Which Actor Is Targeting the Finance Flows Behind Africa's Wars?

When the atrocities of Darfur were exposed, George Clooney and his Ocean’s costars founded Not On Our Watch, with the mission to end humanitarian atrocities around the world. The actor has since supported a number of charities and charitable campaigns including the One Campaign, Realizing the Dream, and the International Rescue Committee. All in all, Clooney has supported at least 35 charities and public-private organizations around the world.

Now he’s teaming up with the founding director of the Enough Project, John Prendergast, to launch The Sentry initiative.

The Sentry is a collaboration of experts working in the field to identify players in local regimes as well as teams of experts to study how these regimes are financed. The goal is "to dismantle the networks of perpetrators, facilitators, and enablers who fund and profit from Africa’s deadliest conflicts." The initiative will use open-source data to “track and analyze how conflict is financed, sustained, and monetized,” including: 

  • Examining where legal and illegal systems converge. The illegal actions of war mongers and their supporters are often concealed in legal entities. Sentry considers this link in the war chain to be the most vulnerable, and therefore, the most susceptible to disruption.  
  • Uncovering regulations evasion. The initiative will dig into evasion of laws and regulations by war criminals.
  • Digging into disguised beneficial ownership. Researchers will explore the increasingly sophisticated methods by which conflict actors hide their identities.
  • Discovering natural resource trafficking. Selling ill-gotten natural resources is often a method of conflict financing.
  • Stopping illicit financial flows. The initiative wants to stop the diversion of state funds to finance conflict campaigns.
  • Halting securities fraud. Researchers will drill down into off-book activities and lobby for increased transparency and accountability on state and military expenditures.
  • Investigating offshore assets. Offshore accounts are just one of the many ways in which war criminals hide or launder assets that are used to fund armed conflicts. 

The information gathered by the initiative will be collected into various analytical reports and handed off to policy makers to inform their decisions and actions against those who profit from conflict.

Over the past 30 years, over 2.5 million people have died due to conflict in Sudan alone, and according to the Sentry, the region spanning from northeast to central Africa “has been the deadliest war zone in the world” for the past 20 years. Stopping the flow of money to conflict areas is a start, and the Sentry could play a big role in mitigating conflict financing over the next few years. But cofounder John Prendergast is taking a pragmatic approach to the initiative’s work while simultaneously remaining flexible. “If we find that war criminals are impervious to financial pressure, then we'll scrap this plan and come up with a new one," he said.

The Sentry Initiative’s core supporters include Clooney’s Not On Our Watch, as well as other NGOs, including the Newman’s Own Foundation, The Hunter Foundation, Humanity United, and Open Square.