About Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards is Managing Director of Crisis Prevention and Response at Amnesty International USA. He has written and consulted extensively on complex humanitarian crises, protection, and armed conflict, and notable publications include “The Chaos of Forced Displacement,” advancing a computational model of forced migration for use in operational planning. Current professional activity focuses on the development of early warning mechanisms for humanitarian crises, as well as the practical use of geospatial technologies for human rights compliance monitoring and research. Scott previously served as Amnesty’s Advocacy Director for Africa, and Director of the Science for Human Rights Program, and is a Professorial Lecturer at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs. He completed his doctoral work in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, focusing on causes and consequences of violent political conflict.
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Getting Over ‘Sudan Fatigue’

The rainy season in Sudan has begun, and for UN and aid agencies operating just across the Sudan border in the dozens of refugee camps housing those who’ve fled from the indiscriminate bombing of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), a logistic and operational nightmare is very present.

For the hundreds of thousands displaced by the bombing campaign, food and (paradoxically) water shortages have reached crisis proportions.

Last night, Amnesty released its newest research findings in ‘We Can Run Away From Bombs, But Not From Hunger,’ documenting the illegal and indiscriminate bombing campaign of the SAF in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, in Sudan.

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Hacking Away at Threats

mobile phone activate

Developing an App to securely capture and transmit photo and video

In a little over a week, I’ll make my way to San Francisco to participate in an innovation event that represents the cutting edge of the promise of science and technology in the fight for human rights.

Colleagues from Amnesty International will simultaneously be convening in Berlin, and in both cities, Amnesty and their partners Random Hacks of Kindness, (with their apt slogan “Hacking for Humanity”) will seek practical solutions to the very real threats that refugees and migrants face in transit in Mexico and the Mediterranean in a two-day “hack-a-thon.”

As an aside, for those wedded to the pejorative association with ‘hack,’ ‘hacking,’ ‘hackers,’ a hackathon event is “a gathering of technically skilled individuals focusing on collaborative efforts to address a challenge, issue, or goal.” In this case, the challenge is significant.

Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children are ill-treated, abducted or raped as they travel through Mexico without legal permission as irregular migrants. As we’ve tragically seen as people have fled Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, the “Mediterranean takes record as most deadly stretch of water for refugees and migrants in 2011“.

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Don't Fear the Tweets, Fear the Tweeters

twitter activist protesterLast week, UN Secretary General Ban delivered the keynote address at the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, in which he made the pointed remark:

“Some dictators in our world are more afraid of tweets than they are of opposing armies.”

Being a mere 86 characters, that quote made its way through the Twitterverse in fairly short order, with some glib derision in response.

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#Kony2012 and the Warping Logic of Atrocity

Joseph Kony Uganda LRA

Joseph Kony (STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past 48 hours, there has been a flood of criticism of Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 campaign—much of it fair, some of it less so.

My first exposure to IC’s work was some time ago when—with Resolve—they launched the LRA Crisis Tracker. In stark contrast to the criticisms of implicit disempowerment of affected people by the Kony2012 campaign, this tool empowers communities through radio and digital communications to effectively form an overlapping system of neighborhood watch in LRA-affected areas. It is—in short—good work, and represents the promise of access to the benefits of science and technology, whether for underprivileged people in the US, or communities facing security threats in Uganda and elsewhere.

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For So Many Reasons, Eyes on Russia

Russia Protest

An opposition activist holds a one man protest in front of the Russian Central Election Commission headquarters in Moscow, on March 1, 2012. The sign reads: "stop the dictatorship!" (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Russian Federation has had an unenviable place in the news of late. With the outrage over the government’s disastrous and unconscionable opposition to meaningful UN Security Council action on Syria, to Amnesty’s recent findings that Russian weapons continue to supply the machine of misery unleashed on the people of Darfur and Sudan, it would be easy to be blinded to the risks to rights protection in Sunday’s Presidential election.

Last Saturday, thousands rallied in St. Petersburg in opposition to Vladimir Putin’s decision to run for a third presidential term, chanting “Russia without Putin.” On Sunday, over 30,000 people organized together to create a human chain spanning 15.6 kilometers in length throughout Moscow in solidarity over growing discontent over the election.

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Syrian Perpetrators: Beware the Long Arc Toward Justice

In an overwhelming demonstration of broad global consensus on the ongoing atrocities in Syria, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) yesterday adopted a resolution on the Syrian crisis by a vote of 137 to 12.

