Reinventing How We Live Together

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(Photo Credit: “Grime and Communication” by thaths Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY 2.0). Accessed 03/18/2015.)

From Occupy to Podemos to #IllRideWithYou, initiatives for change and civic engagement are increasingly happening outside of established institutions. By leveraging technologies that amplify people’s voices, these new initiatives are more inclusive, more dynamic, and more meaningful on the ground. We see the links between civic engagement and peacebuilding, including the positive function technology can play by broadening avenues for discourse. It is our view that this new paradigm for peacebuilding is parallel to this new paradigm for civic engagement. While many challenges remain, technology enables this paradigm shift, even if it does not necessarily cause it.

Read the full article Reinventing How We Live Together on Building Peace.

Helena Puig Larrauri is a peacebuilding practitioner focusing on the use of technology to promote peace and prevent conflict. She is a co-organizer of Build Peace and co-founder of Build Up , and she is on the Board of Advisers of the Standby Task Force, which she co-founded in 2010.

Sanjana Hattotuwa is the Founding Editor of Groundviews, an award-winning citizen journalism initiative based in Sri Lanka and a Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation since 2006.

The Government of Kenya and ICT4Peace Foundation co-organize the first Regional Training Workshop in Africa on International Security and Diplomacy in Cyberspace

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The ICT4Peace Foundation is honored to have been invited by the Government of Kenya to co-host the first regional training workshop in Africa (2 to 3 March 2015) on International Security and Diplomacy in Cyberspace with over 30 participants (Diplomats, Legal, Security and Technical Staff) from 12 African Countries, the African Union, and Civil Society Representatives. The workshop was co-chaired with Dr. Katherine Getao, Secretary, ICT Authority of Kenya. The Governments of Kenya, the UK, Germany and Switzerland supported the workshop course financially and with lecturers.

This new cyber security capacity building program was developed by the ICT4Peace Foundation as a direct follow-up to some of the recommendations tabled in the 2013 Report of the “UN Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (UN GGE)” and the Seoul Conference on Cyberspace of the London Process, held in October 2013.

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The first training workshop of this kind was organized by ICT4Peace and the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Bogota for 24 Latin American Countries on 18 to 20 November 2014.

The Long Term Objectives of the Workshop Course are:

  • Mitigating risks to both rights and security in the cyber-sphere through the promotion of international norms of responsible state behavior, confidence-building measures (CBMs), and international cooperation. The expected long-term impact will be: More inclusive and knowledge-based debates, consultations or negotiations with and by all regions on norms and CBMs, with all stake-holders: governments, industry, civil society, and academia; More agreements at bilateral, regional at global level on norms, CBMs and international cooperation; Progress towards a sustained open, prosperous, trustworthy, safe and secure cyberspace;

The Short Term Objectives are:

  • A better and more detailed understanding by public officials, diplomats, industry, civil society representatives from all regions of the world of international norms of responsible State behavior, CBMs and international cooperation in cyberspace, to broaden the participation in the international debates and regional and global negotiations in fora such as the London Process, UN GGE, OSCE, ASEAN, OAS, in the EU, the AU and AfricaCert;
  • A better understanding of the concerns, best practices, policies and institutional arrangements in the field of cyber security at the regional level;

The Course Content:

  • The course provided an introduction to the subject of international cyber security negotiation efforts at the global and regional level. Participants were exposed to the context in which cyber security is being addressed in global fora, such as the UN GGE, OSCE, ARF. The specific topics of International Law and Norms of Responsible State Behaviour as well as Confidence Building Measures (CBMs). An exercise provided an active learning opportunity. The course provided an opportunity for participants and lecturers to discuss and learn of African cyber security-related concerns, best practices and policies.

Photos from the workshop can be viewed here.

The UN’s Human Rights Up Front initiative: Embracing ICTs

Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor, ICT4Peace Foundation, was invited by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to a strategic workshop on the Human Rights Up Front (HRUF) review of current UN monitoring and reporting on violations and the establishment of a Common UN Information Management System.

The workshop was held on 26-27 Febuary 2015 in Geneva. Representatives from many leading UN departments and agencies were present.

Sanjana was asked to lead a session on the second day of the workshop on how Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) could assist and strengthen a common operational framework, situational awareness and information exchange around human rights within the UN family, as well as bringing into the UN architectures information from the public domain – in line with the thrust of the UN HRUF initiative.

