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3 Overcoming Challenges to Sharing Information N otwithstanding the challenges associated with data sharing and coordination, the federal government, nongovernmental orga- nizations (NGOs), and other organizations have developed and improved processes for managing their interactions. They have created guidelines that enable cooperation while protecting groups' independence and security.1 They have instituted processes that enable cooperative plan- ning while maintaining executional autonomy. And they have established agile and bottom-up forums that build the trust necessary for peacebuilding. In the second session of the workshop, two speakers described how the challenges to sharing information for peacebuilding are being overcome. In the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the issue of cooperation between gov- ernment and civil society groups has focused on civilian-military interaction. For some NGO organizations, however, any interaction with government may present a problem. 1See, for example: http://www.usip.org/files/resources/guidelines_pamphlet.pdf and http://ochaonline.un.org/afghanistan/CivilMilitaryCoordination/tabid/5356/language/en- US/Default.aspx. 15
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16 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING CIVILIAN-MILITARY GUIDELINES FOR INTERACTIONS One goal of data sharing is to create a "whole of society" approach in which civil society produces a government that is citizen oriented and not just elite oriented, said Lisa Schirch, founding director of 3P Human Security, a collaboration of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Men- nonite University, the Alliance for Peacebuilding, the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame University, and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. In such an approach, a citizen-oriented state, the private sector, and civil society organizations cooperate to promote good governance, develop- ment, security, and respect for human rights, and civil society partners with, complements, and supplements government in running programs. Without an active civil society, an elite-oriented state and private business sector can result in instability, corruption, and diminished human rights, as is the case for many countries around the world, Schirch observed. Civil society does not consist just of NGOs. It includes universities, religious organizations, media, professional associations, trade unions, tradi- tional and tribal organizations, and many other entities that seek to improve quality of life. All of these institutions hold government to account, said Schirch. When civil society does not exist or is quashed by the state, govern- ment is no longer accountable. Thus, the members of organizations in this sector serve the public in ways comparable to public sector employees. "They often have just as many credentials and take just as many risks as people in the military," said Schirch. Yet military personnel often do not understand and sometimes do not even like NGOs, as illustrated by comments quoted by Schirch: "NGOs clog up my battle space." "They are in the way." "NGOs will only call when they need rescuing." "NGOs don't want to be seen with us in uniform." "They don't have the courage to show who their friends are." She noted that stereo- types extend in the opposite direction as well, and that both sets of stereo- types are damaging. Fostering Dialogue To foster collaboration, Schirch's organization supports civilian-military dialogue. In particular, she has been connecting military and civil society organizations in Afghanistan, including an Afghan NGO that does mediation and conflict resolution as part of disarmament, demobilization, and reinte- gration. Staff of the NGO talk with insurgents to determine grievances and how they can be mediated so that the insurgents can reintegrate into society.
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OVERCOMING CHALLENGES TO SHARING INFORMATION 17 Another local NGO has worked on relationships between the police and the communities in which they work. Police personnel meet with community representatives in a facilitated mediation, an approach that has worked so well that the UN Development Program has partnered with the NGO to make the program national. These models have been very successful, but they have required that Schirch and her colleagues go to the local International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base every day to share information about the collaboration efforts, as the ISAF personnel were unwilling to make the trip. Schirch and her staff walked a seven-block lane where taxis refused to go. Though she has felt safe in most of Afghanistan, this is "the most dangerous road in Kabul," she said, showing a photograph of the street. "Along that road, I am a free- range target for anybody who wants to kill somebody who's collaborating with ISAF." In this case, both sides want to share information, but there is no insti- tution, location, or mechanism for them to do so easily and safely. Recently, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan opened bases around the country to facilitate coordination within sectors, such as among groups working on rule of law. "It provides a better place, but that's been a more recent innova- tion," said Schirch. Schirch noted that she has lost many colleagues in Afghanistan to violence, showing a photograph of the British cemetery in Kabul where a number of her colleagues are buried. "It's a good month if I don't lose a colleague in Afghanistan or Pakistan." Furthermore, attacks against NGO personnel and other representatives of civil society are increasing, she said, moderated in the last few years only by a withdrawal of NGO personnel from these areas.2 What in part is driving these attacks on aid workers, Schirch explained, is a shift by military actors and governments to using development activities as a means of enhancing security and stability following a conflict. Realizing short-term security objectives, however, has an unintended consequence of politicizing the activities of the civil society organizations partnering in development. Civil society organizations try to maintain their workers' safety by not taking sides in conflict and working to relieve all social suffering. Participation in development work with political ends involves aid workers in the underlying disputes and has led to higher levels of violence directed at these individuals. 2The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office tracks violence against NGO workers at www. afgnso.org.
