Led by the UN’s Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) and organised by the ICT4Peace Foundation, the 2014 Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) meeting was held on 23rd and 24th June in Glen Cove, New York. Representatives from OICT, OCHA, UNOCC, ICTD/DFS, UN Global Pulse, UNHCR, DPKO-DFS UNDP/BCPR, UNICEF/ITSS, UNICEF/Innovation Unit, WFP, EOSG, UNDP/BCPR (Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery) and DPA/EO/IMT participated along with, on the second day, representatives from Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Amnesty International USA, The Resolve LRA Crisis Initiative, NYU and Storyful. UNHCHR and UNOSAT, who took part in the CiMAG retreat in 2013, sent regrets on their inability to participate on account of scheduling conflicts.
The Foundation is pleased to note the launch of OCHA’s new humanitarian data platform, HDX. Shown a preview of it some weeks ago, the Foundation believes HDX – well beyond the humanitarian sector per se – is a long overdue yet absolutely critical foundation in systemic interoperability and information sharing, for the UN family and beyond.
OCHA’s HDX team has put together a short animation and interactive demonstration to introduce the platform. You can also follow HDX at @humdata and join the conversation using #HumanitarianData. Sign up to receive blog updates and register as a user of the platform. The most recent blog post provides a great overview of the data already included in HDX.
The ICT4Peace Foundation has championed the concept behind HDX from the time of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when we recommended the use of APIs to connect both the UN family as well as the V&TC community around disaster response. The Foundation has, as part of the United Nations CiM process, also worked closely with OCHA for years to support the development of HXL, and importantly, raise awareness around possible use cases within and outside the UN. Information featured in HDX will also come from OCHA’s COD/FOD datasets, which the ICT4Peace Foundation helped support and develop.
Warmly congratulating OCHA on the public launch of HDX, we look forward to supporting the UN and the broader volunteer and technical community around technical challenges that are for us central to on-going efforts to protect lives and help communities at risk help themselves.
The Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore has invited Daniel Stauffacher of ICT4Peace to participate in an international workshop on “Confidence Building Measures and Norms for Cybersecurity and the Future of Internet Governance” on 3-4 July 2014 in Singapore.
In a panel discussion on efforts of International Organisations and NGOs in Developing CBMs, Daniel was asked to talk about the Role of Civil Society in Furthering CBMs. His intervention can be summarised as follows:
“The uncertainty in the international environment provoked by important geo-political shifts has added to the sense of complexity and mistrust surrounding discussions and debates on ‘cyberspace’ and the uses of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for attaining political, military or economic advantage. This reality has undermined confidence and trust between states, and between states and citizens.
Civil society participation (whether direct or indirect) in the development of national cybersecurity strategies or in regional and international CBM processes has been minimal, if anything, despite the fact that civil society organisations, as well as business and academia, are fundamental to resolving many of the core technical problems inherent in the ICT environment on the one hand, and many of the insecurities inherent in inter and intra-state relations on the other.
Despite these challenges, 2013 saw important breakthroughs in this regard. First, the UN GGE Report formally acknowledged the role of civil society in the area of building cooperation for a peaceful, secure, resilient, and open ICT environment; and the role of civil society (as well as that of the private sector) in supporting government efforts in developing and implementing CBMs and exchanging information. And while the 2013 OSCE PC Decision on an Initial Set of CBMs to Reduce the Risks of Conflict Stemming from the Use of ICTs does not make any mention of a role for civil society, the norm of involving civil society in CBM processes is well ingrained in the OSCE’s working culture.
Daniel then discussed, what role civil society (and business) play in furthering cybersecurity-related CBMs, particularly given these breakthroughs? A range of options were set in the presentation under three over-lapping rubrics i) Transparency and Accountability; ii) Participation; and iii) Deepening the Knowledge Base. The examples drew from a range of ICT4 Peace’s own experiences in the area of CBM development and implementation, and from other policy areas where civil society has made important CBM-related contributions.”
Daniel Stauffacher’s presentation can be found here.
Also on the panel were Ms. Zhang Jing from the Office of Cyber Affairs, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke about the recent report of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cybersecurity and Ben Baseley-Walker of UNIDIR, Geneva, gave a multilateral perspective on Cyber CBM’s.
Read a compilation of the ICT4Peace Foundation’s key output and activities over the past two months here, covering big data, cyber-security norms, the use of ICTs for peacebuilding and crisis information management.
