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Martus: The Global Social Justice Monitoring System

Project Update

September 2009

In the past year, Martus use has continued to grow around the world. Over 150,000 bulletins have been backed up to dedicated Martus servers from over 1,500 users.

By establishing partnerships with individuals and groups, and building more advanced features onto the software’s secure base, we are succeeding in our efforts to spread Martus technology to social justice projects across the globe.

Website visitors from over 120 countries have downloaded the Martus software to date, including individuals and groups from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, North America, South America, and the Middle East.

The Martus project continues to support our longstanding partnerships in their use of Martus to achieve key documentation and security goals.

The Guatemalan National Police Archive project continues to use Martus to secure and back-up information found in the Archive as the data processing step in a larger quantitative analysis project. The Archive contains over 80 million pages of official documents on police procedures during Guatemala’s 36 years-long internal armed conflict (for more information about Benetech’s work in Guatemala, click here).

The Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma), a network of Thailand-based NGOs from Burma, has used Martus since 2004 to document human rights abuses committed by the Burmese government. ND-Burma utilizes secure sharing within Martus to facilitate the collaborative documentation work among its member groups. This year we were pleased to finalize the first official Martus Burmese translation, available on our website at www.martus.org/downloads.

Since 2007, we have worked extensively with UMAM Documentation and Research, a Lebanese Association for Cultural and Artistic Exchange that examines themes of memory in the Lebanese context and has assembled an archive intended to document Lebanon’s civil wars and recent history. UMAM D&R is using Martus to create an index of their social, political and historical archive.

Our project partner in Iraq, the Iraq History Project (IHP) of DePaul University's International Human Rights Law Institute, uses Martus in their efforts to document political violence and repression under Saddam Hussein as well as in their “Current Violations Initiative”. To date, IHRLI has stored over 8,000 testimonies from victims and witnesses in Martus.

Over the past year we have built relationships with new partners as well, including Freedom House, which has organized opportunities for the Martus project to train human rights NGOs in numerous locations around the world. We have worked with the Iraq Foundation to provide Martus training to several Iraqi NGOs, and this year we started working with the Nigerian Human Rights Commission in Abuja to help them address their information management and security needs through Martus.

In addition to these projects, the Martus team has continued to provide support to users who discover Martus on their own and contact us with questions, and has maintained relationships with field consultants and trainers who spread the word about Martus through training and outreach sessions.

Ongoing translations of the Martus software and user documentation are in progress to support these activities. The current 3.3.2 release is available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, French, and Russian. Earlier versions are also available in Thai, Nepali and Persian.

To provide optimal efficiency, security and reliability with our publicly available Martus servers, this year we conducted a significant hardware and software upgrade of the Martus server located in Budapest, Hungary hosted by the Open Society Archives and Central European University.

Over the past year, we released Martus version 3.2, and 3.3 with significant enhancements to features and flexibility, to make information within Martus as manageable as possible. The 3.2 release included new bulletin display functionality that allows users to collapse/expand fields, to create sections in bulletins (which can also be collapsed if desired) and to display grids in an “expanded” view. It also added the ability to require certain fields to be entered before a bulletin can be saved and the ability to create dropdowns based on data entered in other fields. This release also included enhanced search, speed and other bulletin operation performance focused on accounts with large numbers of bulletins. The 3.3 release enabled users to ‘batch’ seal multiple draft bulletins and to add HQs to a group of bulletins or to an entire folder of bulletins at once, as well as the ability to view a variety of image attachments (E.g. scanned documents) inside Martus bulletins. We also released Martus version 3.3.2 that fixed issues with expanded view grids containing data-driven dropdowns and reports containing multiline custom fields.

Our partners find that the security built into Martus has benefits beyond securing the data at hand – it can also help organizations build trust as a foundation for future collaboration. As the Transitional Justice Program Director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) noted:

"I am helping facilitate a network of human rights groups from Burma, based on the country's borders.  All of the network members collect data using various methods and in varying formats.  After a review of possible formats that would allow the groups to maintain their autonomy and also have a way to share a common format, we chose Martus and have now posted over 600 bulletins using this tool.  One of the major obstacles to a united voice on Burma is that military rule has fostered a nearly insurmountable distrust among the various communities and organization promoting democracy.  The strong security features, combined with the flexibility of Martus, have allowed these Burmese groups to bring their information together, to prepare the data for analysis for future joint advocacy.  The confidence the network members have in Martus' security has opened a space for us, ironically, to build the trust that will have a long-term impact on the development of civil society in the future."

In the past year, the Martus project has reached a wider audience through media coverage of the tool and our project partners. The Smithsonian Magazine, NBC news affiliate KGO-TV Channel 7 and PC World have all highlighted our partners’ use of Martus to preserve sensitive information.

We plan to continue introducing Martus to new potential projects and partners in order to continue to expand the use and benefits of secure and information management technology to human rights advocates worldwide.

 

Thank you for your interest in Benetech® and Martus. For more information, please email info@martus.org.
 

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