Standby Volunteer Task Force (SBTF), UN OCHA
The Libyan conflict began as a series of peaceful protests on February 15, 2011. Within a week, the Libyan uprising spread across the country and Muammar Gaddafi's regime was struggling to retain control. The regime responded with strong military force and other actions such as censorship and blocking of communications, which provoked civil war.
In early March, Gaddafi's forces pushed eastwards and re-took several coastal cities before attacking Benghazi, a stronghold of opposition forces. Thousands of foreign workers living in Libya have since fled the country to escape the violence towards them. The majority of them crossed into neighboring Tunisia and Egypt. Many Libyans followed suit. This led to a situation where tens of thousands of refugees were stuck along these borders since they often lacked legal documents, could not return to Libya and/or were unwilling to return to their home countries.
The SBTF activated the Ushahidi-powered Libya Crisis Map, which mapped the Libya crisis in real time after the rise of protests and consequent violent crackdown by the Libya security forces. The Libya Crisis Map initially was only accessible with a password-protected user account, but on March 4th, the map was made public at the request of OCHA with a 24-hour time delay and with reports heavily redacted. Eight humanitarian agencies were given full access to the site besides OCHA.
Peace Engineering Takeaway
When Libya's civil war began, the UN had had no presence inside the country. Based on the experience and lessons learned from Crisis Mapping deployments in Haiti, Chile, Pakistan and particularly the Colombia Earthquake Simulation in November 2010 (when the SBTF for the first time officially partnered with OCHA), the humanitarian community increasingly understood the potential of online volunteer live mapping for better situational awareness. The platform was built in less than 24 hours by two members of the STVF tech team, which placed significant strain on the two employees and indicated that more data scientists were needed on the SBTF team.