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EO4HR: Earth Observation for Human Rights



Organisational Unit
Implementation progress
22 April 2022

Duration: 36 months


Every action on Earth leaves a mark, from human exploitation of natural resources to human inequalities and violation of human rights. Everything that happens on Earth can be monitored, to some extent, using satellite data. All the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN for 2030, relate to fundamental human rights: civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights. While clear targets and indicators have been set for these goals and progress measured with multiple data approaches, investigating how satellite data can be used as actionable data source to map and protect human rights remains still a large unexplored area of research and no systematic study exists on understanding how information extracted from satellite data have been successfully used to improve the probative procedures in international courts of justice and prove violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The challenges are many: (i) the lack of certification and standardisation of the processed data, where human factor still plays a critical role; (ii) comprehensive taxonomy of human rights applications; (iii) the difference in terms of measurement uncertainty when parameters are measured directly or indirectly from satellite data (iv) the importance of the chain of custody whereas multiple actors are involved in the processing and analysis of EO data; (v) guarantee privacy of data collected. Nevertheless satellite data can be a very powerful and unique tool where access to ground information is constrained by enforced laws or impossible because of national security, or where ground information is collected but are incomplete or cannot be trusted. This research aims at conducting a rigorous study on the possible application of satellite data to human rights monitoring, for direct and indirect measurements from space, assess and define needed standards and procedures to adapt satellite data as evidence in human rights litigations.

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Main application area
EO4HR: Earth Observation for Human Rights