ICT4Peace on Strategic Communications in UN Peace Operations

ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher was invited by the US Institute for Peace and Folke Bernadotte Academy to participate in a Challenges Forum workshop on Strategic Communications in UN Peace Operations on 23 June 2015 in Washington DC.

“Peace operations do not generally succeed through the threat or actual use of military force alone. UN peace operations strive to combine its unique mixture of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ power to create peace and stability. UN missions have begun to move from crisis communications and more classic 20th Century public information capacities to a more modern strategic communications approach, underpinned by segmented audience targeting, regularly refined and adjusted and supported by the use of digital, social and other new media as well as more traditional forms of outreach. But a decisively more strategic approach is urgently required if UN peacekeeping is to succeed in accomplishing its Security Council mandated tasks and missions.”

The Agenda of the workshop can be found here, and Daniel Stauffacher’s presentation here.

The main points of the Foundation’s input, the concept and content of which was fleshed out by Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor, ICT4Peace Foundation, can be summarised as follows:

There is an essential symbiosis between Strategic Communications to put out verified information out to the public to inform and to quell rumours, misinformation, disinformation


Crisis Information Management in the service of getting more reliable and timely information around a particular context, region, actor, process or incident to make decisions to (1) protect the peace or humanitarian mission and the victims and (2) reporting,

With Crisis Information Management (CiM), we mean both information generation (output) and well as information ingestion (input, from UN sources, crowdsourcing etc) during a crisis.

There is a need for “Digital Bluecaps”:

  1. There is a need for Information Managers, who are also able to act as public information officers, and who can leverage the same platforms used for situational awareness to push out information on a timely and strategic basis;
  2. There is a need to redefine roles and responsibilities within a mission around rapid response and identification of actionable information;
  3. There is a need for Training around multi-purpose social media platforms is needed.
  4. There is a need to create institutional architectures,able to ingest public domain information as well as produce and promote verified information.

Create a digital Peace Corps:

  1. Go beyond an emphasis on kinetic responses;
  2. Recognise value of efficient information management in generating effective outcomes;
  3. Create a cadre able to take on the worst (or best?) of ISIS, Al Shabab etc. using the same tools, techniques, apps and platforms they use for counter-messaging;
  4. Proactively produce content that addresses situational and contextual needs, augmenting hope, de-legitimising rumours and stemming spread of fear.

The video of Daniel Stauffacher’s presentation and panel discussion can be found here or seen below. The ICT4Peace Foundation’s presentation by Daniel Stauffacher is from 4:57:24 to 5:29:52.








Welcoming UN’s report on the use of ICTs to secure the right to life


A new report released by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, titled the ‘Use of information and communications technologies to secure the right to life‘ strongly resonates with the ICT4Peace Foundation’s work, training and output over the years to mainstream the use of technology in peacebuilding and human rights.

As noted in the summary,

In the present report, submitted to the Human Rights Council pursuant to its resolution 26/12, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions discusses the implications of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for the protection of the right to life.

The Special Rapporteur surveys existing applications of ICTs for promoting, protecting and monitoring human rights. While noting the potentially transformative role of “civilian witnesses” in documenting human rights violations and the challenges of using the evidence generated and transmitted by those witnesses — such as verification —, the Special Rapporteur considers how various international human rights mechanisms currently benefit from such material. He makes several recommendations, including that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights appoint a specialist in digital evidence to assist it in making the best use of ICTs.

The ICT4Peace Foundation, through consultations at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and by way of substantive input into draft versions of this report, is pleased with the scope, observations and recommendations by the Special Rapporteur, expanding also on Paragraph 36 of the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) Tunis Declaration, from 2005 (see also ICT4Peace Foundation report of 2005 on the use of Information and Communications Technologies for peacebuilding (ICT4Peace), with a Preface by Kofi A. Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations). Paragraph 36 values the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict and the protection of civilians in armed conflicts.

Recognising the UN’s institutional investment around crisis information management, the report flag’s (Page 18, Point 93) the Foundation’s role in strengthening situational awareness including around complex political emergencies.

The broader United Nations community has invested in harnessing the potential of ICTs, particularly in the area of crisis information management (A/69/517). The United Nations Office of Information and Communications Technology has, in conjunction with the ICT4Peace Foundation, coordinated the Crisis Information Management Advisory Group, which has become a forum to discuss technological developments in humanitarian aid and crisis information management.

