AAAS Reflections on Early Warning

From Lars Bromley:

I know less than I should in this area but am thinking a conversation with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network might be in order. In particular, did their crop models, or those of their colleagues, identify areas of unrest recently, such is Haiti, related to to food pricing and availability? The absence of food is likely a core driver of conflict, and FEWS has been working on such issues for quite some time. Apologies if this is already covered in the blog or somewhere linked to it.

In my geospatial work we’ve toyed with using high-res satellite imagery to document troop build ups in Burma especially, and to a lesser extent in Darfur, and a couple other areas as well. This relies on local reporting that allows us to verify and quantify troop presence / increases. However, its obviously problematic, expensive, and very hit-or-miss, and in general we’ve only tried it where conflict is already ongoing and we want to know whether specific towns might be under threat. The main problem is we need imagery very quickly to provide any useful info, which requires us to schedule multiple satellites, thus costing almost $10K, and we might not get info in time. Even when we received the info in time, all we can say is ‘more troops and tanks are indeed present’ or something like that.

The only other thing I know in this area is related to the Political Instability Task Force and the Brookings Civil Violence, both of which are rather old at this point. I flirted with them in my graduate days but nothing beyond that.



Lars Bromley
Project Director
American Association for
the Advancement of Science


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