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18 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING This difference in objectives is what makes cooperation and data sharing between government and civil society groups difficult. Policy guidance from USAID, State, and the Department of Defense for how government agencies should work with civil society group tends to show little understanding of these divergent goals, she said. Instead, many representatives of government agencies and military forces are eager to use these organizations in the final phase of the "shape, clear, hold, and build" approach to counterinsurgency. They want to use these organizations to work in communities to spur devel- opment and thereby fend off insurgency. NGOs do not want to be the implementers of a security strategy for government, said Schirch. They want conflict assessment and planning to reflect the realities of what they see on the ground. They are willing to pro- vide insights into local dynamics that either help or hinder the protection of human security, but they do not want to be involved in implementing a counterinsurgency strategy. In general, the goal of civil society organizations is to protect human security, whereas the goal of government agencies and the military is to advance national security interests. Sometimes these goals overlap, but in other cases they conflict, and conflicts produce tension between govern- ments, military forces, and civil society organizations. Data sharing is much more likely in situations and contexts where the missions of civil society organizations overlap with those of the military and goverment. When missions are in conflict, data sharing is more difficult, said Schirch. Guidelines for Cooperation In 2005 the heads of major US humanitarian organizations and US civilian and military leaders met at USIP to initiate a dialogue that led to the Guidelines for Relations Between US Armed Forces and Non-Governmental Humanitarian Organizations in Hostile or Potentially Hostile Environments. These guidelines make it safer for NGOs to do their work without being seen as political actors with short-term security goals. Schirch cited several key elements of the guidelines: · Visits by US armed forces personnel to NGO sites should be by prior arrangement.
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OVERCOMING CHALLENGES TO SHARING INFORMATION 19 · US armed forces should give NGOs the option of meeting with US armed forces personnel outside military installations for informa- tion exchanges. · US armed forces should not describe NGOs as "force multipliers" or "partners" of the military. · Vehicles and clothing should distinguish NGOs from the military. A drawback of the guidelines is that they do not necessarily explain why particular arrangements are important, said Schirch. Also, neither the guide- lines nor the rationale for them are routinely taught in military academies or other settings. Continued civilian-military dialogue will be essential to enable data sharing in peacebuilding, Schirch concluded. The participants in these dialogues--from government, the military, and from civil society--need to develop a better understanding of how their goals and the constraints under which they operate may differ. Schirch said the amount of bad blood she sees between government and civil society groups now is tremendous. Only by a shared trust-building process, in which both sides see and respect the reasonableness of the other's goals, can we build relationships that support data sharing. Put another way, Schirch asserted, in the current situation in Afghanistan, any technology-based data-sharing approach would be very difficult given the lack of trust. Only by committing to dialogue that allows participants to understand each other can we realize a whole-of-society approach. By communicating goals, plans, and worldviews, government, military, and NGO stakeholders could develop a shared understanding that would better promote unity of effort. CIVILIAN-MILITARY GUIDELINES FOR SHARING PROJECT INFORMATION Marcia Hartwell, Visiting Scholar at USIP, drew on her experiences in Iraq to address the development of civilian-military guidelines for sharing project information. Information sharing is a hot-button topic for everyone and one of the most sensitive topics in a conflict area, she said. Hartwell explained that access to project information can be either open or controlled. In addition, each organization's internal use of unclassified information, which can have many layers of sensitivity and confidentiality, is a consideration in sharing that information. Because information is often power, its actual versus intended use can be an important factor to consider.