Sanjana presented an overview of some of the ways through which ICTs, in the broadest sense, had already impacted the domain of human rights protection and monitoring. After the presentation, there was discussion around the very aspects and issues the ICT4Peace Foundation has been engaged with as part of the UN’s Crisis Information Management strategy, since 2008. Questions around verification (generating actionable intelligence from the tsunami of unverified information in the public domain), the challenges around managing big data, how to overcome institutional mandates through the use of technology, forward thinking governance mechanisms as well as more technical and technological queries came up. One participant said that in response to a question raised on the first day (what do communities do when the UN isn’t around to strengthen civilian protection and human rights) the ICT4Peace Foundation’s presentation provided the answers, in terms of the ICTs already used by varied stakeholders engaged in work allied with OHCHR.

The ICT4Peace Foundation has since 2014 actively engaged with key members of the UN HRUF’s team around the design and implementation of a framework, supported by ICTs, to highlight key human rights concerns in the UN’s decision and policy making. The Foundation’s relationship with OHCHR extends over several years, and have focused on two key aspects: The need to critically observe and engage with developments in social and new media and secondly – given the increasing surveillance of human rights defenders and the myriad of ways through which ICTs can be used to spread hate, hurt and harm – how new tools can aid vital communications in fragile and violent contexts.

Sanjana’s presentation at the the HRUF workshop in Geneva is embedded below, and can also be accessed here.

Welcoming the timely release of UN’s Performance Peacekeeping Report

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The ICT4Peace Foundation welcomes the release of the UN’s ‘Performance Peacekeeping’ Report, looking at the how technology in general and ICTs in particular can strengthen the mandate of the UN’s peacekeeping efforts and missions. The Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping was launched by Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Ameerah Haq Under-Secretary-General, Department of Field Support, and chaired by Jane Holl Lute. The ICT4Peace Foundation was closely consulted in the creation of this report, which we feel reflects the ideas and recommendations the Foundation has, over many years, urged the UN to embrace as part of its Crisis Information Management (CiM) portfolio.

From the Foundation’s perspective, this report by the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping, complements the UN Secretary General’s report of 10 October 2014 on Information and Communication Technology in the United Nations (A/69/517), to better exploit the enormous potential of ICTs for decision-making and delivery capacity of the United Nations in the areas of peace and security, humanitarian operations and development, human rights and international law.

‘Performance Peacekeeping’ reflects many months of hard work and intensive consultations. The Foundation has met with members of the Panel and its Secretary repeatedly in New York and Berlin, providing input based on years of working with UN peacekeeping missions around info-sec, and the use of ICTs for situational awareness, crisis management and strategic communications. Just a few weeks before the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the Foundation undertook a mission to work with MINUSTAH with the UN’s Chief Information Technology Officer. This mission led to, unexpectedly, the exploration of new ways around how information from within the UN and importantly, from outside it, could help disaster resilience, response and recovery – ideation at the time that was path-breaking. It also lead to the development of the UN SG’s Crisis Information Management Stratgy (CiMS) in 2010. In 2014, at the invitation of the UN’s DFS, the Foundation undertook a week’s mission to MONUSCO  which also involved training around CiM and the facilitation of conversations around the very tools, principles and recommendations presented in ‘Performance Peacekeeping’.

In June 2014, Daniel Stauffacher was invited to meet with the Expert Panel at the Centre of International Peace Operations, ZIF in Berlin, around the following questions,

  • What available  technologies  have  the  potential  for  improving  the  conduct of peace operations?
  • (How) are they employed by the United Nations and other organizations? What lessons have been learned?
  • What are the challenges evolving around the use of these technologies? How can they be addressed properly?

As we noted at the time,

Decision makers increasingly rely on high quality, near real-time data to inform operational and administrative decision-making. The data that is fed into information management tools can come from various sources. At the operational level, this data might be captured by reports from peacekeepers in the field, GPS tracks or satellite data. In addition, “crowdsourcing” can play an important role. Cell phones and smart phones, now cheaper and more available to the average citizen, can produce and transmit decentralized/public data, to produce reports on violence or damaged infrastructure.

These points are echoed in the Expert Panel’s final report.

