Technological advances have meant that civilians are now enabled to play a greater role than ever before in monitoring and documenting violations during armed conflict or in other insecure environments. 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.
This report is about harnessing developments already in motion internationally to produce better information about human rights and IHL violations in situations affected by conflict. Its main contention is that local civil society actors can be enabled, with the help of modern technology, to become central actors in the processes of monitoring, documentation and reporting. Empowering local activists has not only practical value, in that these activists often have the closest access to victims of violations, but normative value as well, because it makes monitoring more inclusive, participatory, and meaningful to local populations. The basis of this report is the experience of the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International in implementing a system of civilian-led monitoring in Iraq between 2014 and 2017, which is presented as a case study to illustrate one possible application of the approach put forward throughout the report.