Harvard Signals

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Remote Sensing & Digital Forensics

“Present in the imagery from March 1st and March 4th of the prison, there are dark elongated objects, similar to each other, measuring approximately five to six feet in length,” said Isaac Baker, imagery analysis manager at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Signal Program on Human Security and Technology. “While analysis and available data does not prove, it does corroborate, and is consistent with, eyewitness accounts of mass executions at this facility.” Read the entire article here.

As a documentation tool, satellites have the potential to collect important real-time evidence for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Other Notable Papers

WHAT WE DO

Standards & Ethics

UAViators Code of Conduct

The UAViators Code of Conduct is the gold standard for how to effectively, securely, and respectfully operate drones in the humanitarian sector. We’re excited to be working more closely with the UAViators and WeRobotics to steward this latest round of updates. More at uaviators.org

Identifying, defining, articulating, and translating existing international human rights standards into the context of HIAs and the use of information, data, and ICTs in humanitarian contexts.

Other Notable Papers

WHAT WE DO

Early Warning & Atrocity Prevention

Our Work

The Early Warning team conducts sector-leading development of the theory, methodologies, operational protocols, and case-based learning in near-term tactical decision support for civilian protection worldwide. Already at the core of United Nations’ peacekeeping operations learning and operational development, the Early Warning team is working to systematically re-configure the humanitarian sector’s wide-lens, long-range approach to tactical early warning and mass atrocity prevention, bringing it into focus with analysis protocols designed for real-time change detection and decision support.

The aim of this article is to highlight potential methods applicable to a standard forensic approach for the analysis of high-resolution satellite imagery that may contain evidence of alleged mass atrocities.

Other Notable Papers

Internship

The Signal Program is seeking an intern for the summer of 2020 to assist in building an agent-based model.

By November 2020 an estimated 1.5 million people have become internally displaced in Somalia.
Climate change, environmental degradation, conflict, political and economic instability, and food crises stand to increase the numbers and movement of Somalia’s internally displaced populations (IDPs). There is an urgent need for the development of an agent-based model to understand the effects of climate change and conflict on pastoralists and internally displaced populations in the Horn of Africa.

To accomplish this, the Signal Program is applying agent-based modeling to new, theoretical methods of tracking migration patterns, considering variables ranging from environmental indices, conflict, and available support. We’re seeking assistance in translating conceptual models into code, test ABM prototypes with empirical data and produce preliminary deliverables for project partners.

Signal Code: Ethical Obligations for Humanitarian Information Activities

Humanitarians today lack sufficient ethical guidance adapted to the realities of humanitarianism in the information age to responsibly navigate the challenges and realities of the digital age.

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The Signal Code: Ethical Obligations for Humanitarian Information Activities translates and applies the foundational sources of ethical humanitarian practice to humanitarian information activities, such as mobile devices, WiFi provision, data collection, storage and analysis, and biometric registration tools. This document represents the first effort to provide humanitarian practitioners and researchers with comprehensive ethical guidance for this increasingly commonplace and critical area of humanitarian practice.

The Obligations builds upon the rights-based approach first articulated in the January 2020 publication of The Signal Code: A Human Rights Approach to Information during Crisis. The Code seeks to identify extant international humanitarian and human rights law and standards, as well as other relevant and accepted international instruments, that provide all people basic rights pertaining to the access to, and provision and treatment of, information during a crisis. The first volume of the Code is employed as an underlying framework for how the Obligations is structured and from where the obligations are, in part, derived.

The Signal Code: A Human Rights Approach to Information During Crisis

The Signal Code is the result of a six month study by the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to identify what human rights people have to information during disasters. The Signal Code identifies five rights from multiple sources of international human rights and humanitarian law and standards that already exist and apply to humanitarian information activities (HIAs).

These five rights are the following: 1. The Right to Information; 2. The Right to Protection; 3. The Right to Privacy and Security; 4. The Right to Data Agency; and 5. The Right to Rectification and Redress. The goal of the Signal Code is to provide a foundation for the future development of ethical obligations for humanitarian actors and minimum technical standards for the safe, ethical, and responsible conduct of HIAs before, during, and after disasters strike.

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