On 19 June 2012 ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher was invited by Oxford University’s Framework for Responsible Research & Innovation in ICT (FRRIICT) Project to participate in a panel discussion at the Science Museum in London on ‘How to innovate responsibly in a digital world?’
The event was opened by a keynote address by Sir Nigel Shadbold (University of Southampton).
The panel discussion focussed inter alia on the question: ‘What are socially desirable and acceptable developments and uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)?’
Lizzie Coles Kemp (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Daniel Stauffacher (ICT4Peace Foundation)
Derek MacAulay (Horizon Institute, University of Nottingham)
John Hand (EPSRC)
Anthony House (Google)
Judy Wajcman (London School of Economics)
Daniel Stauffacher introduced first the work of ICT4Peace since 2003, and mentioned some examples of the use of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict. In particular for identifying conflict situations through early warning systems, supporting humanitarian action, including protection of civilians in armed conflicts, facilitating peacekeeping missions, and assisting post conflict peace-building and reconstruction.
He explained how Open Government Data can help Crisis Information Management and Aid Efficiency. He then discussed the need for data protection and the development and application of “do no harm principles” when using ICT’s in human rights protection work, protection of civilians in a humanitarian crisis. He introduced some examples of existing and emerging codes of conduct, such as regarding the usage of SMS in humanitarian disasters (by e.g. GSMA), managing sensitive protection information (by ICRC), or regarding the usage of civilian UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).
Finally he presented the recent work of ICT4Peace in developing possible Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to be applied in the Cyberspace among States and Training Courses for Diplomats, Government Officials, business and civil society representatives, with a view to support the ongoing international cyber security negotiations.
The event was organized by Marina Jirotka and Grace Eden from the University of Oxford (PI) and Bernd Stahl from De Montfort University (CI).
Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation, gave a presentation on big data and data science at the invitation of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in New York on 25th June 2014.
The brown-bag session, attended by over 45 people from various departments and agencies at the UN in New York, was focussed on the following brief provided by DPA:
New web and mobile-based media and information dissemination platforms are constantly evolving and producing increasing amounts of content, much of which makes up what is often called “Big Data.” This unprecedented development has inevitably led to some vital questions. For example, can Big Data and the new media that both creates and disseminates it be used in crisis situations? Does Big Data disempower local communities as much as it democratizes data analysis? How can it help communities to mitigate, respond and recover from conflicts and disasters? What about its relationship to privacy and the potential misuse of information? The presentation will focus on these issues by seeking to explore ways in which information communication technologies (ICTs) can be used to aid DPA’s work, particularly in early warning and crisis mitigation and response.
Sanjana’s presentation focussed on how in Sri Lanka’s most recent communal violence, social media provided the first and best insights into the unfolding ground conditions, when official sources and mainstream media were silent. For the sake of the presentation, dividing big data between user generated content (UGC) and sensor data, Sanjana looked at how both are contributing to new ways of engaging with the world as well as adding to existing challenges around privacy, human rights and surveillance. Sanjana also looked at how big data is changing national and regional politics, and how elections in India recently as well as in other countries are now anchored to data driven decisions in electioneering and campaigning – the content around which had enduring implications for democracy and governance.
Eschewing the frequently held assumption that massive institutional investments in data science on an algorithmic or system intelligence level alone (e.g. by purchasing expensive platforms for big data collection, analysis and visualisation) was enough to leverage actionable intelligence from big data, Sanjana also flagged black swan events which remained extremely hard to identify and predict. Examples in this regard were social media content generation around the military coup in Thailand, the phenomenon of geo-remixing (of Pharell’s Happy music video) and the commemoration of Tiananmen Square violence in China 25 years ago, where if one didn’t know what to look out for and where to look, social resistance around official edicts go under the radar, which for DPA alone could mean that social agitation and nascent civil society resistance around the status quo could go undervalued and until much later, unnoticed.
Anchored to the Foundation’s core interest in Big Data, Sanjana ended by raising some rights based and ethical challenges around the generation and use of Big Data in polity and society, especially when so much of it is in the control of corporate entities.
Some photos from the presentation can be seen here.
In preparation of the Review of the outcome of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis by the UN General Assembly in fall 2014, the UN – in a remarkable multi-stakeholder process by Governments and Civil Society – reaffirmed last week in Geneva the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict.
In the Preamble of the Outcome Document of June 2014 the UN inter alia states:
“The information and communication technologies (ICTs) have also demonstrated their value as a facilitator and development enabler in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, major challenges still lay ahead for counteracting the wide disparities in development and enabling all groups and all countries to benefit from universal access to information and knowledge. Moreover reaping the benefit of ICTs use has yet not been shared in all countries proportionately. In particular we reaffirm paragraph 36 of the Tunis Commitment regarding the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict.”
