Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eyes in the Sky: Remote Sensing in the Service of Human Rights

     As society shifts more towards technological innovations, human right violators often exploit these technologies as weapons of war to commit horrible crimes towards others. While it is clear the role of scientific discovery to enable human rights violations, the role technology plays to mitigate these events is not well understood. New developments in satellite imagery technology will let us take a more active role in monitoring and substantiating these despicable activities. This has been a non trivial matter in the past due to issues regarding politics, security, or physical inaccessibility that have made geographically pinpointing these violations difficult. These new developments have already proven fruitful in identifying signs of conflict, military activity, property destruction, and graveyard expansions during the Syrian civil war and in a new project called Eyes on Nigeria.
     While satellite imagery historically been used by cold war intelligence agencies, it has recently proven to be an indispensable tool for human rights applications. I think that when human rights issues come to light, the media does a good job of spreading the message of the horror of it all and the discussions that ensue. However, when it comes to taking action there is never a clear path or decision made. That is where the potential of technology with human rights applications lies. More research focused on applying existing technology towards this cause would facilitate the involvement of industrialized nations in these conflicts. When problems arise it would be more a matter of deciding which tool to employ rather than figuring out what to do.

-Luis Valles

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