What is ICT4Peace?

What exactly is ICT4Peace / ICT for Peacebuilding?

A recent telephone conversation with Amb. Daniel Stauffacher, President ICT4Peace Foundation, Geneva, prompted the need to clarify what exactly is meant by ICT4Peace.

Many of the ideas and research featured on this blog form what I believe to be the core of ICT4Peace – the use of technology to create hope even in the face of violent conflict. Seen this way, ICT for peace is not just about using technology to prevent violence, or bring about a lasting peace after a peace settlement between the main antagonists. On the contrary, it is the use of ICT to create channels of communication, frameworks of collaboration, and architectures of information and knowledge sharing even in the face of violent conflict. To create the designs for lasting peace, one needs to start at the heart of violence, the reasons for continued terrorism, the motives behind the killings, the root causes of conflict.

As such, ICT for Peace is both proactive and reactive. It can prevent violence from breaking out, it can help mitigate the fall out of communal violence and it can help engender the dialogues, virtual as well as physical face-to-face meetings, that foster hope in a final settlement and the larger process of social change that needs to occur apace to cement conflict transformation.

Not a single other ICT driven intiative – ICT for Health, ICT for Education, ICT for Development, ICT for Government – comes as close to the transformation of violent conflict as does ICT4Peace. For sure, acting in concert, all ICT initiatives aimed at various sectors can bring about lasting peace, but without an active, concentrated and sustained examination of the dynamics of peace and conflict, without mapping the actors and factors that give rise to hope in the midst of violence, without using technology to capture voices in support of peace even when they are being killed by the State, terrorists or both, any ICT for development or related initiative is doomed to failure, as they do not address the root causes in a given society that give rise to violence.

I’ve explored what ICT for Peace really means to me in a page I added recently to this blog (in addition to my own research in ICT4Peace) and hope the increasing readership of the thoughts herein exploring ICT for of peacebuilding and conflict transformation is an idea, based on practice and research, that needs to be noticed, supported and most importantly, promoted.

Your comments and thoughts are most welcome.

Related posts & resources:
What is ICT4Peace?
Serious questions for ICT4Peace

ICT4Peace.org
UN ICT for Peace Report
My comments on the UN ICT4Peace Report
SwissInfo report on ICT4Peace

One thought on “What is ICT4Peace?

  1. Dear Sanjana,

    thank you very much for this most interesting reflection, which I hope will spur a lively debate.

    Maybe you could as a further reference add in your text the para 36 of the Tunis WSIS Committment, by which for the first time a UN Summit and then the UN GA have accepted the notion of ICT for peace as specified in that article.
    I our report you will find also an introductory remark by Kofi Annan as well as by our Foreign Minister.

    Maybe you could also mention the High Level Panel that we organized in Tunis mentionned in our website, and the fact, that as a follow-up to Tunis the Foundation was created to promote the debate.

    The background and objectives are as follows:

    Summary

    The Swiss-government supported ICT4Peace project, after its ground-breaking research and advocacy successes in 2005, has established itself as a Swiss Foundation in Geneva in early 2006. This Foundation will serve as a hub for research, advocacy and networking on the topic of ICT use to prevent, respond to and recover from conflict.

    Following the publication of the research report “Information and Communication for Peace: the role of ICT in preventing, responding to and recovering from conflict” as part of the United Nations ICT Task Force Series, and the adoption of paragraph 36 of the Tunis Commitment at WSIS 2005, the ICT4Peace Foundation is in a key position to encourage research and collaboration between the stakeholders in humanitarian relief, peacekeeping operations, diplomacy and conflict prevention, including the private sector.

    Description and background of the project

    The ICT4Peace project started in 2004, with the support of the Swiss Federal Departments of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Civil Protection and Sport, with the goal of investigating the relation between the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and peace in the context of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Geneva 2003 – Tunis 2005.

    Through meetings, workshops and outreach, we learned that ICT indeed plays a vital role in a complex field.

    Research Report

    The report “Information and Communication Technology for Peace: the role of ICT in preventing, responding to and recovering from conflict” by D.
    Stauffacher, W. Drake, P. Currion and J. Steinberger, with a preface by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and a foreword by Swiss Foreign Affairs Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey, maps out different possible uses of ICT in the areas of early warning and conflict prevention, operations and support, and post-conflict reconstruction. Cross-cutting areas such as the use of the internet, the role of the media, technical development, networking and learning are also investigated. The report was published as part of the UN ICT Task Force Series.

    Paragraph 36. of the Tunis Commitment

    The aim of the research was to understand how ICT is used by different actors working in humanitarian and peace operations, and – based on this understanding – to include policy recommendations in the WSIS resolutions.
    This work culminated in the acceptance of paragraph 36. of the WSIS Tunis
    commitment:

    “We value the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict which, inter alia, negatively affects achieving development goals. ICTs can be used for identifying conflict situations through early warning systems preventing conflicts, promoting their peaceful resolution, supporting humanitarian action, including protection of civilians in armed conflicts, facilitating peacekeeping missions, and assisting post conflict peace-building and reconstruction.”

    This paragraph, approved by the WSIS in Tunis, can now be used as a reference for practioners and advocates using ICT to promote peace.

