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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 OVERVIEW On December 14, 2007, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) convened a group of experts in diverse fields to consider the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in promoting peace and conflict resolution. The one-day workshop was designed to consider current and emerging technologies and strategies for employing them in conflict management and diplomacy. It also aimed to explore how organizations with a role in promoting peace, like the U.S. Institute of Peace, can most effectively leverage technology in carrying out their missions. (The full terms of reference for the project appear at Appendix C.) The workshop’s presentations and discussions surfaced a number of key issues, illuminated certain practitioner needs, and suggested possible next steps. Key Issues Participants acknowledged that ICT can be used for both good and ill. It can facilitate positive dialogue but also hate speech. It can mobilize nonviolent protestors but also violent mobs. It can be used to fight corruption but also to facilitate it. It can help peacekeepers locate refugees but also do the same for their persecutors. Those who would use ICT in the cause of peace need to be cognizant of the risks as well as the benefits. Just as the decision to fight is made by individuals, so too is the decision to make peace. Workshop participants recognized that ICT will not by itself end conflict, but it can enable more effective peacebuilding. Participants emphasized the importance of education, in particular the need to educate the young. Teaching children that there are nonviolent ways to deal with conflict is a good step toward a more peaceful world. ICT can facilitate that teaching. Participants warned about the unintended consequences of using ICT. Simply giving people more information does not necessarily lead to predictable or positive results. As people become more informed, they may become more motivated to change their circumstances and to do so violently. Similarly, ICT can help a society increase its wealth, but competition for that wealth may also increase, possibly leading to conflict. Engaging the ICT industry in peacebuilding efforts will require a “self-interested commercial market.” The private sector will only become involved if they see that a long-term investment in peacebuilding will pay off. Practitioner Needs During the course of the meeting, participants identified a number of ways that ICT could enable peacebuilding (Table 1). Some ideas were very specific, while others were much broader.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 For presentation purposes, the table is divided into four separate categories. However, a number of these ideas cut across categories. TABLE 1 Examples of Practitioner Needs General: ICT that supports ▪ Resiliency to misuse (e.g., robust data security) ▪ Interoperability between different peacebuilding entities ▪ Training and education (e.g., games, simulations) Peacemaking: ICT that supports ▪ Face-to-face dialogues (e.g., interactive virtual meetings, wide-band teleconferencing) ▪ Mapmaking and border analysis, particularly for conflicts driven or exacerbated by border disputes ▪ Monitoring (e.g., peace agreement implementation, human rights violations, corruption) ▪ Story-telling, sharing narratives ▪ Reducing misperceptions about the capabilities or intentions of “the other” Peacekeeping: ICT that supports ▪ Locating and tracking fighters’ movements (e.g., drones) ▪ Increasing peacekeepers’ ability to see in extreme weather conditions ▪ Making peacekeeping forces appear larger than they are ▪ Detecting mines ▪ Locating refugees ▪ Tracking the flow of arms and illicit trade in natural resources ▪ Breaking down language barriers ▪ Preserving evidence of mass atrocities Prevention: ICT that supports ▪ Advanced warning of nascent conflicts through predictive analysis and modeling ▪ Giving disenfranchised or repressed people a voice ▪ Preventing the rise of, or the violent actions of, extremists ▪ Reducing competition for resources, including food, water, territory, and mineral resources ▪ Mitigating environmental degradation and climate change, which may exacerbate conflicts over water and food
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 ▪ Building healthy states that can deal with conflict through nonviolent means (e.g., good governance, rule of law, sustainable economies, social well-being) Next Steps There was significant interest among workshop participants in continuing to explore the intersection of peacebuilding and ICT, and in mobilizing ICT companies in the cause of peace. CONFLICT IN THE 21ST CENTURY John H. (Jack) Gibbons, chair of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) workshop steering committee, welcomed the group and introduced the first speaker, Richard Solomon, president of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs. Dr. Solomon began by describing the history and Congressional mandate of USIP and his hopes for the workshop. USIP was created by Congress in the mid-1980s as an independent institution “to strengthen our national capacity to deal with international conflicts without resorting to violence.” At first the organization’s efforts centered on research, but after the cold war, the group began to send people into zones of conflict around the world to work directly on conflict resolution projects, initially in the Balkans and now in over a dozen regions. Dr. Solomon showed a graphic illustrating the phases of conflict management—conflict prevention, crisis response, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and post-conflict stabilization and state building (see Figure 1). As he explained, the methods of preventing, managing, and resolving conflicts vary depending on their phase and local circumstances.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 Figure 1 “Curve of conflict” illustrating the phases of conflict (below curve) and corresponding third-party interventions (above curve). Source: U.S. Institute of Peace. Peace is always unstable, he said, and conflict seems inherent in the human condition. However, conflict that spills over into violence has enormous human and material costs. Therefore, the most important goal of USIP is to help manage conflicts so they do not degenerate into violence. Drivers of Conflict Unlike most conflicts during the World War II and cold war eras, conflicts today are being driven by new actors and new factors: religious extremism; social instability and failing states; economic and social disparities resulting from rapid development (e.g., in China and India); competition for resources, most obviously for petroleum and water, but also for diamonds, drugs, and other resources; weak international organizations resulting from the disintegration of superpowers (e.g., the Soviet Union) and colonial empires; and competition for weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, as international controls over proliferation become less effective. Enablers of Conflict Dr. Solomon pointed out the distinction between drivers and enablers of conflict. For example, a person may be motivated by religion to attack unbelievers, but he or she may be enabled by access to the Internet, an airplane, or a missile. An attacker must have both, and an effective prevention strategy must address both the drivers and the enablers. Take, for example,
