U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Conflict & Stabilization Operations
At the outset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) recognized the need for atrocity documentation during times of war. Therefore, in partnership with several organizations and research institutions, the CSO developed the Conflict Observatory Program, a geospatial platform that collects and analyzes open-source information for use as evidence in the prosecution of war crimes. Using strict investigation protocols, data and imagery are documented, analyzed and properly stored to ensure future admissibility in court. CSO is using GIS to monitor and analyze war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine, and to understand how this program can help the global community consider how future conflict monitoring can be carried out around the world.
- The Conflict Observatory uses scientific methods to hold Russia accountable for its crimes. It is taking an ever-growing body of evidence and sharing it on a public site, powered by ArcGIS Hub.
- As a team of teams, the Conflict Observatory program is comprised of nearly 70 subject matter and technical experts across organizations and research institutions including the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, Planetscape Ai, Quiet Professionals and Esri.
- Filtration operations, where Russia’s forces and proxies interrogated, detained, and forcibly deported Ukrainians were identified by the Yale team who mapped these operations by collecting satellite data, geolocating images, videos and text evidence.
- The entire country’s cultural heritage sites can be examined for damage. The Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative and its partners at the Virginia Museum of Natural History’s Cultural Heritage Monitoring Lab and the University of Maryland maintain a location database of 28,000 cultural heritage sites, using thermal detection data from NASA satellites to detect heat signatures from sites that might be damaged so they can be investigated further.
- Using an analytic service (human mobility metric) along with data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), was used by the University of Maryland found that armed activity initiated by Russia’s forces is the main determinant of conflict-related displacement.
- With ArcGIS Knowledge, the Conflict Observatory team is understanding relationships to support accountability missions.
- The people of Ukraine demand and deserve justice. The U.S. Department of State will continue to leverage innovative geospatial tools to better anticipate, prevent, and respond to conflicts globally that undermine U.S. national interests.