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Rights and Place: Using Geography in Human Rights Work

Citation: Human Rights Quarterly, 2007, 29, 1, 68-85

Human rights practitioners have become increasingly concerned with how to translate universal norms into locally meaningful standards. The field of human geography offers several methodologies and theories that help with this endeavor. Using a geographic perspective for human rights work means focusing on physical access, available personnel, and other components of implementation at a local level. Moreover, it approaches human rights work with the assumption that physical space is built by human actions, and that the way in which it is created plays a role in how human rights violations occur. Taking a geographical perspective to human rights violations creates more effective implementation techniques and new causes of action. These are illustrated through a general overview of the field of human geography and through application to two human rights: the right to housing and the right to free political speech.

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