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 nuclear weapons. In the 20th century through deterrence and nonproliferation strategies, nuclear weapons were more or less inaccessible to many groups. Today, we have people who are willing to die on behalf of their beliefs and who have more opportunities to acquire nuclear weapons, and so we must come up with new preventive strategies. ICT in Peacebuilding One role for ICT in peacebuilding is what USIP has termed “virtual diplomacy.” The first step in the process is to build a network of communities—perhaps an electronic network—that can coordinate responses to humanitarian crises. The network might well involve other organizations that have not worked together in the past. For example, using the Internet, USIP was able to develop some measure of collaboration in the Balkans among the military, the U.S. State Department, and humanitarian assistance organizations, as well as between the leaderships of various religious groups. In addition, USIP has encouraged use of the Internet to create virtual societies, such as among members of the Cambodian diaspora. Dr. Solomon worked with Prince Sihanouk on the peace agreement after the genocide there and helped create a global community of Cambodian émigrés. These virtual societies not only reinforce people’s sense of empowerment, but they can also create the conditions for civil resistance, because information sharing increases transparency about world events and improves situational awareness in areas of conflict. For example, the people who brought down Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, and subsequently Erap Estrada, coordinated their actions largely through cell phones. This is just one example, Dr. Solomon said, of how technology can change political dynamics. But, he continued, technology can cut two ways. The enemies of peace and promoters of conflict have also learned to use the Internet to communicate globally, spread propaganda, indoctrinate people, raise funds, and coordinate action. Thus assessing ways to use ICT in the service of peacebuilding is a major focus of the work of USIP. After a decade of work on virtual diplomacy, USIP developed a conceptual basis for thinking about the interplay between ICT and conflict, and the organization now wants to pursue follow-on activities. A major goal of the workshop, he said, was to gain insights into how USIP can use technologies, such as cell phones and computer imagery, more effectively and in a more intellectually disciplined way. The organization hopes to coordinate future collaborative projects with NAE and groups in other communities to pool ideas and energy, which will lead to innovations in using technologies to manage conflict and promote peace. PANEL 1 ICT IN THE CAUSE OF PEACE The first panel highlighted three case studies of the use of ICT in peacebuilding. The first examined the use of cell phones and text messaging in election monitoring; the second explored the use of geographic information systems for managing land-use conflicts; and the third
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 presented a variety of web-based approaches for sharing information among civil groups engaged in peacebuilding activities. The Use of Mobile Phones in Election Monitoring Christopher Spence is director of technology strategy and programs for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), an international, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization funded largely by the U.S. government, with additional support from foreign governments. NDI provides assistance to governments, legislatures, civic groups, women’s groups, political parties, and other partners by developing programming to promote the creation of stable environments and peaceful transitions to democratic government. NDI operates on the premise that democratic societies tend to be less conflict prone than other societies. Mr. Spence opened his talk by noting that using technology for peace has a lot of promise but few realized applications so far. NDI, he said, recognizes that every political system has the potential to become unstable and that conflict is inherent in political life. The organization works toward channeling those conflicts in a positive, nonviolent direction. One of the problems NDI tries to address is weak institutional capacity, by pinpointing weaknesses and directing its intervention toward shoring up those critical links in the democratic chain. Election monitoring is one component in building a democratic assistance program, because elections are milestones in building democracies. However, every election has a critical point at which it can go either well or badly. NDI’s approach in tense political environments is to take the “right kind of action” when something goes bad (e.g., cheating in an election) to keep the process moving forward and not let it deteriorate into violence. One effective way of monitoring elections is to send out members of civic groups, who have been trained to observe and report specific information, to provide domestic oversight of their own elections. These groups must be nonpartisan and must have established their credibility so they will be considered reliable sources of information. In the pre-election period, monitors note violent incidents in the political environment, how the political parties are portrayed in the media, and how voter registration is conducted. In many of the countries where NDI works, there are internally displaced people who typically have not participated in an election before. It is important that monitors make a list of these people and deliver it to the polling stations to ensure that these people will be eligible to vote. NDI creates programs for auditing voter rolls to make sure they are accurate. On election day, hundreds or even thousands of observers head to polling places noting such things as voter turnout and whether any voters have been disenfranchised. They also observe how the election itself is conducted. Are officials following the rules and allowing people to participate? Are all of the votes being counted? Are the ballot boxes being stuffed? Observers then text message the answers to key questions via their cell phones—say, related to voter turnout at nine, eleven, and one o’clock. The numbers go directly into a central data base or repository. Text messaging is a rapid, reliable, and accessible reporting tool.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 After the election, monitoring programs assess the results by using “quick counts” or parallel vote tabulations (PVTs)—much like exit polling in the United States. A PVT is a statistical random sampling of polling stations throughout a country or region that can be used to project an accurate result. In addition, the public statements by the monitoring group(s) must be credible so that when they confirm, or contest, the election result, they have the public trust. “The overall objective is to keep democracy moving forward and not to stir up more conflict,” Mr. Spence said. Mr. Spence gave an example of how this kind of monitoring works. The first time an estimate-based reporting system was used was in 2006 in an independence referendum in Montenegro, when a group called the Center for a Democratic Transition (CDT) deployed hundreds of observers. One of the most important measures was voter turnout, because there was a 50-percent threshold requirement for the election to be legitimate. At about one o’clock, CDT monitors were able to confirm that the threshold had been met, and the media announced that the