The Foundation’s sustained engagement with OHCHR over the years around digital security, training and strategic adaptation of ICTs finds expression in the report’s recommendations to, inter alia, the UN. The Foundation particularly welcomes the appointment of “on a consultancy basis and as soon as possible, a digital content specialist to provide advice with respect to information received from or produced by civilian witnesses and to serve as an interface with external networks of expertise in that area.”

UN Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) retreat looks at Ebola response


ICT4Peace was again invited by ASG UN Chief Information Technology Officer Ms. Atefeh Riazi to organise again the UN Crisis Information Management Retreat (CIMAG) 2015. The themes of this year’s retreat were as follows:

  • An introspection of the UNMEER / UN Ebola response, interrogating in particular the adoption of Crisis Information Management (CiMS) principles to strengthen collaboration and coordination in the response efforts
  • A retrospection of CiM efforts of the UN since Haiti 5 years ago, ending with UNMEER, to understand what’s changed and what remain key challenges.
  • Moving forward, develop concrete recommendations for the UN top Management on how data and technology can be better leveraged within the UN system and beyond to manage humanitarian crisis such as Ebola.

Approximately 30 Information Management Specialists from the UN Secretariat, UN Organisations responsible for Peacekeeping, Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Operations participated on 8 and 9 June in Manhattan New York Meeting (UN OICT, OCHA, WHO, DPKO/DFS, UNDP, UNICEF, World Bank,UNOSAT, UNMEER, UNHCR, UN OCC, UN DPA, UN DPI, UN Global Pulse).

The Agenda of the Meeting can be found here. More photos from the retreat can be seen here.

Two top UN officials responsible for managing the Ebola crisis participated in the meeting: Under-Secretary General, Dr. David Nabarro, Special UN Envoy for Ebola and Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) Peter Jan Graaf. A number of concrete recommendations for improving Crisis Information Management in crisis of this nature were developed.

The meeting was made possible thanks to the generous financial support by the Government of Sweden and UN OICT.


Some Background Information o the UN Crisis Information Management Strategy and CiMAG:

The 2010 Report of the Secretary-General (A/65/491) on the Status of implementation of the information and communications technology strategy for the United Nations Secretariat, prominently underscores the Crisis Information Management (CiM) Strategy, Under the section ‘United Nations system-wide harmonization efforts’, the report notes (Pg. 38):

“Crisis information management strategy. The Crisis Information Management Strategy is based on the recognition that the United Nations, its Member States, constituent agencies and non-governmental organizations need to improve such information management capacity in the identification, prevention, mitigation, response and recovery of all types of crises, natural as well as man-made. The strategy will leverage and enhance this capacity and provide mechanisms to integrate and share information across the United Nations system. The Office of Information and Communications Technology, together with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, has worked closely with United Nations organizations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and WFP and other entities such as the ICT for Peace Foundation in developing and implementing this strategy. It is envisaged that membership will be expanded to include other United Nations organizations in the near future.”

In December 2014, the UN General Assembly approved the update of 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). The report mentions: “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.”

Subsequently, the General Assembly in its resolution dated 26 December 2014 (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.

Annex I: Members of CiMAG include inter alia: UN CITO, Office of SG, OCHA, DPKO, DFS, DPA, UNHCR, WFP, OHCHR, UNDP, UNICEF, DSS, UNFPA, PBSO, ICT4Peace.

Annex II: Reports on the CiMAG Retreats of previous years are to be found below:

ICT4Peace invited to OSCE Workshop on Cyber Security in Tashkent

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On 20 May 2015 ICT4Peace was invited by the OSCE and the Government of Uzbekistan to participate in a national workshop in Tashkent on Regional and International Cyber/ICT Security, use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes and Cybercrime. The complete program can be found here.

The two-day workshop on cyber and ICT security issues brought together some 40 participants, including 10 international experts from Austria, Estonia, France, Germany, Switzerland, UK, USA as well as representatives of the national parliament, judiciary, ministries for information technology, foreign affairs, academia and law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Ben HILLER, Cyber Security Officer, TNT Department, OSCE chaired and moderated the panel entitled ‘Cyber/ICT security in the context of regional and international security/Cyber Diplomacy’.