The report’s emphasis on interoperability is a key determinant in the Foundation’s own substantive input to the UN’s peacekeeping divisions in particular, and the UN system writ large, based on the belief that in order for the institution’s many faces to work as a single responsive, agile, effective and efficient entity, the sharing of information in a timely manner is deeply entwined with its mission. We have trained UN staff around ISR technologies, including open source information verification, data visualisation and mapping. ‘Performance Peacekeeping’ flags the need for standardised mobile telephony and Internet access to augment, especially during crises, proprietary communications infrastructures and platforms by various peacekeeping actors. Combined with surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tools, working with, inter alia, open source information sources, the Foundation is pleased that the authors of the report acknowledge how much can be done using tools that are today either open source, freely available online or can be, with little to no cost in most instances, adapted and adopted for peacekeeping purposes – along with obviously larger and deeper investments around information management at the enterprise level.

The Foundation is particularly pleased to note the emphasis on innovation, and in particular a culture of innovation within the UN’s peacekeeping sector. The UN Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) – (see UN Secretary General’s Report to the General Assembly of 10 October 2014 on Information and Communication Technology in the United Nations (A/69/517), led by the Chief of the UN’s Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) Ms. Atefeg Riazi, and since 2008, actively facilitated by the Foundation – has for years explored and highlighted innovations from the crisis mapping community as well as private sector that can help strengthen the UN’s mandate. DFS and DPKO are lively participants in these dialogues at CiMAG.

The Foundation supports many of the key recommendations in the ‘Performance Peacekeeping’ report, some of which are highlighted here:

  • DPKO and DFS should work with UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes and other humanitarian actors in the field to establish a common information exchange policy and protocols sensitive to humanitarian principles, to enhance common situational awareness and understanding,and explore the use of available inter-agency data-sharing tools.
  • Every mission should undertake a comprehensive review (at least) annually of its information priorities, as well as its information gathering, management, analysis and dissemination practices as measured against those priorities.
  • To enable missions to make better immediate use of open source information, the UN should reiterate the policy that lifts Internet restrictions for those engaged in open source information collection, and provide training on basic cyber security and ethics protocols. It should also ensure that open source analytic tools are immediately available and accessible to those whose core business requires them.
  • Peacekeeping missions should seek to incorporate technology in the design and implementation of protection of civilians strategies, in particular their early warning and early response mechanisms.
  • Missions must take care to protect sensitive information as well as the privacy of particularly vulnerable individuals in protection scenarios.
  • DPKO and DFS should partner with—and learn from—others innovating within the UN system and with external leaders in technology and innovation.
  • DPKO and DFS should establish a dedicated office for technology and innovation, supported by a small advisory group and field-based innovation incubators, together with a small cadre of “technology scouts”, designated centres of excellence within the UN and an “idea factory”.
  • DPKO and DFS should commit to a broad programme of continuous learning and training, and the establishment of forums where new technologies or innovations could be presented and discussed.

The Foundation looks forward to working with our partners in the UN to substantively implement these recommendations, and others around ICTs, in the peacekeeping domain.

UN General Assembly and UN Secretary General take important steps to improve Crisis Information Management

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The UN General Assembly in December 2014 approved the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy, to better exploit the enormous potential of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) for decision-making and delivery capacity of the United Nations in the areas of peace and security, humanitarian operations and development, human rights and international law. The strategy is contained in the SG’s report of 10 October 2014 on Information and Communication Technology in the United Nations (A/69/517), that can be found here.

The ASG UN Chief Information and Communication Technology Officer (UN CITO) Ms. Atefeh Riazi and her Office are responsible for the implementation of the Secretary General’s strategy.

The ICT4Peace Foundation, with the financial support of the Governments of Switzerland, Sweden and private Foundations is honoured to have been supporting since 2008 the UN CITO and UN Organisations such as OCHA, DPKO/DFS, UNHCR, OHCHR, WFP, UNICEF, UNDP etc. to improve the UN Crisis Information Management System (CiMS). See the activities of ICT4Peace here.

The Report notes:

“The Secretary-General recognizes the enormous potential of information and communications technology to strengthen the decision-making and delivery capacity of the Secretariat. It is of paramount importance to the Secretary-General to ensure that the technology environment, for which the Chief Information Technology Officer is responsible, fully supports the work of the United Nations in the areas of peace and security, development, human rights and international law, among other mandates. That requires continued focus on successfully delivering existing priority initiatives (such as the enterprise resource planning project, Umoja), as well as a fundamental shift in the approach to, and structure of, information and communications technology systems throughout the Organization. In the past, technology has been regarded as a utility which is separate from substantive business. However, technology and business are not mutually exclusive, they are inextricably linked.”