    ICT for Peace Panel at the WSIS 2005 in Tunis

    The research report was launched at the November 17 2005 “ICT for Peace”
    parallel event panel at the WSIS in Tunis chaired by Ambassador Daniel
    Stauffacher. The panel participants included members of the UN, national
    government, the military, NGOs and the private sector. The panelists were:
    • Martti Ahtisaari, Former President of Finland
    • José Antonio Ocampo, UN Under-Secretary-General
    • Raymond Johansen, State Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Norway
    • Linton Wells, US Assistant Secretary of Defense
    • Dag Nielsen, Director – Ericsson Response
    • Chamindra de Silva, Director – Lanka Software Foundation

    The panel discussion highlighted the crucial need of better use of ICT in
    humanitarian response operations, in communication between different
    organisations, local populations and NGOs, headquarters and field staff, and
    to ensure transparency and efficiency of donor commitments and agency
    spending.

    Need for Action

    The outcome of these activities was the strong consensus that information
    and communications play a key role in conflict prevention, response and
    recovery. The need for polically and ethically-sensitive coordination and
    interoperability of ICT tools in the field is as great as it is unanswered.
    The role of the ICT4Peace Foundation is to be a catalyst towards change in
    this area.
    Vision and Strategy: Beyond WSIS

    The ICT4Peace project’s overview of such a broad field is unprecedented.
    Political leverage was gained by exposure and examination through the WSIS
    process. The WSIS process was invaluable in building a wider network of
    contacts and creating exposure for these activities. Looking at peace and
    conflict issues through the prism of ICT, we identified several areas where
    the leadership, expertise and advocacy provided by the project should
    continue to be helpful. We will focus our work those areas, with a clear
    priority of not duplicating existing efforts, and provide a supporting role
    for other organisations in other areas.

    In particular the ICT4Peace Project has identified that a serious obstacle
    preventing the development of good practice is the communication gap between
    workers in the field, and between this group and policy makers at
    headquarters level.

    Any future process must maintain the core strengths of the ICT4Peace
    Project: credibility, flexibility, focus and independence. To this must be
    added that ICT4Peace should be relatively modest in terms of resources. The
    activities outlined below can potentially be undertaken with little staffing
    and funding, allowing us to act as a node between different organisations
    and a catalyst for various activities.
    Objectives and Activities: towards which results?

    The activities of the ICT4Peace project will focus on targeted networking
    and research projects towards policy development and advocacy. The
    networking will be done both formally through meetings prepared in
    coordination with other organisations, and informally through personal
    contacts and internet-based communications. The research will focus on
    outstanding ICT issues faced by workers in peace and humanitarian
    operations, and the policy proposals and pilot projects confronting these
    issues.

    We recognize that the gap between workers in the field and their remote
    headquarters or research organizations is the main factor in preventing a
    thorough discussion leading towards “best practices” for ICT use in conflict
    situations. Our goal is to create and energize a network of individuals
    willing to consider both the policy and the practical aspects of ICT for
    peace. This network would bridge the gap, and become the core basis for an
    integrated approach to developing ICT policy in peace and humanitarian
    actions. The development of a network of individuals committed to bridging
    these gaps is unlikely to develop without an external catalyst to create and
    energize that network. This network could then become the basis of an
    integrated approach to developing ICT policy in peace and humanitarian
    actions at the national, regional, and global level, with all the
    stakeholders, i.e. Governments, IOGs (in particular the UN system and should
    include other IGOs, such as OSCE, NATO, African Union etc.), Civil Society,
    Business, Media.

    Another catalytic role that is currently missing is that of encouraging and
    advising academic research, as well as teaching and training in ICT4Peace,
    and engaging in dialogue with the private sector about its possible
    involvement in ICT4Peace area . It may also be possible to learn a lesson
    from the private sector, and aim to raise seed funding for the sponsorship
    and incubation of novel projects that other organisations can not fund and
    pilot due to operational constraints.

    Areas of Focus

    The ICT4Peace Foundation will focus on the following activities:

    1. Targeted networking.

    This will be carried out through formal and informal channels. Formally,
    regular meetings and workshops will be co-organised with other organisations
    working in the sector; informally, ICT4Peace will build a network through
    personal contacts and internet-based communications. These two strands will
    be developed together, with the possibility of hosting online discussion
    groups and workshops at a later stage.

    2. Original research

    ICT4Peace will seek to generate and support original research into issues
    around its core interests. It will liaise with academic and policy
    institutions to maintain an overview of existing research, and to build the
    network. Research will focus on outstanding ICT-related issues faced in
    particular by workers in the field and will draw as much as possible on
    practical experience to identify good practice and successful pilot projects

    3. Policy development.

    Based on the networking and research activities, the ICT4Peace Foundation
    will contribute to the development of the policy framework that is currently
    missing in ICT4Peace. This will take the form of policy papers that will be
    released directly from the Project, and articles that will be placed in
    various relevant online and offline publications.

    4. Advocacy on key issues.

    The ICT4Peace Foundation will use the networking, research and policy
    development as the basis for advocacy around ICT4Peace issues in a variety
    of forums. Obviously the main objective will be to use advocacy to effect
    change in key areas, but also to build links between different stakeholders
    in order to overcome existing organisational barriers.

    Through this work, the ICT4Peace Foundation can clearly contribute added
    value as an advocate and interlocutor, building bridges and enabling
    solutions in a complex field.

    with best wishes and looking forward to talking to you soonest

    Daniel Stauffacher

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