election was “for real.” After the polls closed, the vote was still too close to call. When CDT confirmed that the election was in fact too close to call, the public was persuaded to await the official result. Because CDT was a legitimate watchdog group, their word had a stabilizing effect (even though another group had made an incorrect projection earlier in the day). In the end, the referendum passed by just 2,000 votes, within 0.5 percent of CDT’s projection. Text messaging in an election-monitoring context has two dividends, Mr. Spence said. First, it provides accurate, reliable, public statements quickly enough to have a political effect. As long as the monitoring group has the public trust, text messages increase confidence in the election results and reinforce the integrity of the process. Second, text messages provide real-time reporting of incidents, such as violations of electoral law, for example if a polling station doesn’t have election materials on time and opens late. Observers report that back to the center, then go to the election officials and try to remedy the situation, which can reduce the potential for conflict. This is especially important if a violation, either accidental or deliberate, occurs in an ethnic minority area or a minority opposition area. Discussion One listener noted that the kind of monitoring described by Mr. Spence could only be done in a country in which the government had agreed to the monitoring. Another added that in some situations, if people are organized to express themselves this way, the government might object strongly. Mr. Spence answered that, in a typical situation, electoral administrators have the ability to credential nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to monitor an election. So even if the government doesn’t really want monitoring, there is usually enough international pressure to force them to agree. However, he admitted that monitoring can be a politically sensitive issue. Another listener noted that as independent monitoring becomes accepted as a way of ensuring the credibility of an election, the pressure on a government to allow it increases. He
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 then described the situation in the Philippines in 1986, when an independent monitoring organization was crucial to the ouster of President Marcos. Mr. Spence cautioned that text-messaging technology itself could be used for good or ill. Obviously, a dictator might object to putting this technology in the hands of people, but a government might also object, depending on the goals of the group wielding the technology. NDI, he said, promotes democratic values (such as transparency, accountability, and citizens having a voice in their representation), not necessarily a certain kind of democratic system. GIS and Participatory 3-D Modeling in Land-Use Negotiation Giacomo Rambaldi is a senior programme coordinator of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an organization based in the Netherlands. CTA is active in development, particularly in areas of Africa and Southeast Asia where few people have access to the Internet or high-tech devices. The organization, Mr. Rambaldi said, works in the context of “self-determination, indigenous people … claiming rights over land and resources, resource planning and management, collaborative research, management and evaluation of territorial conflicts, safeguarding of tangible cultural heritage, and identity building.” Among other duties, Mr. Rambaldi oversees a 1,500-member web-based forum in English (and smaller forums in French, Portuguese, and Spanish) on participatory spatial-information management and technologies and the ethics of mapmaking. He also provided information about several related web sites (Box 1). BOX 1 Web Sites Relevant to Participatory 3-D Modeling Open forum on Participatory Spatial Information Systems and Technologies: http://www.PPgis.net Integrated Approaches to Participatory Development: http://www.iapad.org Blog on PGIS/PPGIS: http://participatorygis.blogspot.com WebRing on Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) http://t.webring.com/hub?ring=ppgis Mr. Rambaldi explained what participatory 3-D modeling is and gave examples of how it has been used to resolve conflicts, most often in remote areas between indigenous peoples with different levels of education and cultural backgrounds, and even speaking different languages. Most of these areas are largely inaccessible, sometimes with no electrical power or even buildings to store equipment.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 3-D modeling is part of a family of tools based on visual language, multimedia, and multiple spatial dimensions. A combination of high-tech and low-tech methods, 3-D modeling is a community-based mapping process that combines indigenous spatial knowledge with other data in the form of a tangible, topographical model that can be easily understood by people of all ages, regardless of language, culture, or educational level. The model, a “tangible translation” of geosynchronous satellite imagery and local knowledge created by the communities that are parties to the dispute, enables people who are not used to reading maps or 2-D geographical images to see their land from a bird’s-eye view. The creation of the tangible map necessarily involves peer-to-peer dialogue among disputants who promote their issues and concerns and pinpoint areas of disagreement. With the help of project coordinators, boundaries and other features of the topography are eventually agreed upon, at which point the elders of the communities examine the map and negotiate final adjustments (Figure 2). FIGURE 2 Dan Lai, Thai, and Kinh hill tribe Peoples negotiating territorial issues on the 1:10,000-scale participatory 3D model of the Pu Mat National Park area including its buffer zone. November 2001, Nghe An Province, Vietnam. Source: Giacomo Rambaldi. Used with permission. The model is then used to generate accurate computer maps incorporating the decisions agreed upon by the disputants that can be used for planning future land use. Each project requires a multidisciplinary team, including anthropologists, social scientists, natural resource managers, community organizers, and geographers. Mr. Rambaldi presented a case study of a very complex conflict in the Philippines involving 18 boundary disputes among seven ethno-linguistic groups; intertribal disputes about access to
