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Human Rights Applications of Remote Sensing

Since the creation of the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project in 2005, the Project has worked to expand the applications of geospatial technologies to human rights. Geospatial technologies include a range of modern tools, such as remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that allow for mapping and analysis of multiple layers of georeferenced data.

The Project has conducted numerous case studies around the world. It has documented a wide range of human rights violations using various available technologies. These projects demonstrate the utility of geospatial technologies to document many human rights issues of interest worldwide, by enabling:

  • Documentation of remote or dangerous locations where on-the-ground access is limited or prohibited
  • Large area analysis to study phenomena across regions
  • Historical analysis of past events using archival satellite imagery
  • The establishment of timelines of events in critical situations

Geospatial technologies can broaden the ability of non-governmental organizations to rapidly gather, analyze, and disseminate authoritative information, especially during times of crisis. They can also provide compelling, visual evidence to corroborate on-the-ground reporting of conflicts and natural disasters affecting human rights.