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20 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING The use of information can have positive or negative consequences. Will the military use information provided by civilian organizations for target- ing purposes? Will civilian organizations withhold information from the military that could turn military forces into targets? There are sensitivities on both sides, said Hartwell. One way to explore and understand these sensitivities is to establish guidelines for a vetting system that identifies and monitors potentially sensi- tive information. For example, all data providers and users of project data could receive online conflict awareness training. Will the public or private posting of project details potentially endanger anyone on the ground? What precautions can be taken to avoid this? What are inflammatory issues that could stoke ethnic or sectarian divisions? Even issues as seemingly innocuous as access to water can inflame an entire region, Hartwell said, as can access to infrastructure--if, for example, economic assistance appears to favor one group over another. "Understanding potential flash points, and how those flash points move around and evolve...is a big issue." Hartwell also spoke about managing expectations. Short- and long-term goals for information sharing can build sustainable information-sharing networks, but they need to reflect both similarities and differences in civilian- military timelines, capacities, and missions, she said. Sustainability for the military is often short term, whereas NGOs tend to look at issues in a more open and extended context. Hartwell advocated the establishment of a civilian-military data-sharing working group with several goals: · View data sharing as a long-term process of building trust between civilian and military organizations. · Assist in defining and negotiating virtual and real space during interventions. · Clarify how this information could contribute to decision making in future civilian-military interventions. Establishing such a working group will be particularly important as the military withdraws from Afghanistan and begins to turn certain operations over to civil organizations, she said. Discussions can help determine whether such handoffs are appropriate or advisable. In addition, predicting a future of more small-scale conflicts where the civilian-military nexus will grow, Hartwell concluded that "it is incredibly important that we learn to work together in a real and honest way."
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OVERCOMING CHALLENGES TO SHARING INFORMATION 21 DISCUSSION Suzanne Kindervatter, head of the Strategic Impact Team for InterAction, described a "wall of honor" at the organization's headquarters building, with the addition each year of the names of more NGO staff members killed in conflict situations. She said that the civilian-military guidelines described by Schirch were "a major breakthrough" and that the process of developing them recognized the differences in culture and missions and then built a set of terms of references for different groups to work together. These guidelines need to be publicized, she said, for them to have the effect that they should. Kindervatter acknowledged that even within the world of NGOs, much more work is needed to promote data sharing. These organizations have different data systems and terminologies; for example, what one NGO calls a project another might call a program. In addition, trust issues arise even among NGOs. Greater transparency and building on past successes can help overcome these barriers. Linton Wells, director of the Center for Technology and National Secu- rity Policy at the National Defense University, said that his office has been looking at the difference between unclassified and nonclassified information. Unclassified information has been reviewed by a classification authority and determined to be unclassified. Nonclassified information has not been reviewed but may be extremely valuable. As an example, he cited social media exchanges between a hospital, an ambulance, and an NGO about an event involving injuries. Use of this easily accessible nonclassified information may undermine trust if the information appears to have come from sensitive sources. Thus, information is not necessarily good or bad, he said, but can be used by different people in different contexts for different purposes. Schirch observed that once information is available its use generally can- not be controlled. Also, people in the countries where NGOs are operating are usually far more sophisticated about the use of information than outside groups assume. They know how to manipulate information networks, use the media, and interpret information. In addition, they have their own infor- mation sources that are far more effective than the ones to which outsiders have access. For example, a village or marketplace may suddenly empty of people before outsiders know anything about a threat. A better approach than trying to control information is to address the vulnerabilities for both the civilian sector and the military sector regarding the use of information. Schirch also pointed out that many NGOs are hesitant to take Western donor money and therefore seek other sources of funding because of safety and security concerns. Many NGO representatives are kidnapped and held
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22 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING for 72 hours, during which the kidnappers are checking the web to see who they are, who they work for, and the source of their money. For this and other reasons, most NGOs do not want to be associated with the military on websites, because they can then become targets. NGOs that are explicit about being part of a counterinsurgency campaign are "hit all the time," said Schirch, and have much greater security concerns than do NGOs that are more careful about their relationship with the US government. Hartwell reiterated her point about the value of online conflict training, which can help the military understand how violence unfolds across all of society. The lack of such training has been "a real vulnerability in almost all of the strategic and operational initiatives that the US government has tried to implement." Michael Shipler, Asia director for Search for Common Ground, noted that innovation often emerges from the interaction of groups of people who work on very different things and have very different frames of reference and worldviews. Peacebuilders are searching for transformative innovations that can magnify their influence, which requires interactions encompassing groups that range from the field and operational level to the policy level. He also identified obstacles that prevent groups such as Search for Com- mon Ground from sharing information with military organizations. Because these groups are committed to doing no harm, when they have informa- tion about who has been recruited as a soldier, who has been victimized by an armed group, or who is serving in a group that may be an enemy of the United States, they may not share it even though it could be very useful intelligence. Shipler reaffirmed that peacebuilding organizations have to remain impartial to be effective, and sharing information with one side but not another may compromise this ability. Groups may lose their comparative advantage as peacebuilding organizations if it were known that they were giving information to one side or the other. By remaining independent, such organizations can have access to many types of information; in fact, one measure of their value is the ability to convince people who have informa- tion that the organization will not pass that information on to others. For example, local groups need to trust an organization to tell them the mecha- nisms through which recruitment to insurgency groups is occurring. "The protection of those sources and of that information is something that builds trust over time," said Shipler. If this trust is violated, people go quiet or stop creating access to information.