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 natural resources and government funds; violations of traditional peace agreements (bodongs); unclear, ambiguous, or unknown boundaries between tribal areas (barangays); and infringements of personal rights. Bodongs have been used for centuries in the Philippines to define intertribal relationships, minimize warfare, define boundaries, and deal with infringements. However, they usually do not include images or maps, and, over time, the documents are often lost or are too vague for later generations to agree which mountain is highest or which big tree marks the limit of a barangay. The special advisor to the peace process in the Philippines commissioned a group headed by an NGO that specializes in 3-D models to facilitate the negotiations. The model that was created, over a period of months in this case, was on a scale of 1:5,000 and covered 700 square kilometers. Individuals representing all of the parties to the dispute worked together, at first reluctantly and mistrustfully. Finally, however, they created a hands-on scale model of the disputed territory. Boundaries were indicated by moveable color-coded lines, with the exact locations and corners negotiated by the elders of the disputant communities, who wrote down the landmarks (e.g., a corner marked by a big tree or a large rock). Once the model was finalized, the boundaries were confirmed by a group on the ground using GPS. Maps were then devised based on the model showing landmarks, elevations, vegetation and ground cover, watersheds, roads, buildings, farms, even households. The resulting map was much more detailed and accurate than existing maps. In many of these disputes, Mr. Rambaldi said, the only existing maps of a disputed area may have been created by the American military during World War II. The boundaries of the new map are then made official by title deeds. Participatory 3-D mapping accomplishes many objectives: The model, and subsequent maps, provide common denominators for landmarks and legitimize decisions at the grassroots level. The information on the map provides a shared perspective and a common language for addressing conflicts. The mapping process ensures participation by all parties and ensures their control over the process and outputs. Simple, ordinary people have access to the medium, and everyone from children to elders participates. Mapping facilitates, indeed, requires the sharing of information among the generations, as well as peer-to-peer communication among individuals from different cultural and ethnic groups. People who are not educated in reading maps internalize their spatial understanding. The model expands and re-scales their spatial framework, providing a first-time view of entire systems, such as watersheds. Thus people gain the ability to generate, manage, analyze, and communicate spatial information in new ways. Mapping can empower disadvantaged groups. For instance, if the information from the map is published, it adds value and authority to local knowledge, and indigenous people may then be able to communicate, peer-to-peer, with government officials and participate in decisions that affect them.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 Unlike Google Earth and other high-tech programs, these maps show burial grounds, sacred places, and other features of great significance to local people. Thus they provide a visual language that bridges linguistic barriers. Mr. Rambaldi cautioned, however, that mapping is not a panacea. Once local knowledge becomes public knowledge, for example, outsiders can use that information to locate and exploit natural resources. In addition, indigenous boundaries are not necessarily fixed lines but may be seasonal, based on grazing patterns. Governments may use the mapping data to draw straight lines that cross watersheds or divide grazing areas to designate municipalities. Those who generate and share their knowledge need to be prepared to deal with these new realities and potential conflicts. Ultimately, he concluded, people are excited by “becoming aware that they know, and that what they know is important to them and to their community.” Discussion A member of the audience asked how effective a 3-D model would be in a place like Bangladesh, which is almost perfectly flat. Mr. Rambaldi replied that any topology could be modeled to include the features that are significant to the people who live in the area. People are intimately aware of the features of their environment, such as water patterns, fertility patterns, even variations in the taste of honey in different areas. “We are aware that different people use different criteria to classify where they are living. We must be open to diversity.” Another attendee pointed out that giving people better information than they had before, for example, informing everyone of the importance of the watershed and the consequences of not having it in their territory, might lead to even more conflicts than before. Mr. Rambaldi agreed that the moment people visualize boundaries, they could be creating new sources of conflict. “Introducing new knowledge is a very delicate, but powerful and risky process.” Someone else noted that tribal elders have traditionally found equitable ways of resolving disputes. Technology could make that process even more transparent. Mr. Rambaldi replied that traditional ways of handling resources often have eroded over time, particularly as a result of the imposition of “modern,” municipal boundaries drawn up by government, for example based on a watershed, as happened in the Cordillera region of the Philippines. In addition, traditional dispute-resolution systems were sometimes violent, rather than equitable. Participatory 3-D mapping can help with resource control and access in some of these situations. Another participant suggested that creating economic well-being was a greater deterrent to fighting than resolving boundary disputes. He went on to say that “calling mapping technology [a peacebuilding tool] is mistaking a vehicle for a principle.” He argued the tendency to engage in conflict is human nature. This led to a discussion about the increasing urbanization of the world and the need for well designed cities that give people a shared sense of participation in community infrastructure, thus reducing the likelihood of conflict. Several participants agreed that involving communities in filtering information and authorizing its use “builds trust.”
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 mass protests, and public ridicule are designed to unify disparate groups and exploit weaknesses in the authoritarian power base, ultimately destabilizing the people at the top. Ivan Marovic, a student leader of Otpor, the anti-Milošević movement in Serbia and a colleague of Dr. Ackerman, demonstrated a PC-based simulation game he created while working at ICNC. The game, “A Force More Powerful,” is a pedagogical tool for assisting nonviolent opposition groups. “The game, like all simulations, is a medium that enables people to teach themselves,” Mr. Marovic said. Players make their own stories and then draw certain conclusions from them. The game provides 10 predesigned scenarios, ranging from a movement fighting a dictatorship or military junta to a backsliding democracy to opposition to an occupation and a movement for self-determination. The scenarios include demographics and geographic information. The game also has a scenario editor, a tool that enables players to create their own scenarios. All of them are nonviolent, but they all have lots of violence in them. Players act within a scenario, first analyzing their opponents, and then sequencing tactics, such as boycotts, strikes, street protests, and so on to maximize their results and minimize their risks. Tactics can include harassing officials, denying resources to the regime, conducting noncooperation campaigns, initiating recruiting drives, and communicating with the general public to win over pillars of support, but also winning over the general public. The player plays against the computer, which controls the regime, which is programmed to be able to spot when something goes wrong and try to respond and suppress the activity. Mr. Marovic emphasized that the game itself is less important than the pedagogical uses of the game, which enables people to scale it to their needs and also to gain a sense of control in an extremely complex and disorienting situation. The variables can be almost infinite, but the game enables players to try different sequences of tactics and see how they work. In this way, it enables users to identify the critical elements of success. For example, it may teach people that they have to ally themselves with others who are resistant to the regime, even if they are in conflict with them on a different level. Discussion A member of the audience asked how the game, which is “a controlled application of conflict,” is related to peace. The benefit, he said, would be if an opposition group is organized to create the elements of a civil society that can govern through democratic, nonviolent means. Dr. Ackerman responded that ICNC is currently engaged with a group that had been determined to start a violent insurgency but is now beginning to question its assumptions. Another member of the audience said that her group had found that nonviolent resistance is a key prevention strategy that can open a path to nonviolent transition from one regime to another.