Geography and Human Rights

AAAS textual graphic containing many human rights terms

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 included: Noam Chomsky; James Hansen, climate change policy advocate; Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS; Terry Rockefeller, Amnesty International USA and Audrey Kobayashi.
  • 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


A compilation of over 700 publications that apply geographic perspectives, tools and technologies to analyze human rights issues. Author abstracts and links to the full text have been included where available

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Provides a guide to the literature on the relationships between science, engineering and human rights. The following citations are grouped under a variety of headings that encompass disciplinary fields of science and engineering and topics where science, technology and human rights intersect.

View the Bibliography

Links to human rights reference resources, organizations and advocacy groups, research centers and academic programs:

Human rights reference resources

Human rights organizations and advocacy groups

Human rights research centers and academic programs

Past Human Rights Initiatives

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

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.

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On January 14, 2009, over 50 scientific associations came together to launch the Science and Human Rights Coalition in a three-day series of workshops, presentations, and strategic meetings in Washington, DC. The Coalition draws upon its broad network to seeks to protect and advance the welfare of scientists whose human rights are threatened, science ethics and human rights, service to the scientific community, service to the human rights community, and education and information resources. As one of the founding members of the Coalition, the AAG contributed greatly to the formation of the Coalition during the months preceding its formal launch, and AAG representatives participated throughout the event.

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.

View the Eyes on Darfur Website

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.

NGOs, Research Centers, and Other Institutions

Geography & Human Rights Organizations

The following organizations use geographic methods of analyis or apply a geographic perspective to address human rights issues.

Geography & Human Rights Research Centers

The following academic centers focus on human rights issues from a scholarly perspective. Their research–often drawing upon geographic methods or technologies–plays an important role in human rights discourse.

Geography & Human Rights Scientific Associations

The following scientific associations are members of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition.


  • AAAS SHRC Meeting featured in news article — The January 23, 2012 Science and Human Rights Coalition Meeting was the topic of an article in “Chemical & Engineering News” (February 14, 2012) Read More
  • Social Justice, Media, and Human Rights Track at 2012 AAG Annual Meeting— Two days of sessions, along with appearances by Mary Robinson, Nicholas Kristof, Salil Shetty, and Ivan Simonovic took place at the AAG’s annual meeting in New York. (February 10, 2012) Read More
  • AAAS Science and Human Rights Report — The January 2012 issue of the AAAS Science and Human Rights Report (February 1, 2012) Read More
  • Supreme Court Rules on GPS Tracking Case— GPS technology and privacy rights are considered in a recent Supreme Court case. (January 31, 2012) Read More
  • AAAS Documents Villagization in Ethiopia — Satellite imagery is used to confirm reports on the ground. (January 31, 2012) Read More
  • Geographers Address Ethics of GIS&T — Dawn Wright wrote about ethical scenarios discussed at a workshop, which was part of the two-year project “Graduate Ethics Seminars for Future Geospatial Technology Professionals,” funded by the NSF Ethics Education in Science and Engineering program. Read More

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.