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OVERCOMING CHALLENGES TO SHARING INFORMATION 23 In response to a question from Elmer Roman about how to move for- ward so that the same issues are not being discussed 10 years from now, Hartwell advocated the establishment of an entity with concrete goals that would work on small but specific questions: What information is going to be shared in a particular country, how, and with whom? As specific questions are answered, the scope of the discussions could be broadened. Frederick Tipson, Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at USIP, pointed out that the technology in the battle space and the peacebuilding space is very different now than it was just a decade ago, and this change has transformed the challenges of building peace. He advocated local, customized trials of how information can be shared in given settings. Each situation is different, and technology can allow each peacebuilding approach to be customized and localized. Aaron Chassy, senior technical advisor, Governance and Civil Society, for Catholic Relief Services, observed that power is not balanced between US government forces and civil society organizations. In particular, the law against providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist orga- nization, even if the intention is to support a group's humanitarian efforts, has very serious implications for organizations like Catholic Relief Services. Such organizations want to bring people back into civil society so that they can choose nonviolent means to resolve their conflicts. "We can't do that if we have US criminal law weighing over our heads that would destroy us as an agency if we went ahead and had that dialogue." One way to avoid working with groups that want no association with the US government is to work through local partners, Chassy said. But because such partners may have ties with terrorist organizations, it puts a very heavy burden on civil society organizations to do due diligence. "We certainly want to be willing and capable partners with a whole-of-society approach," said Chassy, "but there needs to be a more level playing field and shared and mutual accountability." Schirch agreed that this is a difficult problem, noting that she teaches at Kabul University and worries that she will be arrested for teaching students who are sympathetic to the Taliban, even though what she is teaching "is absolutely not fueling the insurgency." Hartwell emphasized the importance of communicating intentions, which is also part of sharing information. If the military knows that an NGO representative is engaged in teaching, that can be enough information to avoid problems.
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24 DATA SHARING TO IMPROVE COORDINATION IN PEACEBUILDING Julie Montgomery, director of innovation and learning at InterAction, said that to protect staff, her organization often does not indicate their exact locations on publicly available information sources. The question then becomes whether to have public and private databases, where some informa- tion is shared only with certain groups. Susanna Campbell added that the type of data and the operating environment need to be distinguished. In some countries, the US military or other parts of the US government are heavily involved, while in other countries they are not. The risks involved in the exchange of a given type of information change as the degree of violence changes. Eric Gundersen, president and cofounder of Development Seed, pointed to factors other than security that can influence information sharing. One is interoperability. When information is published in the form of PDFs, for example, it typically needs to be loaded by hand into databases, which can severely slow data sharing. In other cases, key data are missing, are not avail- able, or can be obtained only from sources that cannot be publicly cited. Gregor Bailar, retired chief information officer of Capital One Financial Corporation, pointed to factors that affect the value of data: timeliness, reliability, completeness, accuracy, insight, and actionability. And the single most important attribute of valuable information is that it comes from a trusted source. Really valuable data are scarce, he said, and relatively few people have access to those data. Also, operational data can be much more valuable than data generated through a research study, because operational data can always be fresh. Hartwell observed that researchers often need to protect vulnerable sources, which means that researchers need to be trusted for their results to be seen as credible. She added that the turnover of personnel is "a huge issue," not just in civil society organizations but in the military. People can be doing great work, "and then they leave and take everything with them." And new people coming in may not know about work that has been done earlier, which can be tremendously frustrating. One way to avoid such situations is to establish protocols for ongoing information gathering and dissemination that everyone understands so that knowledge of procedures and findings extends beyond current personnel. Finally, Roman emphasized that NGOs and the military may have dif- ferent missions, but that NGO personnel are "great American heroes" to the military. "We share a common goal," he said. "In the end, it boils down to human security."