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Geography and Human Rights

Geography intersects with human rights in various ways. As a a truly interdisciplinary field, geographers seek meaningful ways to act on these concerns and values in their personal and professional lives. For example, geospatial technology has been a useful tool in mapping evidence of human rights abuses, while geographic perspectives can influence media coverage of human rights issues around the world. The AAG supports members on human rights topics in the following ways:


Human Rights at the AAG Annual Meeting

Human rights is often featured as a theme at the AAG annual meetings.

  • The 2017 annual meeting in Boston featured a theme on Mainstreaming Human Rights in Geography and the AAG with more than 50 sessions and 250 presentations at the intersection of human rights and geography. Speakers from leading human rights groups, academia, government, and international organizations addressed human rights challenges around the world. These include: Noam Chomsky; James Hansen, climate change policy advocate; Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS; Terry Rockefeller, Amnesty International USA and Audrey Kobayashi.
    Watch the Noam Chomsky video
    Watch the Rush Holt video
    Watch the James Hansen video
  • At the 2012 meeting in New York, Social Justice, Media, and Human Rights was a featured theme with more than 20 sessions. One special panel session included prominent speakers Nicholas Kristof, New York Times columnist; Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International; and Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights at the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
    Watch the video
  • The 2009 Meeting in Las Vegas featured a special track of sessions on Human Rights and Geographic Research.
    See a video of one of the sessions




Past Human Rights Initiatives

Over recent years, the AAG has been involved in various initiatives to engage geography and science with human rights.

  • Science and Human Rights Coalition – The AAG was a founding member of this network, hosted by the AAAS, which encourages the application of scientific methods, tools, and technologies in human rights work. Since its launch in 2009, the Coalition has served as a catalyst for the increased involvement of scientific and engineering associations and their members in human rights-related activities. Visit the website or Read the address of the AAG Executive Director at the launch. 
  • Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights – The AAG supported this AAAS project to develop applications and information resources for the non-governmental human rights community. Since 2006, the project has brought high-resolution satellite imagery, GPS units, and geographic analysis and methods into wider use by human rights organizations and sought a more integrated approach to monitoring, documenting, and preventing human rights abuses. For example, geographic tools were used to monitor attacks on civilians in Darfur (Eyes on Darfur website) 
  • AAG Geography and Human Rights Clearinghouse – With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the AAG developed an inventory of geographic research and scholarship relating to human rights including bibliographic, informational, and research resources. Many of these resources can be found on this page. One particular goal was to identify research substantive enough to be used as evidence or in support of expert testimony in international tribunals investigating human rights abuses.

Find out more about these three initiatives in Doug Richardson's executive director column from the AAG Newsletter (Sept 2008)


Useful links

  • AAG Ethics, Justice, and Human Rights Specialty Group – This group encourages inclusive and informed discussion throughout the discipline on normative concerns including applied, theoretical, and professional. In equal measure and in combination, to sustain an interest in, and teaching/research on, human rights issues at all scales of analysis, in all parts of the world.
  • YouTube Human Rights Channel  – A partnership between Witness, a human rights advocacy group, and Storyful, a web video producer, brings verified human rights videos from citizens and activists around the world.