Governing Tech for Peace: a Multistakeholder Approach | IGF 2023 Networking Session #78

8 Oct 2023 09:00h - 10:00h UTC

Event report

Speakers and Moderators

Speakers:
  • Marielza Oliveira, Director for Digital Inclusion, Policies and Transformation at UNESCO
  • Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo, Dean of the University for Peace (tbc)
  • Francesca Bosco, Senior Advisor at the CyberPeace Institute
  • Andrea Renda, Director of Research at CEPS and Adjunct Professor of Digital Policy at the EUI School of Transnational Governance
  • Mark Nelson, Director of the Stanford Peace Innovation Lab
  • Evelyne Tauchnitz, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Social Ethics ISE (University of Lucerne)
  • Stefaan Verhulst, Co-Founder of the Gov-Lab (NYU) and Co-Founder of the Data Tank
Moderators:
  • Andrea Calderaro, European University Institute and Cardiff University
  • Michele Giovanardi, EUI School of Transnational Governance

Table of contents

Disclaimer: This is not an official record of the IGF session. The DiploAI system automatically generates these resources from the audiovisual recording. Resources are presented in their original format, as provided by the AI (e.g. including any spelling mistakes). The accuracy of these resources cannot be guaranteed. The official record of the session can be found on the IGF's official website.

Knowledge Graph of Debate

Session report

Audience

As a representative of a youth organisation operating under the remit of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (UNDPPA), Manjia exhibits a keen interest in the role that young individuals might fulfil in the 'Tech for Peace' initiative. Her focus on youthful involvement originates from a firmly held conviction that engaging this demographic is not merely beneficial but absolutely crucial to the success of the undertaking. However, Manjia's curiosity is not limited solely to the participation; she also shows a genuine interest in uncovering and scrutinising any established best practices or forthcoming plans connected to fostering youth engagement in 'Tech for Peace'.

The term 'Peace Tech', central to this discourse, warranted clarification, provided intrepidly by the director of Access Now. This term constitutes an umbrella reference encompassing a diverse range of domains, from the advancement of human rights to the safeguarding of environmental justice. The director's commentary extended beyond mere terminological elucidation, presenting some critical perspectives concerning how 'Peace Tech' could be interpreted and utilised.

At the heart of these insights was a concern surrounding 'techno-solutionism' or the excessive dependency on digital tools and technology to address inherently complex human challenges. Arguing against the overreliance on technological solutions, the director emphasised the need for traditional peace-building efforts. Hence, he advocates embedding technical discussions within broader dialogues on peace-building and other interrelated sectors to guarantee a comprehensive approach.

These contemplations and sentiments underscore several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations. Notably, these viewpoints reflect the core aspirations of SDG 16, which promotes Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and SDG 9, oriented around Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. The dawn of digital rights and the care for 'techno-solutionism' serves to underscore the complex relationship between technology and peace-building, shedding light on the concurrent requirement for innovation and circumspection.

Evelyne Tauchnitz

The discourse principally revolved around three domains: peace, human rights, and the influence of technology. Central to the discussion was Evelyne's comprehensive definition of peace. She emphasised that peace extends beyond the mere absence of direct or physical violence. Peace should also incorporate the eradication of structural and cultural violence, forms of oppression that can prevail in society even without overt conflict.

Evelyne underscored the integral role that human rights have in defining our comprehension of peace and 'peace tech'. She identified human dignity and freedom as the cornerstone values that bind together peace and human rights. She argued that these principles ought to form the bedrock when evaluating peace technologies. The central argument was rooted in the notion that any advancement in technology should not infringe upon basic human rights under the pretext of facilitating peace. If a technology is found transgressing these human rights, its categorisation as 'peace tech' becomes problematic.

However, Evelyne expressed her concerns that not all technologies, notwithstanding being labelled as 'peace tech', necessarily harmonise with the values of peace and human rights. This suggests a need for more stringent scrutiny of such technologies and the establishment of robust standards for defining and categorising 'peace tech'.