While a welcome show of outrage over crimes against humanity occurring in Syria, the largely symbolic vote does little to address the abysmal failure of the UN Security Council to act on the situation. This failure—precipitated by vetoes from Russia and China and reminiscent for me of a similarly precipitated failure to act quickly on crimes against humanity in Darfur—has had immediate impact. “Emboldened” by the failure, the Syrian regime actually stepped up attacks on civilians over the last week, killing hundreds in Homs and elsewhere.

I try to avoid charged words. Words like “horrors.” But I am at a loss to label the atrocities unleashed on the civilians of Homs and cities across Syria with anything else. Being so far removed from these horrors—and witnessing much closer the failures in New York—it can be difficult to see any light ahead. But the General Assembly’s resolution offers a glimmer of hope.

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Repressive Regimes Rejoice, Twitter to Censor Content

twitter bird censoredTwitter dropped quite the shocker last week when it declared its new policy to remove Tweets in certain countries to abide by specific national laws. While a tweet will remain visible to the rest of the world, specific messages will disappear in the target country (e.g., following requests by governments).

The ensuing backlash saw a lot of people screaming “censorship” (ironically, on Twitter). While the first wave of criticism has quickly calmed down, for a human rights watchdog, the announcement is quite alarming:

As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression. …. Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world.

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Where's my Wiki? SOPA, PIPA, and Balancing Rights

google censored

Sites across the Web are "blacking out" to protest SOPA

Following a previous post on this blog which makes the case that internet access is inseparable from the enjoyment of many or most rights, I wanted to address the imperiled Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill from a human rights lens.

In that previous post, I referenced Art 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Actually, I only referenced section 1 of Art 27. Section TWO can be interpreted as guaranteeing human beings the right to intellectual property (IP), and states the following:
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Is Internet Access A Human Right?

An internet cafe in Istanbul. (UGUR CAN/AFP/Getty Images)

A curious op ed appeared in The New York Times recently, titled “Internet Access is Not a Human Right.” In this piece—which I read as I do most news and media, via my computer—Vinton Cerf, a “father” of the Internet, makes an argument that despite the critical role of Information Communication Technologies (the internet) in the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, access to the Internet is not a human right.

I should note that his right to express himself so is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to… seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

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Satellite Images Show Fire Damage in Jos, Nigeria

Over the past decade, Nigeria has seen its fair share of violence. On January 17th, Nigeria came back into the headlines as violence erupted in the central city of Jos and in surrounding villages. Although there is disagreement over the exact number of people killed during January’s violence, most residents and aid workers estimate that around 400 people lost lives. Around 18,000 were displaced by the violence.

Using the power of satellite images, which were acquired and analyzed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we were able to document the impact of January’s violence on infrastructure in Jos. The image on the left depicts an area of Jos before the violence and the one on the right depicts the same area but after the main bouts of violence of January 2010. What you can see most clearly from these images is the widespread damage caused by fires in this neighborhood of Jos. And this is just one example. Satellite images of other areas of Jos showed similar damage. Throughout many neighborhoods of Jos, the damage to the physical environment reflects the violence suffered by the inhabitants of the area.

In imagery collected after the events of January 2010, this area of the city appears to have been extensively burned. (9.9397N, 8.8831E). ©2010 DigitalGlobe

In imagery collected after the events of January 2010, this area of the city appears to have been extensively burned. (9.9397N, 8.8831E). Before image: ©2010 DigitalGlobe & Google Earth. After image: ©2010 DigitalGlobe

 

 

Sadly, the story doesn’t stop here. On March 7th, attacks on predominantly Christian towns near Jos lead to the death of an estimated 200 people, most likely in retaliation for the violence of January, during which mostly Muslims were killed. Some estimates are even higher, suggesting that as many as 500 people may have died.

I am deeply concerned that there has been more inter-religious violence, with appalling loss of life. I appeal to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint. Nigeria’s political and religious leaders should work together to address the underlying causes and to achieve a permanent solution to the crisis in Jos - UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon, March 8, 2010.

The communal violence in and around Jos is years-old. AIUSA joins the widespread calls for justice for these crimes through prompt investigations and prosecution of those responsible. The Nigerian government must fulfill its responsibility to provide security for those living in areas of conflict Nigeria. This includes ensuring that the Nigerian security forces respect human rights and comply with international standards on the use of force.

Juliette Rousselot contributed to this blog post.