 

“The purpose of the strategy is to strengthen, and provide a common vision for, the delivery of information and communications technology in the United Nations through modernization, transformation and innovation and by providing a framework for improved governance, strong leadership and optimal use of information and communications technology resources”

 

“The (UN) Office of Information and Communications Technology will explore opportunities to develop capacity in analytics and potential means of collaboration with other United Nations entities throughout the global ICT community on the development of analytics solutions to allow for operational flexibility in support of the delivery of their mandates. Analytics could assist in crisis management efforts and the Office would seek to work with the Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) to seek to explore this further.”

The UN CiMAG has been co-organized by the UN OICT and the ICT4Peace Foundation since 2008.

Subsequently, the General Assembly in its resolution dated 26 December (A/C.5/69/L.26*) welcomed the new Information and Communications Technology Strategy in the United Nations, as contained in the report of the Secretary-General, and requested him to provide, in 2015, detailed information on the implementation of all the elements of the proposed new strategy, including an implementation plan, with clear timeline, a list of strategic information and communications technology goals linked to the overall goals of the Organization, a list of ongoing and future strategic information and communications technology initiatives supporting those goals and their costs, benchmarks and deliverables to measure their performance, expected benefits and risks as well as an indicative five-year overall information and communications technology budget projection for the Secretariat.

The General Assembly called on the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to reduce the level of fragmentation of the current information and communications technology environment across the Secretariat and at all duty stations and field missions.

The text of Resolution of the General Assembly can be found here (A/C.5/69/L.26*).

 

 

ICT4Peace Annual Cybersecurity “State of Play” Review

On 20-21 January 2015, the ICT4Peace Foundation organised a workshop hosted by ETH on ‘Cybersecurity Processes and Events.’ The objective of the workshop was to set the parameters for its Annual Cybersecurity ‘State of Play’ Review.

The Annual Review – which will build on the Baseline Review ICT4Peace released in April 2014 – will provide an update of the current state of play regarding ICT-related threats and risks and how these are informing or influencing different governmental and non-governmental processes and initiatives aimed at reducing risk and fostering stability at the international and regional levels. It will be launched in July 2015.

The workshop – made possible with the generous support of Zurich Insurance Group – was attended by academic, policy, tech, business and government experts from a number of countries including Brazil, Canada, China, Estonia, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Institutions and organizations represented included ETH, Cambridge University, MIT-CSAIL, King’s College London, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Temple University, University College London, China’s Institute for International Relations, IISS, publicknolwedge.org, the George C. Marshall Institute, Microsoft, Zurich Insurance Group, the Organisation of American States (OAS), OSCE, UN, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland and the Netherlands and Switzerland’s Ministry of Defence.

Some photos from the event are embedded below.

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Annual consultations in Geneva around CiM, innovation and human rights

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Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation, met with Chad Hendrix, Patrick Gordon, members of the UN Information Management Working Group (IMWG), the ICRC’s Tarun Sarwal and Gulheim Ravier and finally with key staff from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) on issues anchored to crisis information management (CiM), human rights, innovation, governance and technology development in support of, inter alia, humanitarian aid, civilian protection and peacekeeping.

With Chad Hendrix, Sanjana talked about the progress of UN OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) project writ large and the further development of the Humanitarian Exchange Language (HXL) in particular. The Foundation has championed the use of HXL and supported its development and adoption for a number of years, including by introducing it to the wider UN at consecutive annual retreats of the UN’s Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) – see here and here. The Foundation is particular pleased to note the advances in the adoption of HXL during and as part of the UNMEER response to combat Ebola. For 2015’s CiMAG retreat, the Foundation hopes to showcase this use case of HXL in UNMEER as an example of how the CiM framework’s data architecture can aid efficient and effective systemic response from the UN family, and beyond.

With Patrick Gordon, Sanjana broached issues related to the up-coming Conference on Humanitarian Data, and in particular, issues related to information security (info-sec) from a field perspective as well as from the Foundation’s global expertise in cyber-security. Sanjana also flagged the Foundation’s involvement in the UAViator’s network, and its keen interest in the development of rights-based frameworks around humanitarian data and the use of public domain information in general in order to strengthen privacy and protect individuals from hate, harm and hurt.

With the UN’s Inter-Agency Information Management Working Group (IMWG) Data Sub-Group members, Sanjana discussed the Foundation’s support towards a humanitarian caseload data initiative that aimed at providing a more effective means of estimating, inter alia, the affected population in order to channel aid and relief in a timely manner. The Foundation will support a renowned consultant to work with OCHA to develop frameworks and guiding principles to more concretely determine numbers of those affected, using knowledge from a range of disciplines and across relevant actors in the UN system.