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 Peacekeeping and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Nicholas Von Ruben is a senior programme officer in the Department of Field Support at the United Nations. Mr. von Ruben has spent years heading peacekeeping operations in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and other conflict zones. His talk was “not about how we use technology, but about challenges for which technology could probably help.” He began with a brief history of peacekeeping. In the past, he said, peacekeeping meant putting a military force between two parties that had been at war and monitoring the ceasefire. Today peacekeeping forces include peacebuilding components, such as police and civil units. In addition, the number of peacekeeping operations has increased dramatically; five new missions have been launched in the past 18 months. Five years ago, he said, 51,000 UN personnel were deployed in the field. Today there are about 140,000, the second largest deployed force in the world. Peackekeeping forces are often stuck between open conflict and a ceasefire, as they are in Darfur, where fighting continues even as discussions are under way with various factions. However, these factions are constantly mutating and changing, which makes conflict resolution, or even a reliable ceasefire, difficult to achieve. For effective peacekeeping there must be “a peace to keep.” Serious problems often arise when peacekeepers are pulled out of an area. There must be a better transition, he said, between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, the period during which community and infrastructure for the future are developed. UN peacekeepers are only sent into a situation if a Security Council resolution has been adopted. Resolutions usually include a mandate for a general ceasefire; the monitoring and redeployment of forces; the monitoring of the movement of armed groups; the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of ex-combatants; the return and reintegration of refugees from outside the country and of internally displaced people; the establishment of human rights and civil protections; the restructuring of a police force (which requires a solid, independent judiciary); de-mining; the mounting of public information campaigns; and, finally, elections. Mr. Von Ruben then described operational challenges that could be better addressed with technology. First, technology, or “force enablers,” might be able to make a peacekeeping force “look bigger.” This would reinforce their presence and their credibility. Next, technology that would give peacekeepers precision vision, drones or other “eyes,” for example, would greatly increase their freedom of movement. Peacekeepers also need better visibility in extreme weather conditions, such as sandstorms and thunderstorms. “In these conditions,” he said, “you need to have visibility, and you need to be mobile.” In addition, technology would obviously be useful for mine detection. Technology that could help peacekeepers better organize and share information would be extremely beneficial. The key is to gather information from various sources, synthesize it, and weed out what is unimportant. Technology that could help with the gathering and synthesis of data on political, military, social, and humanitarian activities would enable peacekeepers to identify patterns that indicate trouble.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 He then turned to some logistics challenges. Peacekeepers must be able to communicate with groups of people, including refugees that are often on the move. Therefore, peacekeepers must be able to track and locate them. He suggested that, perhaps, their animals might be tagged with radio frequency identification chips so their movements could be followed, and so people could be kept from wandering into conflict zones. In addition, technology to help in the tracking of the flow of arms and illicit trade in natural resources would be a great help. Members of peacekeeping forces come from all over the world, bringing different types of equipment and communications technology. Technologies that would enable them to speak to each other in difficult environments would be invaluable. Communications technologies could also help to overcome language barriers between peacekeepers and the people they work with and are there to protect. Detecting and managing water supplies in an area like Darfur would be a great boon to peacekeepers. Mr. Von Ruben mentioned recent work by Dr. Farouk El-Baz at Boston University, who believes he has found a large aquifer in northern Darfur. Adequate water supplies, Von Ruben said, might go a long way toward changing the dynamics of the conflict there. Finally, peacekeepers need to rely on energy from sources other than fossil fuels, which can be expensive and dangerous to transport and stockpile, and improve the way they manage and dispose of waste. Comments by Respondents Respondent 1: Alan Kay Alan Kay is president of Viewpoints Research Institute. Dr. Kay presented a completely different perspective on how technology can be used to promote peace (see Appendix D for a written statement prepared by Dr. Kay). First, he said, we must accept human beings for what they are—creatures that use technology to make war and to make peace. However, along the way, some human beings have learned that economic comfort and substitutes for naked power are better at deterring war than philosophical arguments. “Bribing people with comfort,” he said, is a good initial strategy for peacemaking. However, we also need a long-term strategy to change the way people think through education, and for that we need to use the printed word, which is much more efficient than the spoken word used by indigenous peoples and people who are illiterate. “You can say things in print that are almost impossible to say orally.” As Henry David Thoreau said, “We become the tools of our tools,” in this case the medium of the printed word. And as Marshall McLuhan said, “We shape tools, and then they reshape us.” Thus the printed word, a very powerful tool, can change people. Learning to read and write is difficult, but “the difficulty is what’s important about it.” Once people become literate, he said, they think qualitatively differently from nonliterate, oral people.” He then referred to a conversation between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, in which Jefferson said that the people are the ultimate repository of power. “If their discretion be not well enough informed to do this, the answer is not to remove their powers, but to better inform their discretion through education.”