The symbiosis between human rights and peace was further analysed, affirming that respect for human rights is indispensable but not ample for peace. Peace was envisaged as a broader concept that transcends the domain of legal enforcement of rights. In contrast, human rights were characterised as more narrow in scope, subject to legal enforceability.

An additional perspective broached was the potential paradigm shift in our perception of peace due to digital transformation. Evelyne posited, optimistically, that digital technologies could be leveraged to forge a more comprehensive peace. However, she also underlined the necessity for prudence, especially in instances such as social scoring systems, currently instrumental in China for rebuilding societal trust.

On the whole, the discussion reiterates that while technology and human rights are pivotal in shaping peace, vigilance is required to ensure that the pursuit of peace does not inadvertently engender inequality or violate fundamental human rights.

Moses Owainy

Moses Owainy, the esteemed CEO of Uganda's Centre for Multilateral Affairs, brings to light the necessity for a more diversified dialogue in peace tech, asserting the significance of integrating a multitude of global perspectives. Concentrating his argument on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 16 and 9 - namely peace, justice, strong institutions, industry, innovation and infrastructure - Owainy stresses the need to embrace a wide range of viewpoints while deliberating peace tech initiatives.

Owainy adeptly highlights a key consideration: the varying impact of peace tech in different geographical contexts. He underscores that results of these tech endeavours differ noticeably between regions such as Uganda, Kenya or Nigeria and their deployment in more advanced economies. This accentuates the pressing need for context-sensitive, adaptive approaches to peace tech in diverse socioeconomic landscapes to ensure equitable outcomes.

Simultaneously, Owainy instigates a discussion on the very terminology used in peace tech dialogue, criticising the commonly used term 'global peace'. He denotes its inherent ambiguity, advocating instead for the term 'international peace'. Owainy asserts that this revised term would better embody the collaborative efforts between various states and multi-stakeholder groups, in their shared pursuit of peace.

In conclusion, Owainy's insights guide towards a more inclusive and adaptable narrative in peace tech, suggesting a shift in terminology for clearer understanding and collaboration. His observations also underscore the need for nuanced, context-specific application of peace technologies, acknowledging regional differences and necessity of adaptability.

Marielza Oliveira

Marielza Oliveira acts in the prestigious role of Director for Digital Inclusion, Policies, and Transformation at UNESCO, guiding the organisation's endeavours towards the advancement of digital inclusion and policy transformation whilst supporting the broad Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of fostering innovation and reducing inequalities. Her work is primarily centred around the protection of two fundamental human rights: freedom of expression and the right to access information.

A crucial aspect of this role is their commitment to UNESCO's ultimate mandate; fostering peace in the minds of men and women and facilitating the unhindered flow of ideas. This aspiration is brought to fruition through various media, underlining the value UNESCO accords to the digital ecosystem.

To guarantee the regulatory approach towards internet platforms also respects this mandate, UNESCO has emphasised the necessity of regulations that uphold human rights. This conversation was furthered in its recent 'Internet for Trust' conference, demonstrating the organisation's positive sentiment towards internet regulation sensitive to human rights.

Moreover, UNESCO intends to build the capacities of stakeholders to counter digital exclusion and inequality. This ambitious goal will enable better participation in the digital ecosystem, striving for a more inclusive internet environment. These capacity-building efforts strongly align with SDGs centred on industry, innovation, and infrastructure, as well as reduced inequalities.

In regard to achieving such aims, significant results are being accomplished through multi-stakeholder approaches. These alliances involving tech companies and government agencies aim at maximising opportunities and fostering a diverse cohort of partners. Examples of these advancements include the 'AI for the Planet' project combatting climate change and the United Nations Technology Innovation Lab utilising technology innovatively to foster peace-building. 'Social Media for Peace' is another remarkable project designed to combat online polarisation.