The referenced Paragraph 36 of the WSIS Tunis Commitment in 2005 reads as follows:
“We (the Heads of States and Government) 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.”
The new paragraph in the June 2014 Outcome document as well as paragraph 36 of the WSIS Tunis Commitment of 2005 was proposed for adoption by ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher.
The latter based on the findings of the ground-breaking report by ICT4Peace: 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 Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey. The report mapped out different possible uses of ICT in the areas of early warning and conflict prevention, mediation operations and support, protection of civilians and post-conflict reconstruction. Cross-cutting areas such as the use of the internet, the role of the media, technical development, networking and learning were also investigated. The report was published as part of the UN ICT Task Force Series.
ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher was invited by the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, P.R. China to chair a panel at the Senior-level International Workshop on Information and Cyber Security, co-organized between China and the UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, and the and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, New York Beijing 5 – 6 June 2014.
The following countries participated in the workshop: Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uzbekistan.
In an open and frank manner, the workshop discussions built on the ongoing work of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cyber Security 1) in New York, and included a lively debate of burning issues, such as establishing norms of responsible state behavior in the cyberspace (e.g. in view of possible attacks on critical infrastructure, violation of data protection rights, freedom of information) and the urgent need for Confidence Building Measures (CBM) for the Cyberspace among states. In this context the ongoing regional activities, e.g. at OSCE and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), but also in Africa and Latin America were discussed.
In addition, capacity-building measures, that are needed to enable all regions of the world, and especially less developed countries to build capacities for better cyber security and participate in the emerging global negotiations were called for. In this regard the newly launched ICT4Peace Training Programme for government officials, private sector and civil society representatives on “International Cybersecurity Negotiations“ was announced.
Daniel Stauffacher’s panel focussed on Building Regional Dialogue, Cooperation and Capacity and covered inter alia the following topics: The cyberspace has witnessed energetic efforts from regional exchanges and cooperation. What progress has been made at the regional level? Which areas are calling for our additional attention? What is the relationship between regional efforts and international processes ? How to coordinate them ?
The panelists were:
Ms. Shariffa Rashidah SYED OTHMAN, Principal Assistant Secretary, Cyber and Space Security Division, National Security Council, Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia
Ms. Jooyeon Ellen KANG, Deputy Director of International Security Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Korea
Mr. Du Yuejin, Director, National Institute of Network and Information Security, China
Ambassador Jan Biggs, Assistant Secretary, International Security Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia
Ms. Olivia Preston, Assistant Director, International Relations Office for Cyber Security and Information Assurance, Cabinet Office, UK.
1) Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security (A/68/98*).
Some photos from the event can be seen below, or here.
For additional information regarding the work of the ICT4Peace Foundation in the field of Rights and Security in the Cyberspace please refer to the following recent publications:
- ICT4Peace Seoul Statement on Cybersecurity
- The Reach of Soft Power in Responding to International Cybersecurity Challenges
- ICT4Peace Global Dialogue on Confidence Building Measures and International Cyber Security
- The dramatic rise of cyber-attacks: What are Governments doing about it?
- What Next? Building Confidence Measures for the Cyberspace
- Confidence Building in Cyberspace: Constructive work by UN experts
- ‘Jaw Jaw’ is better than ‘War War’: International Security in Cyberspace
- Cyber Security takes the UN floor
UNICEF recently featured Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation, in a podcast that looked at how technology was helping strengthen peacebuilding.
Talking about how technology has changed the way we monitor peace, Mr. Hattotuwa says that internet, social media platforms and mobile phones are providing the opportunity for billions of citizens around the world not just to consume information but also to produce it.
Moreover, technology is allowing us to bear witness regardless of where and who we are.
“Bearing witness is an active process, because it takes courage to do it. It is not a passive scene – it is observing; it is an act that you chose to do,” Mr. Hattotuwa says. “You are also adding to a body of knowledge, and, in the future, that can be very useful in helping understand why something happened around that time. So the technology is not only changing the way we see the world, but also how we engage, respond to and recover from violent conflict.”
The podcast also features Christopher Tuckwood, executive director and co-founder of the Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention, a Toronto-based organization dedicated to predicting and preventing mass atrocities through the innovative use of technology and cooperation with threatened communities.
Listen to the full programme and read the complete article around it here.