Long Term Evidence gathering
Since their return to the island, months after Hurricane Irma struck in 2017, Barbudans have witnessed a group of US-based companies clearing protected land for the purpose of building and servicing high-end tourism enclaves on Barbuda's undeveloped coast.
Islanders report of vast construction sites and the clearing of large tracts of their communal land to the benefit of foreign investors. Parts of an internationally listed wetland have already been destroyed through for the construction of luxury residences and a golf course known as the ‘Barbuda Ocean Club’.These developments involve the leasing of land traditionally held in common by the residents of Barbuda, without adequate public consultation and threatening myriad human and environmental rights.
In Barbuda, there is currently no centralised platform for accessing official records relating to such controversial developments, such as some of the leases, prior land claims, the environmental impact assessments and other relevant documents. In addition, while local activists have been collecting (visual) information of the developments as they are witnessing them, this evidence gathering exercise has not followed a single, structured workflow. However, these documents as well as reliable visual records could be crucial evidence in future accountability efforts.
Photographic evidence of a forest having been cleared to build an airport runway in breach of environmental regulations
Rienow et al, 'Detecting land use and land cover change on Barbuda before and after the Hurricane Irma with respect to potential land grabbing: A combined volunteered geographic information and multi sensor approach,' International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, Volume 108,
GLAN has started building an evidence platform on the private developments in Barbuda, teaming up with documentation experts to construct evidence gathering plans. The evidence platform combines open source data with direct evidence. Thanks to support from partnering organisations, evidence gathering equipment (including telephoto lenses) has already been sent to the island which will assist with populating this platform and local activists have been trained online in appropriate techniques for gathering direct evidence.
Building on its experience developing similar databases for its work in Yemen, GLAN has been developing a repository of digital evidence with future accountability efforts in mind, coordinating evidence gathering missions and developing a single workflow for both online, user-generated audio-visual evidence, as well as direct evidence. For the latter, the workflow addresses the procedures to be followed for the ingest, archival storage, data management and preservation of directly-received material (e.g. from local researchers and witnesses).
All information is migrated and combined onto Uwazi, a database system designed by HURIDOCS, which is used to sort, tag, navigate and analyse the high volumes of evidence.
All evidence is sorted by GLAN with future legal accountability efforts in mind and to make feasible a thorough analysis of an unwieldy amount of content. Where necessary, sources’ identification is coded, so that the database, if breached, would be less likely to lead to their identity being revealed.