UNESCO stresses the importance of ensuring that internet regulation does not infringe upon the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. The organisation is currently planning to release guidelines encouraging an environment of regulation that emphasises processes rather than content, promoting transparency and accountability. This approach counters potential restrictions that could limit the freedom of expression for journalists, activists, and others.

The analysis underscores UNESCO's leadership role in utilising technology and promoting digital inclusivity to achieve significant societal benefits and its commitment to embedding these principles within its operational structure and processes. It's robust standing on maintaining a balanced approach to internet regulation, which safeguards human rights whilst promoting accountability, underpins its dedication towards peace, justice, and robust institutions. Such commitment reflects the considerable correlation between UNESCO's operations and the wider SDGs.

Mark Nelson

Co-directors Mark Nelson and Margarita Quihuis are spearheading significant advancements in peace technology at both the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford and the Peace Innovation Institute in The Hague, striving to commercialise their peace technology research. This pioneering approach, utilising modern technology, aims to reshape how peace is perceived and established globally.

A fundamental component of this research is the use of sensor technology. In the last two decades, sensors capable of detecting and monitoring human social behaviour have seen groundbreaking advancements, transforming how human interactions are observed and understood in real time. This invaluable insight underpins the development of detailed peace metrics in high resolution.

The concept of 'persuasive peace' lies at the heart of their innovation, favouring influence-based strategies over conventional coercive tactics. By crafting customised approaches suited to varying individual circumstances, they are redefining how peace is achieved and maintained.

An essential element of their endeavours is to establish a essential link connecting peace technology with capital markets to create a viable 'peace finance' investment sector. They aim to capitalise on the intrinsic but often unquantifiable value of peace, setting the stage for a new era of peacekeeping and conflict resolution strategies.

To summarise, Nelson and Quihuis' groundbreaking work embodies a progressive approach to advancing the principles encapsulated in SDG 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions) and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), demonstrating the transformative power of technology in the pursuit of peace. Their efforts are leading the way in peace innovation, reshaping our understanding of peace, and developing or promulgating peace technology as a crucial aspect of infrastructure development and peacekeeping strategies.

Moderator

The debate primarily delves into the interplay between technology and peace, with a focus on the contemporary role of technology in fostering peace across varying social contexts, as evidenced through initiatives such as the Global Peace Tech Hub. This initiative, championed for advocating the responsible use of technology, centralises on the principle of instigating cross-sector dialogues and sharing enthusiasm for the possibilities that technology can provide in the attainment of peace.

The discourse also recognises the dual aspect of technology as both an agent of positive change and a potential risk. This bipolar facet of technological advancement was brought into the spotlight, with the positive influences such as the enhancement of democracy and increased access to services being weighed against the negative implications such as the promotion of misinformation and the potential to catalyse societal polarisation. Going forward, the panel agrees unanimously that strategies are required to be formulated to mitigate these risks if technology's full potential for peace promotion is to be exploited.

UNESCO's efforts at encouraging climate action with projects like AI for the Planet are highlighted as an epitome of how collaborations among diverse parties in the technological arena can result in meaningful outcomes, even when corporations are unable to commit substantial resources. The use of technology to counteract climate change receives a positive appraisal, especially when it supports initiatives that allow various actors to make a pronounced difference without substantial, long-term commitments.

Additionally, the dialogue underscored the significance of the partnership between UNESCO and the European Commission, embodied in the Social Media for Peace project. These efforts, seen as integral to initiatives such as the Internet for Trust guidelines, aim to regulate internet platforms not through content, but through process, asserting the importance of transparency and accountability in this space.

An essential reflection in the debate is the profound transformation peace technology has undergone. Innovative advancements enabling real-time analysis of human behaviour and interactions have led to a significant shift from coercive peace mechanisms towards more persuasive peace technology. This evolution has been lauded as a historic shift for the human species, opening the potential for fostering peace through persuasion rather than coercion.

