Our Common Humanity in the Information Age: Principles and Values for Development

Effective use of ICTs can help to provide access to critical, real-time information, which is crucial in timely and appropriate decision-making in crisis situations. ICTs have also proven to be valuable tools in creating institutional memory of crisis management operations which are often characterised by a rapid turnover of staff. ICTs help to facilitate sharing of information and communication amongst multiple organisations and agencies working in crisis management and thus increase the multi-stakeholder coordination. Proper use of ITC would also have great impact in improving situational awareness in crisis environment where dozens of actors work without knowing enough about each other’s activities. The lack of information sharing and associated tools have been noted as key contributing factors in some of the recent incidents resulting in death or injury of international personnel. The concerted use of ICT in crisis management can improve the safety and security of all crisis management personnel in crisis areas. Functioning information sharing between organisations improves situational awareness and creates opportunities for early-warning on threats and prevention of conflicts.

An email from Amb. Daniel Stauffacher from the ICT4Peace Foundation alerted me to a recent in New York speech by President Martti Ahtisaari, Chairman of the Board at the Crisis Management Initiative. Delivered to the UN broadly underlining the vital importance of securing a stronger understanding of how ICT can help in crisis management and post-conflict peacebuilding, his speech underscores much of what I’ve discussed in this blog through my own work and experience.

President Ahtisaari, in calling for multi-stakeholder co-operation and civl-mil coordination and collaboration, underlines the key recommendations of Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction: Observations and Recommendations from the Field, which was completed by a group of authors, including myself, to engender precisely that which is lacking in so many field operations today.

In flagging the importance of information in humanitarian and peacebuilding operations, President Ahtisaari echoes much of what’s in The Right to Know. The Right to Know is particularly interesting for a Sri Lankan audience for its numerous case-studies and in-depth research into the manner in which information access & denial played into post-tsunami reconstruction and recovery.

In stating:

I would like to underline that using ICTs are not aims themselves but means to support the achievement of political objectives, to encourage multi-stakeholder co-operation and to create conditions for peace and development.

President Ahtisaari echoes my call to place people over technology in what has now become a widely referred to essay on ICT for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding – Daring to Dream: CSCW for Peacebuilding.

Finally, referring to the work of the ICT4Peace Foundation, of which I am present a Board Member at the invitation of Amb. Stauffacher last year, President Ahtisaari proposes a collaborative UN-led international process to bring about the promise & potential of ICT for peace work through a political process.

This is exciting, in that it recalls Paragraph 36 of the Tunis Commitment as proposed by the ICT4Peace Foundation, and hopefully is the start of a process that a few years hence will lead to a global affirmation of the potential of technology to play a positive role in peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian operations and conflict transformation.

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