Rapid urbanization represents the most significant demographic change of the twenty-first century. 2008 marked the first time in human history that over half of the world population lived in urban settings. The process of urbanization, fueled by economic and social foreces, has particularly accelerated in countries in the Global South. By the year 2050, it is predicted that 70% of the world's population will live in urban settings.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (‘DRC’) has been called “the rape capital of the world” while Colombia was known in the late 1990s as “the murder capital of the world”. What do these capitals of crime have in common? Both countries have been plagued by conflict-related violence, including sexual violence. This chapter will serve as a comparative study to explore how such different cases – situated at difference points on the spectrum in terms of prevalence and attention received – are still described using the same narrative language.
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.
A simple glance at recent news headlines reveals the growing prevalence of international missions tasked to monitor and report on potential violations of international law. In the past few months alone, the United Nations (UN) dispatched a team to monitor the ceasefire in Syria, and the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) mandated a commission of inquiry to examine Israeli settlements in the West Bank, extended the mandate of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, and mandated a new Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. These missions are part of a rapidly growing trend. The international community — imbued, since the end of the Cold War, with a new sense of responsibility for international legal accountability and civilian protection — has increasingly employed monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) mechanisms to collect information on the vulnerabilities of civilian populations and investigate potential violations of international law.
The Satellite Sentinel Project, or SSP, has released a report on the pilot phase which began in December 2010 and concluded 1 June 2012. This report contains highlights over the past 18 months including a summary of operations, and satellite imagery. With the completion of the pilot phase of SSP on 1 June 2012, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) concluded its participation in SSP. HHI has transitioned out of SSP, launching the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology with the aim of establishing the first codified technical standards and professional ethics for crisis mapping.
The Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at Harvard University (HPCR) is a research and policy program based at the Harvard School of Public Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Program is engaged in research and advisory services on humanitarian operations and the protection of civilians in conflict areas. The Program advises organizations such as the United Nations, governments, and non-governmental actors, and focuses on the protection of vulnerable groups, conflict prevention, strategic planning for human security, and the role of information technology in emergency response. The Program was established in August 2000 in close cooperation with the Government of Switzerland and the United Nations.
This Working Paper presents HPCR’s research to date on dilemmas arising from the intersection between, on the one hand, counterterrorism laws and policies prohibiting engagement with certain non-state entities and, on the other, humanitarian access and protection of civilians in armed conflict. This Working Paper aims to provide HPCR’s initial analysis of these dilemmas and to suggest key areas for future research and policy engagement.
In the post-9/11 era, humanitarian organizations face a growing dilemma regarding access to vulnerable groups in internal conflicts. On the one hand, international actors have increasingly recognized the importance of engaging with non-state armed groups (NSAGs) to ensure the timely delivery of humanitarian assistance in crisis-affected territories. On the other hand, in recent years, political and policy actors operating at domestic, regional, and international levels have pursued security policies and enacted laws geared toward curbing relationships with NSAGs accused of executing acts of terrorism.
In recent decades, the international community has exhibited an increased devotion to civilian protection and promotion of international legal accountability. To activate this sense of responsibility, during armed conflicts and internal disturbances, international actors have created numerous monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) mechanisms to investigate potential violations of international law. But the academic and policy communities have not kept pace with the growing importance of these mechanisms, and MRF practitioners frequently suffer from a paucity of sufficient guidance. As a step toward filling this research gap, this article presents an in-depth examination of MRF mechanisms. The article first presents an analytical framework that examines key distinctions between different MRF activities and presents guiding principles applicable to all MRF mechanism types. Examining past MRF practice through the lens of this framework, the article then explores the process of creating MRF mechanisms. The article concludes by sketching possible next steps for the MRF community to build on this research foundation and develop standards for more effective MRF implementation.
In line with its mission to advance effective strategies for the protection of civilians during armed conflict, HPCR undertakes a variety of academic and research initiatives to identify the political, economic, and cultural factors that affect the conduct of hostilities and ultimately shape the development of humanitarian law and policy. As part of these initiatives, in 2009, HPCR established a Thematic Working Group on Islamic Law and Protection of Civilians. This Working Group was comprised of legal experts and practitioners working in the humanitarian sphere and associated fields. While not comprehensive, this document seeks to provide a summary of information and analyses concerning Islamic law and its relationship with international law and the regulation of armed conflict.
In line with its mission to engage in critical examination of humanitarian and conflict policy, HPCR undertakes a variety of academic and research initiatives to identify significant developments in Humanitarian and Human Right Law. As part of this research, in 2010 HPCR established a thematic working group on IHL and IHRL. This working group was comprised of senior level practitioners from both the humanitarian assistance sector and the military. While not comprehensive, this document seeks to provide key jurisprudence and doctrine in both the humanitarian and human rights fields.
Over the past few decades, governments have established various international criminal courts and tribunals (ICCTs), including several ad hoc entities — such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) — as well as a permanent body in the form of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Additionally, international actors have also established a wide array of non-judicial monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) missions, such as commissions of inquiry, monitoring components of peace operations, and special rapporteurs. This working paper discusses opportunities and challenges for achieving a greater degree of interoperability between international judicial and non-judicial accountability efforts.
This article documents the development and initial use case of the GRID (Ground Reporting through Imagery Delivery) methodology by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). GRID was created to support corroboration of witness testimony of mass atrocity related-events using satellite imagery analysis. A repeating analytic limitation of employing imagery for this purpose is that differences in the geographic knowledge of a witness and an imagery analyst can limit or impede corroboration.
This paper sets out various dilemmas faced by practitioners undertaking fact-finding missions, based on a desk analysis and extensive interviews with expert practitioners. The paper addresses the challenges, both practical and theoretical, related to standards of proof and information collection and suggests policy options that might be pursued moving forward.
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.