This is the first of my (intended) weekly posts on resources that encourage readers of this blog to stay abreast of human rights news as well as become aware of interesting sites and articles that assist in activist capacity building and personal enrichment.
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Increasingly, satellite technology is coming into use as a tool to monitor human rights crises and provide infallible evidence of injustices and crime in real time. I first heard of satellite imagery being used in this manner several years ago when the Zimbabwe government denied razing nearly 5,000 buildings and farms and internally displacing nearly 700,000 of its own country’s people in Operation Murambatsvina (meaning “drive out rubbish”).
Amnesty International found the following, very clear before and after shots of the forced demolition and evictions:
AI also embarked on a satellite imagery project to document the ongoing crisis in Darfur, called “Eyes on Darfur.” Increasingly, these types of tools and situation reporting, (including social media), seem to foster a greater sense of connection, deepened understanding and impassioned action among activists, journalists, students and others. Pictures often can drive action more powerfully than words.
Outside the scope of Amnesty’s work with satellite technology, I recently learned that the UN Institute for Training and Research has an Operational Satellite Applications Program (UNOSAT) that uses geographical information systems, field workers, satellite imagery experts and more to deliver “satellite solutions to relief and development organisations within and outside the UN system to help make a difference in the life of communities exposed to poverty, hazards and risk, or affected by humanitarian and other crises. ”
UNOSAT as you’ll see has maps for many other countries and regions and for various events ranging from train collisions in North Korea to population distributions in Mexico.
I think we’ll be seeing more and more satellite technology make its way into how humanitarian crises and other human rights news are reported and also digested by readers – perhaps it will be the one extra push some might need toward pursuing action.