Wars already take on many different shapes today and in some cases can be labeled as hybrid conflicts. This means the skirmishes are less likely to take place between states, but rather between non-state actors or transnational networks. Arguably, this renders the business of peace-making a more complex and delicate affair.
The recent Paris Peace Forum showcased many local projects from around the world that bring innovation to the arena of governance and conflict prevention. What would the marriage between technology and peace efforts yield in this notoriously slow political domain?
CPeace, an application by the Brazilian Igarapé Institute, aims to create a cyberspace for exchanging ideas by connecting policymakers, practitioners, researchers and other stakeholders working on conflict prevention. “Think of it as a Facebook for peacemakers,” says Maiara Folly, a researcher at Igarapé Institute.
The think tank also has an interactive data visualization platform called the Observatory of Conflict Prevention (OCP). It allows users to identify, map, and track more than a thousand conflict prevention initiatives in the African countries of Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali, Somalia, and Uganda.
These are examples of how technology can furnish peacemakers (like NGOs and governments) with knowledge about existing practices on the ground; what is happening and who is doing what to whom.
Other seasoned organizations, like the International Crisis Group, make it their business to monitor conflicts worldwide and to alert us when things reach a boiling point. They recently joined the Smart Peace Consortium, a grouping that includes Chatham House and the Centre for Human Dialogue. The consortium will tease out best practices in mediation and conflict resolution among its members. The idea is to aggregate expertise and experience in a way that can foster something “smart” and innovative.
Amilcar Romero is the founder and president of Ankawa International. He says that his non-profit organization based in Peru provides accurate information directly to civil society leaders in conflict situations. “We avoid bureaucratic government systems. We don’t want the Germans, the Americans or the French to tell us what to do.”
“In some countries, the border is almost non-existent,” he explains. “With our low-cost 3D printed satellites we have a real opportunity to help the locals understand who passes through their border area.”
Smart information gathering and sharing is a good start. But how far do these innovations have to go before warfare and peacemaking can have a fair fight?