The role of the youth in propelling human rights and peace movements, despite the inherent risks associated with digital activism, is highlighted. The willingness of young people from countries, including Thailand, Sudan, and the USA, to remain in the forefront of these movements, despite potential threats like spyware attacks and concerns over digital permanence, is noted.

Also significant is the sense of mistrust within certain societal factions. Phrases such as 'peace tech' and 'tech for good' are seen as potentially contributing to a trust deficit, with neither the technology sectors nor large humanitarian agencies being considered entirely trustworthy when it comes to personal data.

Finally, with the array of perspectives on peacekeeping through technology, the shared consensus was the need for continuous dialogue within the tech community. Seen as crucial to dismantle existing silos and establish a common understanding of technology's role in peace, this call for consistent multi-stakeholder dialogue served as a central theme throughout the discussion. The breadth of opinions within the peace tech community, from seeing technology as a tool for peace to viewing it as a new battleground, or even a threat to peace, further underlines the importance of these dialogues.

Speaker

The concept of peace transcends the domains of security, extending to incorporate values of freedom and equality. It constitutes a comprehensive vision for societies' development that endeavours to eliminate all forms of violence - direct, structural, and cultural. However, this idealistic vision can face threats from inappropriate use of technology. Instances where technologies infringe upon human rights pose a significant issue for peace and security on a global scale. Regrettably, the notion of peace can be misappropriated as a brand for technologies that may not contribute to harmonious societies.

Concurrently, recognising the potential of technological advancements, the United Nations is diligently prioritising digital transformation and technology. The UN Secretary General has been vigorous in advocating for this priority, particularly within the realm of cyber security. A testament to this focused effort is the creation of the Office of the Technology Envoy, established to champion these changes on a grand scale. Indeed, there's a burgeoning understanding of the need for the UN Security Council to incorporate the monitoring of digital and cyber roles into their mandates, signalling the significance placed on technology in global security guidelines.

Nevertheless, amid these advancements, concerns regarding the right to access the internet and freedom of expression persist as substantial challenges in the digital era. Access Now, a focused human rights organisation, primarily champions these digital rights. Incidents like the deployment of spyware during the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict highlight how tech misuse can affect peace negotiators and exacerbate conflicts. Furthermore, the role of social media platforms in content governance can hold far-reaching implications during crisis times, a stern reminder that technology can be a double-edged sword. In extreme situations, internet shutdowns have inflicted harm on human rights and obstructed conflict resolution.

Indeed, human rights are a necessary condition for peace. Nonetheless, peace as a concept demands a more comprehensive understanding and acceptance, exceeding that of human rights alone. Concord isn't exclusively about respect for human rights but also significantly involves the mechanisms and ethics by which specific political decisions are made.

The digitisation of society could conceivably impact our comprehension and notion of peace. Young individuals are poised to play a key role within this transformative process. Impressively, youth across the globe are already spearheading movements championing human rights and peace, frequently risking their personal safety in pursuit of these causes.

Nevertheless, a pronounced trust deficit exists towards tech sectors and large humanitarian agencies handling personal data. Passive monitoring via ubiquitous sensors is viewed as a threat, illuminating the public's discomfort with potential breaches of privacy. This underlines the challenge of striking a balance between leveraging technological advances and safeguarding human rights and security. Thus, whilst digital advancement offers vast potential for societal development, it is crucial to remain cognisant of their inherent risks to maintain peace, justice, and strong institutions.

Speakers

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Audience

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188 words per minute

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436 words

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139 secs

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Evelyne Tauchnitz

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179 words per minute

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1579 words

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529 secs

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Marielza Oliveira

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1068 words

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487 secs

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Mark Nelson

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902 words

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325 secs

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Moderator

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3134 words

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Moses Owainy

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154 words per minute

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519 words

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202 secs

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149 words per minute

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1782 words

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