The session reviewed regional/international efforts and processes designed to enhance international cyber/ICT security in particular on the policy and diplomatic level and between States.

Ben Hillers introductory remarks can be found here. The presentations of the panelists can be found as follows:

ENTRi certified course on new media in crisis information management

For the second consecutive year, the ICT4Peace Foundation’s Special Advisor Sanjana Hattotuwa led the training of a new and unique ENTRi course on the use of new media for crisis management. The course was held from 18 – 22 May at the European Academy Grunewald in Berlin, Germany. As the course description notes,

This course introduces participants to a variety of new media tools and platforms used in the collection, presentation, verification, and dissemination of information. Participants have the chance to practice using these tools through interactive activities and group work, while learning about cyber-security to protect information and sources.
In crisis areas, quick and informed decision-making can save lives. New web, mobile and internet-based media and information dissemination platforms are constantly evolving, producing increasing amounts of content. The speed with which information is created, published and disseminated keeps increasing. This allows for a multiplicity of perspectives to surface. The challenge for experts working in civilian crisis management is finding a way to filter the information and determine what is relevant with the overload of information, and further, to communicate that effectively to the right people in an efficient manner. Additionally, new tools are being developed to help experts visualize data in a clear way, so that it can be easily shared, interpreted, and understood by different users. It is therefore vital that experts working in crisis areas are aware of these tools and know how to apply them to their work.

The training was conducted in collaboration with the renowned Zentrum für Internationale Friedenseinsätze gGmbH (ZIF), based in Berlin, and introduced 24 participants from a range of backgrounds to a variety of new media tools and platforms used in the collection, presentation, verification, and dissemination of information.

Participants used several leading web based tools, apps and services as part of interactive activities and group work, while learning about digital communications security as well in order to protect information and sources.

Photos from the training course can be found here.

Kimberly Roberson and Cedric Vidonne from UNHCR, Rina Tsubaki from the European Journalism Centre and Eoghan Mac Suibhne, a consultant with the the world renowned social media verification agency Storyful were also part of the training. All of them delivered compelling presentations and took the class through exercises, based on real world scenarios and content, that familiarised them with key concepts and tools to sift through the tsunami of information and data in order to find actionable, verified content. Modules were also anchored to information visualisation and data visualisation principles, and an introduction to crisis information management (CiM) architectures at the United Nations.

ICT4Peace Foundation designed and led several exercises as well anchored to the information visualisation and mapping, in addition to a comprehensive exercise introducing participants to around 30 of the world’s leading crisis information management platforms and websites currently active, and getting them to use each one. Participants were introduced to OpenStreetMap, and also to Google’s Map Engine Lite. Using Field Papers, participants went out of the class, and literally walked around the several neighbourhoods in Berlin in order to collaboratively map it. Participants were also introduced to new platforms like What3Words.

As was the case last year, feedback from the class strongly suggested the need for on-going training courses by ENTRi and ZIF on similar lines, and a new found appreciation, from every single participant, of the ways through which new media can help strengthen the effectiveness of their professional work and institutional mandates.

Video: Digital Innovation and Peacekeeping

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Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation, made a presentation on the future of technology and peacekeeping at re:publica15 in Berlin, on 7 May 2015. The video of the presentation is now online here.

Sanjana’s session examined how digital media and technological innovation cannot only support post-conflict peacekeeping but also augment the strategies to foster more effective community development, to empower the victims of conflict and to strengthen the challenging process of peacebuilding.

Promoting Peace, Trust and Security in Cyberspace at the United Nations

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ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher was invited on 4 and 5 May 2015 to address the United Nations member states in Geneva, where he called again for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for peaceful purposes. In particular, he stressed that ICTs be used to improve early warning of potential conflicts, mitigate their impact, and promote reconciliation and non-violent means of resolving disputes between and within nations. He warned that ICTs are increasingly being used for purposes detrimental to peace and security,  including attacks on digital networks and systems. Noting that traditional and social media can be used to promote disharmony and conflict between social, political and ethnic groups, Stauffacher  demanded that norms of responsible behaviour and confidence building measures (CBMs) for cyberspace be urgently developed by the world community. His presentation can be found here. (see from 8:46 to 13:27 minutes).