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 Communications media, be they printed words or cell phones, are not neutral to ideas and thought, and we must be wary of introducing media that do not advance non-oral thinking. “A seemingly innocent technological benefit—such as using mobile telephones to provide needed and useful information, or encouraging television as ‘an information technology that doesn’t need to be learned’—could derail the larger needs of a society to learn to think non-orally.” Dr. Kay said he believes that the cell phone culture and Internet Web culture that have sprung up are simply reflections of pop culture, which, in turn, is a reflection of built-in human impulses rather than what we have learned. Math and science, he said, are another order of thinking based on the difficult premise that “the world is not as it seems.” Only literate people, he argued, are capable of moving beyond the usual epistemology and understanding this scientific view. Science, he said, tries to get around the poor thinking processes built into our brains and lead us to think in very different ways with very different perspectives on the world. But, he reiterated, first people must become literate. The question is how we can achieve this quickly on a very large scale. Inexpensive printed books enabled people to learn individually, “away from society,” and develop their own thoughts. If we could provide “a teacher for every learner” in the form of an inexpensive computer (the $100 laptop) that can teach children to read and write in their indigenous languages, or even help them learn “real science and math,” we would have crossed a critical threshold. In fact, he said, the only way to provide enough teachers is to use computers, which are easy to manufacture and can be produced in great numbers very quickly. But for 50 years, he said, computer scientists have tried and failed to make a computer that can teach at least as well as a poor teacher. Computer-based teaching must necessarily start with stories, which are built into human minds, and move toward the non-story thinking of math and science. In addition, these computers can hold hundreds of books. At the very least, he said, “this would be a way of publishing books for the entire world at a cost of 20 cents per book.” Computer “teachers” would “qualitatively change the world by qualitatively changing how education happens.” He concluded that he believes that there are technological solutions to some of the big problems facing society, but only if people are willing to think about the larger picture that includes human beings as they are, “anthropology without apologies.” Respondent 2: Nigel Snoad Nigel Snoad is lead capabilities researcher with Microsoft Humanitarian Systems, which is currently running pilot projects in collaboration with various humanitarian agencies in Afghanistan and other locations. For several years, Dr. Snoad worked for the United Nations in disaster management. He noted that one clear step for peacebuilding is to improve the governance of states and institutions, which not only promotes stability but also provides people with options for the future. One component of good governance is the existence of mechanisms to prevent those with power from taking advantage of those with no power. This is extremely difficult to achieve in the midst of conflict.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 Good governance requires accountability, which can mean legal checks and balances, but it can also be achieved in other ways. Accountability requires building institutions, increasing transparency, and reducing corruption. For example, he said, he had been told about a contractor who was supposed to build a school in Afghanistan who received $50,000 for the project, even though $2 million had been provided originally and everyone in the local community knew that a school should cost about $100,000. This gap, which erodes trust and confidence on every level, can start to be tackled by increased transparency and accountability, and technology can play a role. “Technology in the service of good governance can enhance the social forces that generate trust,” he said. He then commented on to the role of technology in diplomacy, negotiation, and reconciliation. Noting that he was not an expert in this area, he said he felt that using simulations to design storytelling and storytelling support mechanisms seems to be a very positive use for technology. British Gen. Rupert Smith has repeatedly said that modern conflicts are about who wins this storytelling contest, noted Dr. Snoad. The question is how to build trust and a vision for what is possible in society, so that people can decide they want to go along with this (non-violent) model of society rather than launching into violent conflict. An audience member interrupted to say he thought this was not a good way to accomplish this goal. Dr. Snoad agreed that it was not ideal, but in the midst of a conflict, he said, it may be all that can be done. “You document what is happening, you alleviate suffering, you hope you are not falling into conflict, though often you are, and you try to use storytelling that leads to a solution.” Technology plays a critical role in improving humanitarian response to those affected by conflict. Situational awareness tools can be used to help coordinate action to alleviate the suffering of those who are affected by violence, who usually have no voice or mechanism for participating in events. In general, he said, alleviating suffering is a critical first step for people to choose a nonviolent way of satisfying their needs. Technology can also be used to document abuses and “for preserving stories for later justice.” In the midst of a violent conflict, justice may be delayed. But preserving stories, even conflicting stories, gives people a voice for the future. Dr. Snoad then turned to the questions that had been raised about the use of mobile phones and PC technologies. “These tools are going to be used” in conflict situations, he said, “whether we like it or not. So we need to think about how we can harness them to encourage our better natures rather than our baser instincts.” Many current humanitarian coordination mechanisms are based on command and control mechanisms that do not fit well with user empowerment, social networking, and the wisdom of crowds that new technologies enable. This can create significant opportunities for those attempting to coordinate humanitarian assistance or enact social methods of peacebuilding. Finally, he noted the problem of “the democratization of the gun.” (A point that had been raised earlier.) He recounted how, when he was in Iraq, AK-47’s were being sold for around $50. Guns, he said, clearly give individuals and small groups a means of radically affecting
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 violence in local areas, even neighborhoods. This is not a new problem, but dealing with this situation is completely different from dealing with conflicts between states. “The influence of guns,” he said, “can only be countered by the democratization of some other kind of influence. This involves communications, storytelling, monitoring, and negotiating.” Respondent 3: Steve Wozniak Steve Wozniak is executive vice president, chief technology officer, and chief visionary officer of Jazz Technologies, Inc. Mr. Wozniak began by pointing out that conflicts are ubiquitous. People have different ideas and different ways of understanding things, which often lead to disagreements. If two people disagree, they can fairly easily decide not to come to blows; they can agree to disagree. This is more difficult with groups of people, however, especially groups with long-standing disagreements that have led individuals in one group to demonize or dehumanize individuals in the other group. Technology can break through the barriers between individuals. During the cold war, he said, he was able to talk to people in the Soviet Union through a GTE phone connection, what he called a “space bridge.” At some point during or after his conversations, he suddenly realized, he said, that “these people are like us. It is our governments, the people who represent us, who have led us to