting and fact-finding (MRF) bodies in the international realm is not a new phenomenon, the recent proliferation of such institutions raises a number of policy and legal issues. One issue is that, as MRF bodies are increasingly called to make legal determinations and interpret existing unsettled rules or concepts of international law, these mechanisms’ role and practice in this regard attract more legal scrutiny. As a result, the way that MRF missions apply the law — as much as the methodology used to establish facts — can affect the mission’s credibility. This paper addresses this issue by focusing on the selection and application of legal lenses in MRF mechanisms. The paper aims at describing and analyzing the current practice to identify strengths, gaps, and challenges, with a view to presenting options to improve the ways that MRF practitioners articulate and apply legal frameworks.
The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs published an article authored by Signal Program staff in which they detail the technology, perceived impact and lessons learned from running operations for the Satellite Sentinel Project. This inside assessment of the Satellite Sentinel Project has been offered open source by the journal in order to inform humanitarian practitioners, scholars and the public.
The Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has released its first study, Sudan: Anatomy of a Conflict. This study is the first geospatial-based history of a conflict created primarily through a fusion of remote sensing and previously public event data. The researchers of the Signal Program spent many months cross-referencing and analyzing over 40,000 square kilometers of archival satellite imagery of Sudan with more than 2,000 published reports of incidents occurring between January 2011 and mid-2012. Key findings of the study include evidence of the apparent intentional destruction of more than 2,000 civilian dwellings and other structures; the intentional targeting and destruction of four humanitarian facilities; identification of specific armed actors, units, and chains-of-command allegedly involved in specific attacks in Sudan; and evidence of the mass displacement of civilian populations.
Since 1988, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio through programs in more than 200 countries involving some 20 million volunteers and an international investment of over US$8 billion. By 2006, polio cases around the world had decreased by over 99% and remained endemic in only four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – with a handful of other countries reporting sporadic cases. In 2008, the World Health Assembly called for the formulation of a concerted global strategy to eradicate polio from these remaining countries and create a polio-free world. This led to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Strategic Plan 2010 – 2012, an aggressive action- and time-specific initiative to end polio transmission in the remaining areas where this persisted.
This report documents the experiences and attitudes of former underage combatants in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who went through the reintegration process, the families and communities who received them and the organizations that funded and implemented reintegration programming. Despite increasing attention to the scope and importance of child soldiering globally, there is still limited systematic research on the successes and challenges of reintegration programming for former underage combatants. This project, a collaboration between the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Eastern Congo Initiative, used DRC as a case study to examine the community experiences and attitudes around Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programming to generate lessons learned for improving future programming for former underage combatants and at-risk youth.
This study highlights the voices of individuals currently affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army to detail the extensive and systematic devastation felt specifically by formerly abducted children and their communities in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Respondents stressed that the international community must assist with providing essential services through long-term engagement, including life-saving health services; improving water and sanitation access; and providing psychosocial and educational interventions to formerly abducted children and adults. While these communities are facing emergency-level challenges now, the need for solutions that will last into the future.
The way in which international actors implement monitoring, reporting, and fact finding (MRF) mechanisms is changing. Modern MRF mechanisms date back to 1913, when, after the Balkans had erupted in war for the second time in two years, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace initiated a commission to investigate potential violations of international law. But the Carnegie Endowment did not begin its work until fighting had ceased, believing, as the mission’s final report notes, that a mission initiated before the conflict’s conclusion would be “premature.” In contrast, almost a century later, as massive protests erupted in numerous autocratic Arab countries in 2011, international actors felt no need to hesitate. Instead, MRF actors initiated MRF missions to examine potential violations of international law in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain, all contexts in which violent conflicts continued to unfurl, as well as Tunisia and Egypt, where massive protests had recently led to transfers of political power. These missions represent a trend in the world of MRF toward more rapid deployment.