During his presentation Stauffacher reminded the audience that the United Nations Millenium Declaration of 2000, in its first paragraphs, addresses the issues of peace, security and disarmament, along with economic and social development and poverty eradication as its overarching goals. Therefore, and similar to the important achievements in using ICTs for Development, the international community should pay more attention to emerging ICT tools which can be used to support actors working in peace operations, peace building,  humanitarian response and the protection of fundamental rights.

He also recalled that in 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) adopted the Tunis Committment, including paragraph 36, (which was introduced by Switzerland and Tunisia with the support of many countries) (Footnote 1), which reads:

36. 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.

Daniel Stauffacher then thanked the authors of the report of WSIS+10 Statement on the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes for including reference to this important paragraph 36 of the WSIS Tunis Committment in its preamble. WSIS+10 Statement on the Implementation of WSIS Outcomes which reads as follows:


World Summit on the Information Society — WSIS+10 

Ten years ago, at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in its two phases (Geneva 2003, & Tunis 2005), the representatives of the peoples of the world adopted a common vision on the Information Society, identifying its main principles and challenges towards a people-centered inclusive and development-oriented Information Society. The fundamental aim of the WSIS process was to foster the use of technology to improve peoples’ lives and to bridge the digital divide.

The uses of ICTs have developed considerably and become a part of everyday life since the second phase of the WSIS in 2005, accelerating social and economic growth, sustainable development, increasing transparency and accountability, where applicable, and offering new opportunities to leverage technology, in developed and developing countries.

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 lie 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 para. 36 of the Tunis Commitment regarding the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict. 

Stauffacher thanked the Secretariat of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development for an excellent description of the challenges and achievements in the context of para. 36 of WSIS 2005 Tunis Commitment in their report Implementing WSIS Outcomes – A ten Year Review (see page 27)In concluding, he reiterated ICT4Peace’s commitment to the development of ICTs for peace and security and an open, free and secure cyberspace. He invited UN member states to reaffirm para. 36 of the Tunis Commitment regarding the potential of ICTs to promote peace and to prevent conflict.

For more information on the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 in Geneva please also refer to the following publication.

Footnote 1 Para. 36 of the Tunis Committment was prepared on the basis of the Report ICT4Peace:  Role of ICT in Preventing, Responding to and Recovering from Conflict produced by an ICT4Peace project supported by the Swiss Government and lead by Daniel Stauffacher, then Swiss Ambassador for the WSIS.

Footnote 2 Information on the work of the ICT4Peace Foundation can be found herehere and here.


Submission on future of peacekeeping and technology at re:publica 2015, Berlin

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As noted on the website, re:publica is,

“…one of the largest and most exciting conferences about digital culture in the world. Since its foundation in 2007, it has grown from a cozy blogger meeting with 700 participants into a wide-ranging “society conference”, with more than 6000 visitors annually. Representatives of digital culture share their knowledge and decision-making tools, and discuss the future of the information society. Here they can mingle with activists, scientists, hackers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, journalists, social media and marketing experts, and many others. This fosters innovation and creates synergies between net politics, online marketing, network technology, digital society, and (pop) culture.”

As part of the GIG programme and hosted by ZIF – Center for International Peace Operations, Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation was invited to deliver a presentation on technology and peacekeeping today. The session was interestingly titled ‘NERDS WITH BLUE HELMETS? DIGITAL INNOVATION AND PEACEKEEPING‘ (see image of webpage here).

Joining a distinguished panel of speakers from Africa, Sanjana chose to look at the future of peacekeeping in today’s digital landscapes, and focussed on,

Following from the ‘Performance Peacekeeping’ report, what are the central challenges for peacekeeping in our digital age? What impact will the Internet of Things (IoT) tomorrow, and the democratisation of mobile devices today have for the peacekeeping domain?

*radical inclusion*, where like it or not, voices hitherto at the margins, periphery or violent erased could and would record their stories, and disseminate it to a wider public, through a range of media.

What are the implications of live-streaming over Twitter? *Social witnessing*?

Stories that wouldn’t have been recorded were it not for a range of advances in technologies to record, disseminate, archive and engage. *management of exclusion* important – *actionable intelligence from noise and information*.