believe they are all to be feared.” However, he and his family were vilified for talking to the enemy. Technology amplifies our desires, whether they are good or bad. Perhaps, he mused, children are being taught the wrong things in school. For example, they are taught that some wars are good, so they may think the next war might be their chance to make the world better. “We haven’t taken one step to make sure there won’t be another Iraq in 30 years,” he said, or to encourage kids “to come up with better ways to resolve conflicts.” Education is essential to peace, and technology can help. But technology can only take us so far, he said. Some computer games that teach nonviolence might carry over to kids, he said, but we must stop teaching them that wars can be good. He then returned to the computer teacher described by Dr. Kay. Based on his experience as a teacher, he said, he had concluded that we will never be able to build a machine that can teach as well as a teacher. “How can you make a computer equal to a human being?” he asked. However, he went on, supplying low-cost phones to people is useful, and despite its limitations, the “one laptop per child” idea is a constructive way to put ICT in people’s hands “that is going to make them start thinking more deeply about technology, jobs, and moving their countries up the right economic ladder.… Besides, technology can give people something to do besides fight.” Discussion A member of the audience opened the discussion with a description of good governance. “Good governance,” he said, “often depends on the destruction of bad governance and whether you have the power to destroy it.” It isn’t a question of money, he said, but of how power is used
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 for change. He went on to talk about nonviolent conflict. Most leaders of nonviolent movements, such as civil resistance movements, would have used violence if it had been an option. They chose a nonviolent path, he said, not because their situation had eased but because it had become more desperate. He cited the Solidarity movement in Poland as an example. After the failure of the uprising in Warsaw in 1970, the opposition turned to Solidarity, which was a nonviolent way of “eliminating the significance of government for people, thus undermining government structures.” Another example, the civics movements in South Africa, was a direct result of the failure of armed struggle. With more than 600 civics movements, the people undertook boycotts and other economic measures that destroyed the basis for trade for many white South Africans. They, in turn, pressured the political powers to release Nelson Mandela. Technology can provide ways for people to communicate, without the risk of betrayal, and to signal each other that they are on the same side. “The power of civic disruption is in the ability of key elements in the military and other support groups of the dictatorship to identify each other and join forces to resist. He then described how in Chile, after a failed strike in a copper mine, the resistance realized that the reasons for failure were that the area was too small and was easily surrounded by the military. So they tried a different tack. They instructed the population of Santiago to do everything—walking, driving, and working, and so on—at half speed and to open their windows at night and make a racket by banging on pots and pans. People did this month after month, and, in the process, they discovered a “pent-up potential for resistance.” More aggressive tactics followed until President Pinochet miscalculated and called for a referendum, which he ultimately lost. When he then looked to the military to keep him in power, they refused to do so. “The courage to do this depended on self-identification.” DISCUSSION ABOUT NEXT STEPS Patricia Thomson, executive vice president of USIP, opened the discussion with a few general remarks. Everyone agrees, she said, that ultimately peacebuilding is about people, not technology. But “technology enablers and tools can facilitate solutions to many problems.” She then listed significant challenges to peace for the next decade based on the background document developed by USIP (Appendix E): Environmental degradation and climate change Weapons of mass destruction Weak economies, fragile states, and undemocratic states Weak international institutions and the lack of will to act in the face of atrocities Clashes of civilizations and ideologies Growing numbers of disenfranchised people, widening gaps between rich and poor, and the radicalization and empowerment of disenfranchised and alienated groups The movement of large numbers of people, either refugees or emigrants (legal and illegal) Perverse effects of globalization, such as local problems that cascade into catastrophic problems (e.g., pandemics), and the growing awareness of inequities or other grievances that prompt disenfranchised groups to take action, sometimes violent action
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 Discussion moderator Vinton Cerf, Google, Inc., asked the group to consider technologies that could help address any of these issues, particularly global warming and ensuring supplies of fresh water. Global warming has the potential to cause crop failures, which could lead to inadequate food supplies, and sea level rise, which could lead to dislocations of large numbers of people. Another participant then took up the theme. He described some ways that technology and science have reduced the likelihood of conflict by removing the causes. “A lot of good things have happened over the last few years,” he said, “as a result of science trying to improve the availability of food, increase crop yields, and so on. In addition, refrigeration has improved the food supply by extending food preservation time.” Another member of the group said that removing the economic reasons for conflict can help, but should not be overstated. Contrary to popular belief, he said, eliminating poverty would not eliminate conflict. In fact, “poor starving masses” do not rise up, he said, because they are preoccupied with efforts simply to survive. Conflicts arise when wealth is created and people’s capacities improve. That is when competition increases. Thus “rising wealth contributes to conflict creation or generation to some degree.” Besides competition for limited space and resources, there is also competition over prestige and power, which cannot be resolved by addressing the resource problems, he said. Information and communications technologies can help, though. For example, when the hotline, a simple telephone connection, was established between the White House and the Kremlin, it reduced the risk of nuclear war. We should invest in ways to cooperate, he said. Instead of teaching about competition (e.g., eliminate the enemy, diminish the capacities of the competitor), we should teach constructive cooperation, the skills and habits of teamwork. Finally, he said, we must find a way to promote “wisdom and judgment,” which come from experience, but also “have to do with social psychology, confidence, and being able to measure risks in the face of others with opposing views.” This would also contribute to good governance and leadership. Dr. Cerf said that “in places where people believe there isn’t enough of what they need [food, water, space, and so on] for everyone, they feel compelled to ‘get theirs first’ in order to survive. A technology that could let people know when there is enough for everyone would reduce fears and eliminate some conflicts.” Another participant referred to the simulation game, A Force More Powerful, which teaches nonviolent resistance. He said that conflicts are inherent in human nature, so training, rather than education, might show people that there are options other than violence for reacting to a conflict. They might learn “how to trick the other person into giving them what they want or directing him or her in another way.” He said Internet Web 2.0 technologies enable people to communicate and describe their experiences, which might influence how people in similar situations respond. “If our assumption is correct that more people are good than bad, we are on the right road,” he said.
