By: Charles Bowen
While an editor might be reluctant to label something as a “crisis” — wasn’t that one of the red-flag words that the journalism profs wanted us to tattoo on our bodies? — newsrooms always have been on high alert for dire situations around the world. Even before 9/11, news organizations were trained to keep a wary eye on the world’s hot spots. And with a smart use of the Internet, this monitoring becomes easier than it ever was before.
The International Crisis Group is a private, multinational organization that is out to strengthen the international community’s capacity “to anticipate, understand, and act to prevent and contain conflict,” according to its mission statement, published online. Led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the ICG is headquartered in Brussels and has advocacy offices in Washington D.C., New York, and Paris. Currently, it operates field projects in 19 countries on four continents, including Algeria, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Zimbabwe in Africa; Myanmar, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in Asia; Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia in Europe; and Colombia in Latin America.
What makes the organization’s Web site of potential interest to reporters, editors, and columnists? Primarily, it’s the teams of political analysts who gather information from a wide range of sources, assess local conditions, and produce regular analytical reports containing “practical recommendations targeted at key international decision-makers.”
To check it out, visit the site at http://www.crisisweb.org, where a busy introductory page is topped with the organization’s latest reports from current crisis centers. Each report is led with a hyperlinked headline (such as “Belgrade’s Lagging Reform: Cause for International Concern” and “Indonesia: The Search for Peace in Maluku”) followed by the date of its filing and a detailed summary of the findings. Also with each report is a map of the region in question and two important links:
* Project Overview, which provides the background on the political and social situation in that region of the world. It is a crash course on the global view.
* Reports Index, which lists linked headlines for all the latest ICG reports with their dates of publication.
For journalists in a hurry, the site also can be searched by keyword from the introductory page. Examine the options in the right-hand column of the top screen and type a word or phrase in the data entry under “Search CrisisWeb.” The site returns a hyperlinked collection of reports, listed in order of relevance.
You also can browse the material by regions of the world. Links down the left side of every page in the site provide quick access to the reports in a particular region (Africa, Asia, the Balkans, Latin America, or the Middle East) or to specific countries in that region. You also can browse reports related to specific topics. An “Issues” link in the left column provides connections to subjects such as AIDS and terrorism.
Other considerations for using the CrisisWeb in your writing and editing:
1. ICG reports are widely distributed to officials in foreign ministries, but are generally available at the same time via the Web site.
2. After the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, the group launched a major new project on global terrorism, designed, says an online statement, “both to bring together ICG’s work in existing program areas and establish a new geographical focus on the Middle East … and Pakistan/Afghanistan.” The reports can be reached by clicking on the “Terrorism” link in the left column of any of the site’s pages.
3. Funding for ICG comes from governments, charitable foundations, companies, and individual donors. For a list of specific sources, click the “About ICG” link at the bottom of any page.