Commercial Remote Sensing Satellites and the Regulation of Violence in Areas of Limited Statehood

Published January 2015

The number and sophistication of commercial remote sensing satellites has grown steadily since 2000 when the first high resolution satellite went into service. The nature and trajectory of the growth in satellite technology is outlined in this paper. The discussion is placed in the context of an international relations theory about statehood. An area of limited statehood framework is outlined, especially as it relates to the maladroit use of force by limited states unable or unwilling to discipline security personnel or otherwise control the use of force. Of course, another possibility is that the use of excessive and indiscriminant violence is deliberate. We consider the “regulation of violence” to be deliberate violence by nonstate actors serving as “functional equivalents” for state oversight functions not found in limited statehood. NGOs and other international institutions, comprising what Keck and Sikkink call a Transnational Activist Network (TAN), use remote sensing satellites to gather data about uses of force by weak-state security apparatuses. Put more formally, we investigate the use of commercial, high-resolution remote sensing data by TANs as they attempt to regulate excessive and indiscriminate violence used by the security apparatuses of states that can be thought of as limited in key dimensions.

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