Mapping the Syrian Crisis with the Carter Center


A heatmap of Syrian conflict events in the first half of 2014

The Syrian conflict represents one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world today. With millions displaced, billions of dollars of aid flowing to refugees, and a war raging, the safe and effective delivery of humanitarian aid to the vulnerable populations affected by the conflict has become one of the world’s hardest problems. To help with this problem, our partners at the Carter Center’s Syria Conflict Mapping Project have been using Palantir Gotham to analyze the open source data around the conflict and understand the opposition’s political and military structure. The result is a living archive of active militant groups, what they are doing and where they are operating, and how they relate to other armed groups.

The Syrian conflict is notable for the amount of related open source information being published through social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Analysts at the Carter Center have carefully coded over 70 attributes from thousands of videos, which together represent thousands of individual conflict events and the formation of over 5,600 armed groups in which some 100,000 fighters have appeared. Analysts coded information including where and when events occurred, what weapons they observed, symbolism and uniforms that appear in the videos, and evidence of mass atrocities.

The ability to integrate and interact with this kind of data within a unified analytic environment can dramatically improve the way humanitarian organizations respond to conflicts. As the Carter Center’s Christopher McNaboe said in a recent piece about the Syrian Conflict Mapping Project in Forbes,

The platform we use—Palantir Gotham—is one of the best analytical tools in existence today, and has already helped us find meaningful trends in our data that would otherwise have been lost in a series of disconnected network diagrams, Excel spreadsheets, and reports.

By integrating and analyzing this information in Palantir Gotham (as in the video above), the Carter Center can better help humanitarian organizations deliver aid to those who need it most. In a rapidly evolving conflict where the security of aid workers and civilians is paramount, real-time data analysis provides international actors with situational awareness of the conflict as it unfolds, allowing them to operate both more efficiently and more safely. Furthermore, Palantir Gotham’s granular access controls and auditing capabilities allow for both raw data and analysis to be shared responsibly and securely, while ensuring that collaborators understand the sourcing and pedigree of the data in question.

If you want to learn more, some of the results of the Carter Center’s analysis can be seen in their latest public nationwide report. We are proud to be helping the Carter Center advance this critically important work.