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 One workshop attendee agreed that education is a “nice, long-term strategy” for preventing conflicts. But, he said, a combination of social modeling and sensing would be beneficial for spotting the early signs of potential conflicts, “some underlying process that no one noticed,” and heading off the conflict altogether. A series of models could be developed, he said, for different regions of the world, moments in time, or global events and situations that might be ripe for disruption by environmental change, and so on. Using all emerging technologies, he continued, and having one entity, such as the UN or an NGO or a group of NGOs, put the modeling process, cataloguing, sensing, and so forth together would enable people from all over to participate and contribute, would begin to build “a distributed community for spotting trouble in the early stages before things blow up.” Dr. Cerf then summed up the discussion thus far. Two technologies, he said, seem to be fundamental—communication technologies in the broadest sense and technologies for predictive analysis and modeling—including models of climate, water resources, and people’s behaviors. There are two trains of thought in the workshop group. One is for long-term education and changing social values over time. The other is for building peace and mitigating the consequences of violence in specific locations where violent conflict continues or has just ended. The discussion continued with an attempt to describe the things that can be done, rather than should be done. The next speaker said we cannot and should not eliminate conflict altogether, but rather create tools for minimizing the negative aspects of conflict. He reminded the group that “we want conflict when it creates positive social change.” The workshop, he said, should focus on “definable, ‘bracketable’ problems” and ways to get involved early to minimize the negative consequences of violence. Several people then discussed technologies that could be used to improve education in populations traumatized by violence, such as technologies that enable people, particularly women, to learn on their own, outside of the school setting. Someone interjected a reminder that technologies become widely distributed only if commercial interests can also be satisfied. “Sustainability requires a self-interested commercial market,” he said, “and businesses will only become involved if they see that long-term investment in peacebuilding will pay off.” Another person suggested that the group might investigate ways to mobilize companies to address “the very specific, sometimes strategic, often tactical challenges that peacekeepers face in the field.” One participant then described the satisfaction he had experienced after building a village well that met a community’s needs. By cooperating with members of the community in the planning, location, and building of the well, he said, he not only helped to build a well, but also imparted political and economic power to this community. “There are consequences to digging wells, building bus stations, roads, and so on, and changing one variable can affect all of the others,” he said. But he also acknowledged that “doing one thing is easy, but doing the trillion things that have to be done is much more difficult.” The “meta issue,” another speaker said, “is how this workshop group can continue to keep these ideas in the public mind, identify entrepreneurs and others who could contribute to solutions, and establish economic bounds so the issues become tractable.” Engineers, he said, do the easy part, such as the actual design and building of technology. The hard part is figuring out
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 how to keep the process going. This group might become a clearinghouse for nonprofits, academics, the military, and for-profit companies, he said, “to present problems in ways that address the real interests and concerns of these ‘customers.’” Another said that many large communications technology firms just have to be asked to participate in these projects. All of them, he said, have “global initiatives.” FINAL COMMENTS Workshop steering committee Chair Jack Gibbons and USIP President Richard Solomon closed the workshop with brief final comments. Dr. Gibbons noted that we are living in “extraordinary times” when the agglomeration of power in individual nation states is now competing with the influence of non-state terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden. People like bin Laden “don’t have … to worry about the preservation of an institution, because they don’t have one.” This shift is occurring at the same time we are coping with increasing pressure on global natural resources, environmental change, species loss, and population growth and crowding. For example, in some countries in the Middle East, half the population is under age 15. Many of these young people see no jobs or future for themselves and are open to the appeals of terrorist groups. “What are the imperatives for us?” he asked. One is to develop better analytical capabilities that can anticipate the combined effects of various population, economic, and climatic stressors. Being able to track “demographic transitions,” for example, and determine where impacts will be felt is “doable.” Another important need, continued Dr. Gibbons, is to explore opportunities for designing information and communications technologies that are more resilient to misuse. Ultimately, he said, the United States, other Western cultures, and fast-growing nations like China will need to move away from “the almost ubiquitous model of exponentiation as a means to a desired future.” It is simply not possible, Dr. Gibbons asserted, to have sustainable growth while maintaining current levels of resource consumption. Dr. Solomon touched on a number of points raised during the workshop that he felt were important. He first noted that conflict at one level is “basically a communication issue.” He pointed out that when two countries are going to go to war, they withdraw their ambassadors. Once the conflict is under way, they “desperately search for a way of reestablishing communication.” He reminded the group of Irwin Jacobs’ comments about the increasing power of the cell phone. “[H]ow could we use that capacity … to deal with issues of conflict management?” Dr. Solomon noted that most of USIP’s programming is not dependent on the purchase or use of expensive technology, rather it is made possible by the work of “creative people.” At the same time, he added, it is clear “that technology could be a very effective enabler of strategies of conflict management.” He expressed the hope that follow-on activities to the workshop would
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Information and Communication Technology and Peacebuilding: Summary of a Workshop, July 2008 explore with greater focus what existing and emerging technologies can contribute toward this goal. “We want to follow through and figure out the way to build on this effort.”