Leveraging science, technology, and satellite imagery to investigate resource exploitation and environmental crime
Who we are
The Conflict and Environmental Forensics Working Group (CEFWG) is an interregional workstream operating to investigate and document environmental crimes and resource degradation in conflict zones. Our research platform shares information, ideas, tools, and resources for future research. The group convenes once or twice a month during the academic year to discuss monitoring technologies, methodologies, and the latest issues in the field.
Our mission is to:
Foster dialogue among environmental scholars around the world in a friendly setting
Discuss and help to shape participants' research or advocacy work
Engage in cross-disciplinary conversations regarding methodological and theoretical approaches to the study of environmental forensics and justice
We welcome participants studying all regions and time periods at any stage of their career and from any relevant branch of environmental or human rights fields.
From 2012 to 2017, the military launched an “area clearance operation” against the Rohingya minorities in Rakhine state, Myanmar. The Military's brutal campaign of murder, rape, and other atrocities forced more than 740,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. The founder of CEFWG, Thiri, and her family were among the victims. Thiri saw firsthand how the environment continues to suffer from the consequences of armed conflicts, and conflict-induced environmental degradation causes significant harm to the communities that depend their livelihoods on the ecosystem services. As an environmental scientist, Thiri recognized that satellite imageries and machine learning could reveal environmental crimes in conflict zones where field research is impossible. The spatial documentation can identify potentially responsible parties in enforcement action. The experts at the CEFWG hope that the scientific evidence we provide through advanced technologies can support global efforts to prevent war, address environmental crises and ensure equitable access to ecosystem services.
The results from the satellite-based investigation of the Rohingya conflict could potentially be useful for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM). IIMM and the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFMM) collect evidence of the most serious crimes and violations of international law and prepare files for criminal prosecution. The evidence collected by IIMM is included in the files submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The increased accessibility of satellite data and the advancement in computational technologies allow us to conduct global-scale investigations covering thousands of kilometers of earth surface. At CEFWG, we engage with interdisciplinary experts from international organizations, universities, and researchers to utilize the latest assessment technologies and develop mitigation strategies.
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.