An *addressable world* would change our interactions within and between, for example, communities, networks and identity groups. Is it the case today, and increasingly in the future, that active agents of peacebuilding and peacekeeping have to necessarily give up more of their privacy in order to do, and say, what they must?

*Human avatars from network protocols* and the impact on real world perceptions, realities. How one could even remotely maintain control over privacy within ecosystem of competing owners, location sensors, proxy indicators, sentient nodes, ambient observation, pervasive automation that go on to recreate, digitally, our lives that may in fact be unrepresentative of who we really are? How will the politics of representation change?

*Privatisation of information on the web* – what can the UN do with intelligence that resides on corporate servers? The problems around FB’s internet.org initiative (net neutrality).

What implications does the use of big data and data from telcos have on the rights, privacy and safety of host communities and target groups, who are often vulnerable to violent conflict?

*New vulnerabilities* – producers of information, and subjects of oversight, aren’t the architects of how what they produce is used.

*No guarantee of reform* – Big data use in socio-political systems featuring chronic corruption, political instability and poor legislative oversight. Add to this mix the profit orientation of big corporate bodies, and consumer protection is often secondary, at best, to market imperatives or contra-constitutional state led directives.

*Data in the aggregate can discriminate as much as individual records* Even randomised and anonymised, big data can provide insights into geo-fenced communities and specific income groups that are then hostage to the nature of government and timbre of governance prevalent at the time.

Are the normative assumptions around the use of drones, big data and other technologies unsuited to be applied easily to contexts framed by systemic violence and chronic instability? Have legislative and institutional architectures haven’t kept pace with tech developments and indeed, use case scenarios?

In March 2014, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay noted in her Opening Statement to the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council that,

“… the development of new technologies – such as drones and lethal autonomous robots – which push us to the outer edge of our thinking on how to ensure our rights are protected, social media and new information technology which raises the question of where the public and private space lies and the importance of on-line and off-line freedoms..”

*Disruptive technology* isn’t always empowering to vulnerable populations.

*Can create new dependencies on West / existing power structures*. Sharing of information isn’t a given – cost implications, rights of access etc, in-country access post-disaster or within violent conflict, with congested or poor connectivity etc.

*NEPAL UAV operations* – chaotic, and showcases how hostage UAV operations are to domestic legal and policy frameworks, even post-disaster.

*Does democratisation of use lead to more democratic frameworks of governance* – Five years hence, even small NGOs with shoe-string budgets will have operational capability for hyper-local UAV overflights, with or without official airspace regulatory oversight, government authority or, in some cases, military clearance. What about non-state armed actors getting UAVs? What are the optics around UAV crowded skies? How to maintain neutrality in the air?

*Informed consent* – what does it mean for UAV overflights? And the sharing of data downstream, months and years after original acquisition?

Need for data *sunset clauses*, expiration frameworks for information harvested from disaster affected communities?

Meeting with Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi)

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At the kind invitation of the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPi) based in Berlin, Germany, Sanjana Hattotuwa, Special Advisor at the ICT4Peace Foundation met with researchers and other programme staff on 5 May 2015 over an hour long discussion, spilling over into lunch. Sanjana’s presentation and subsequent discussion was anchored to the following broad points which he fleshed out in greater detail,

  • Following from the ‘Performance Peacekeeping’ report, what are the central challenges for peacekeeping in our digital age? What impact will the Internet of Things (IoT) tomorrow, and the democratisation of mobile devices today have for the peacekeeping domain?
  • What implications does the use of big data and data from telcos have on the rights, privacy and safety of host communities and target groups, who are often vulnerable to violent conflict?
  • Are the normative assumptions around the use of drones, big data and other technologies unsuited to be applied easily to contexts framed by systemic violence and chronic instability?
  • Have legislative and institutional architectures to facilitate and govern the use of Big Data in peacekeeping domains kept pace with tech developments and indeed, use case scenarios?

After Sanjana’s submissions, the discussion were anchored to questions around Big Data, anonymity and privacy in our digital age, the challenges of informed consent, ethics and a rights based approach to technology, questions around power relations including power asymmetries that guide the use and appreciation of technology in peacebuilding as well as more general questions around social media and ICTs in today’s peacekeeping and conflict transformation contexts.

Background information for the points discussed were taken from the following articles and resources,