At the ICRC, Sanjana met with Tarun Sarwal and Gulheim Ravier, who are both part of the institution’s Global Partnership for Humanitarian Impact and Innovation (GPHI2). The conversations ranged from how innovation could be harnessed by the protection and other units within the ICRC to strengthen the institution’s mandate as well as issues like information security, the verification of social media and the use of social media to more effectively communicate the ICRC’s enduring relevance and work to a demographic that isn’t consuming news and information from traditional media sources. Sanjana also discussed how the Foundation could support the development of new IT systems to strengthen data analytics, deep machine learning and data driven visualisations, which could aid the protection unit as well as other arms of the ICRC.

The Foundation’s interactions with the OHCHR go back a number of years. Sanjana met with key staff from the OHCHR’s Peace Mission Support and Rapid Response Section. Several discussions with the PMSRRS have occurred since 2012 on ways to support OHCHR’s mandate with the use of ICTs. Over a two and a half hour meeting, Sanjana discussed on-going work around the UN Secretary General’s Rights Up Front initiative, and how from a ICT systems perspective, the OHCHR could support the SG in developing timely, effective frameworks to embrace more fully the importance of human rights in the UN’s response to crises. The Foundation was also invited to attend a workshop in this regard, planned to be held in late February, around how the OHCHR can develop comprehensive frameworks, leveraging existing investments in ICTs by other arms of the UN family, to more fully mainstream human rights at the country level, and in New York.

In all the discussions, the UN CITO’s report to the 5th Committee and the UN General Assembly (Information and communications technology in the United Nations) was flagged. The CITO’s report, which was approved by the General Assembly, underscores the importance of analytics in support of strengthening the UN’s mandates and flags, in paragraph 37, the work of the UN’s Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG).

Analytics could assist in crisis management efforts and the Office would seek to work with the Crisis Information Management Advisory Group to seek to explore this further. Analytics have already made a positive impact on the ability of the Organization to predict or forecast events better.

In the consultations in Geneva, this report was flagged as one that validated the work of the Foundation with the UN system, since 2008, around the development of a system-wide crisis information management strategy.

The consultations in Geneva will fertilise the themes and issues that the CiMAG meeting, later this year, will focus on and, five years after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, remind us of two things – how much progress has been made around all aspects of crisis information management, and how much more remains to be done, in light of a context where it is no longer the technology that is holding back progress.

International Geneva launches Geneva Cybersecurity Days

10 January 2014: The ICT4Peace Foundation is honoured to have been invited  to join the The Geneva Internet Platform, the Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN, DCAF, the GCSP, DiploFoundation, the University of Geneva, and other partners, to launch a series of events throughout 2015, entitled Geneva Cybersecurity Days. The series will bring together representatives of states; international organisations; experts; the corporate, academic, and technical sectors; and civil society, to discuss various challenges at national, regional, and global level related to cybersecurity. The Geneva Cybersecurity Days should increase awareness and further develop a global response to cybersecurity challenges along the lines of the Geneva Message on Strengthening Internet Governance.

The first Geneva Cybersecurity Day will take place on 15 January. Venue: DiploFoundation, 7 bis, Avenue de la Paix, Geneva (2nd floor). For further details of the Programme please refer to here.

The experts of the ICT4Peace Foundation have been active in this emerging field since several years with advising Governments and International Organisations, organising Conferences, participating in intergovernmental dialogues and first of all publishing cutting edge and forward looking reports on cybersecurity affairs. A few examples of our activities can be found here. Some publications can also be found here.

Call for deeper engagement by all for the peaceful use of ICTs in 2015

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

2014 has again been a busy year for all those working on ICTs to safe lives and protect human dignity as well as to maintain international peace and security. The ICT4Peace Foundation thanks all those for their tireless efforts and looks forward to further engagement with its growing network of governmental and non-governmental partners on these topics in 2015.

At the same time, ICT4 Peace urges even deeper engagement by others – parliamentarians, the private sector, civil society organisations as well as citizens themselves – on domestic and international agendas focused on promoting the peaceful use of ICTs. Such engagement can provide much-needed technical and normative support to government efforts in this area, while also ensuring more effective oversight of public policy decisions that ultimately effect us all.

The ICT4Peace Foundation

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