What is civilian-led monitoring?

What is civilian-led monitoring?

Civilian-led monitoring empowers civilians on the ground to monitor and document violations of international humanitarian law and human rights according to international standards. Using advances in communications technology, it enables civilians to report violations securely and accessibly, enabling them to take a central role in the protection of their rights.

As UN rapporteurs and other official international monitors are effectively denied access to a wide range of insecure territories around the world, civilian monitors have become a complementary, and in some cases the principal, source of information on what is happening on the ground to civilian populations. Advantages of civilian-led monitoring include:

  • Real-time information
  • Bottom up, not top down, reporting
  • Harnessing of local expertise, including knowledge and language skills
  • Participatory and inclusive processes.

With its focus on first-hand information and a plurality of perspectives, civilian-led monitoring offers solutions to the challenges of access, triangulation and impartiality that hamper official monitoring.

Ceasefire’s report Eyes on the Ground: Realizing the potential of civilian-led monitoring in armed conflict describes the development of civilian-led monitoring and the challenges, including verification, quality control and victim protection. The recommendations of the report on the strengthening of civilian-led monitoring draw on an expert seminar that took place in Geneva in June 2017, bringing together NGO leaders pioneering civilian-led monitoring in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other armed conflicts with senior representatives from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, Geneva Call, the Institute for International Humanitarian Law, academic and civil society experts and governments with an interest in promoting the implementation of international humanitarian law.

“The world doesn’t change with more information – but it just might, with good information”

– Senior official, International Committee of the Red Cross

Civilian-led monitoring has developed on the back of:

  • The huge expansion in popular access to mobile telephony and digital communications;
  • The development of crowd-sourcing, digital mapping and crowd verification techniques, including through the use of open-source programmes;
  • Increased public awareness of human rights standards and IHL standards;
  • Advances in data-mining and news curation using increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence;
  • New opportunities for civil society organisation and activism created through social media;
  • Growing receptiveness of UN, inter-governmental and governmental bodies to information produced by civil society.

Meet the civilian activists in Iraq:

Film by NiiWorks for Ceasefire /MRG.

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