Thursday, March 22, 2018

Extreme Poverty in the U.S.: A Map Tells the Story

In December 2017, UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston conducted an official visit to the United States, with stops in Washington, D.C., California, Georgia, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico.  At the end of his visit, he issued a powerful concluding statement, observing that "[t]he United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty."

The Special Rapporteur posted tweets and other social media updates throughout his visit, and was able to garner considerable media attention.  This coming June, he will deliver a final report to the UN on his U.S. visit, so perhaps there will be another round of publicity. 

Still, with the visit receding into the past over these few months, an LLM student at Northeastern Law School, Raphael Hirsch, felt that there was another way to tell the story of extreme poverty in the U.S.

Using the materials submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur, the Rapporteur's own tweets and photos, and media accounts of the visit, Raphael used the NuLawLab mapping platform to create a visual, interactive map that adds a tangible geographical dimension to the accounts of the Special Rapporteur's visit.  Points on the map are coded, depending on whether they were visited by the Rapporteur or whether they submitted information for the Rapporteur's review.  Copies of submitted documents and photos can be accessed by clicking the points.  The map can also support embedded audio and video.  A video of the Rapporteur's final statement can be accessed by clicking the D.C. points, and the Special Rapporteur will soon be submitting additional audio commentary to be added to some of the points.

Raphael hopes that this interactive map can be used as a teaching tool as students study the Special Rapporteur's visit, examine extreme poverty in the US., or think about ways to use visual mapping tools to engage the public.   Please spread this work by sharing the map widely!

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