The Documentalist

Eyes On Darfur: AI-USA & AAAS Collaborate to Bring Satellite Imaging to Human Rights

Posted in Uncategorized by Sarah on January 20, 2010

Image courtesy of Eyes on Darfur.

On June 6, 2007, Amnesty International-USA launched its “Eyes on Darfur” project Website as a means of calling attention to and actively monitoring human rights violations in Darfur through satellite imagery. The site presents satellite images of 12 villages that have been destroyed by the Sudanese government, as well as 12 villages that are at risk of future human rights abuses.  Similar to crisis mapping, the goal is to draw together accounts from witnesses and locate that information on a map, but in this case, the map is created on satellite images that provides visual evidence of events that the Sudanese government denies.  As stated at the Eyes on Darfur Webpage:

Amnesty International’s unprecedented Eyes On Darfur project leverages the power of high-resolution satellite imagery to provide unimpeachable evidence of the atrocities being committed in Darfur – enabling action by private citizens, policy makers and international courts. Eyes On Darfur also breaks new ground in protecting human rights by allowing people around the world to literally “watch over” and protect twelve intact, but highly vulnerable, villages using commercially available satellite imagery.

Kennedy Abwao writes for SciDev Net and observes that, “this kind of monitoring has become essential because the Sudanese government has been unwilling to grant entry permits to Darfur” to on-site monitors who could report on government abuses in the region.   As noted in a report by erdas (link opens a .pdf file), “While the images only track the changes in landscape, the implied damage provides compelling evidence and visual aids for the indisputable atrocities that are devastating this part of the world.”

The Eyes On Darfur endeavor is funded by the Save Darfur Coalition came together through a collaboration by Amnesty International-USA with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Program, which has worked since 1977 to promote the use of science based solutions to human rights problems.  At the Eyes on Darfur Website, viewers can interact with satellite images of atrocity sites in order to learn about events there.  Viewers click on a village location on a map and a variety of information is pulled up including before and after images (in the case of destroyed villages), based on details of events gathered by witnesses, and general statistics about the extent of destruction or the impact of military actions (for villages at risk).   The satellite images for these reports are retrieved from archives from three commercial satellite imaging companies: ImageSat International, Digital Globe, and GeoEye (see this recent post for a description of GeoEye’s work in particular).

The multi-media presentation of information is made possible through a variety of programs from tech firms specializing in GSI data processing, visual data processing, and data mapping.   Companies that contributed to the development of Eyes on Darfur (through discounted or donated software and expertise) include: ESRI, Leica Geosystems, ITT Visual Information Systems, and Global Mapper.

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