Meeting on ICTs and Human Rights at United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


The ICT4Peace Foundation on Tuesday, 12th March met with The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s Peace Mission Support and Rapid Response Section. Several discussions with the PMSRRS have occurred over 2012 on ways to support OHCHR’s mandate with the use of ICTs. Discussions this week focussed on information security and in particular the challenges of leveraging crowdsourced data into situational analysis.

Presented with a list of key challenges and needs by the PMSRRS, the Foundation developed a matrix of ICT options, as well as key presentations to help build internal staff capacity to deal with crowdsourced information verification and greater awareness about field and HQ information security. Discussions also centred around supporting the mandates of Commissions of Inquiry through greater use of ICTs to facilitate data collection, stakeholder interaction, data retention, visualisation and archival, in a secure manner. The importance of open standards was emphasised by the ICT4Peace Foundation to fight against the dangers of data lock-in and the challenges of sustaining platforms based on proprietary code and point-solutions. The Foundation also underscored the need for OHCHR to create resilient information architectures for civil society and NGOs involved in human rights advocacy, activism and protection to more easily and robustly communicate key updates from the field.

At the meeting, PMSRRS underscored the enduring interest in and commitment at OHCHR to adopt and adapt ICTs in their vital, global mandate. Given the sustained interactions with and the quality of strategic, real world experience based advice given to PMSRRS on the use of ICTs for human rights protection and promotion, the Foundation was invited to be part of these vital discussions moving forward.

Big Data and Crises: A lecture at Hague Institute for Global Justice

ICT4Peace Foundation’s Daniel Stauffacher and Sanjana Hattotuwa were invited to present a lecture on ICT for Peace and Global Justice by the 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology (TU Delft) at The Hague Institute for Global Justice on 11 March 2013.

As the Institute’s event page notes,

Representatives of the UN-accredited organization ICT4Peace will present their work, with support of visual demonstrations, on Crisis Information Management and the role of information and communication technologies in this.

Information and communication technologies are crucial in obtaining, communicating and transmitting accurate and timely crisis information and hence to effectuate an appropriate response to man-made and natural disasters. How can we make better use of the vast amount of data that is already – openly accessible – online. Improved (Big) data analysis and (Big) data mining could provide an opportunity. Through the collection and subsequent analysis of such data, verified and timely crisis information can be provided.

3TU.Ethics and Delft University of Technology (Department of Values Technology and Innovation) are considering in collaboration with others to explore the possibilities of establishing such a platform of big data analysis and ‘reality mining’ that could provide input for accurate policy and decision making in light of crisis response. Big data analysis could and should provide valuable information for conflict prevention, crisis response and restorative justice endeavours.

Daniel Stauffacher’s presentation focussed on the Foundation’s sustained and significant work since 2008 with the United Nations system on crisis information management, and in particular the development of the UN’s crisis information management strategy.

Sanjana Hattotuwa was asked by 3TU.Centre for Ethics and Technology to focus on the opportunities for Big Data to be used in crisis information management, and ended his presentation by problematising some of the assumptions around the availability and use of big and open data in conflict transformation. Taking a rights based perspective, Sanjana offered key examples of Big Data on the web that could be useful in granular as well as contextual situational awareness, and also flagged work he had done to curate, archive and visualise, for posterity, thousands of tweets on human rights anchored to specific country review processes at the UN in Geneva. He also flagged some of the platforms now used by the UN and the crisismapping community that represent a paradigm shift in the way data, in anticipation of, during and just after a sudden onset disaster as well as other crises are generated, mapped, analysed, disseminated, visualised and archived.

A lively discussion with the participants ensued after the presentation, focussing on the challenges of data gathering in low bandwidth and high latency contexts, just after a disaster when telecoms would almost certainly be down or overburdened, the challenges of semantic analysis around dangerous and hate speech especially in languages other than English or those based on a Romanic script, the use and adaptations of social media in China and the challenge of mapping conversations on online social and new media in order to red flag instances where, for examples in a peace process or fragile post-war context, the breakdown of conversations could be a marker or increased social, partisan or communal tension.

Sanjana flagged key research reports, organisations, individuals and institutions including UN agencies at the cutting edge of innovation in this domain, key technology trends, real world examples, platforms, tools and apps, significant challenges, including ethical issues and possible future scenarios in engaging with the participants.

Also read the ICT4Peace Foundation’s report titled The potential and challenges of open data for crisis information management and aid efficiency: A preliminary assessment and Sanjana Hattotuwa’s blog post on A brief exploration of Open and Big Data: From investigative journalism to humanitarian aid and peacebuilding.

Social Media as a Means of Crisis Information Management – A Kenyan Case Study

by Christopher Radler

After having been rather illiterate in the field of Social Media and the huge potential it offers, and only being able to receive a first glimpse through an online course conducted by the TechChange Institute for Technology and Social Change, I was delighted when the German Center for International Peace Operations, in close cooperation with various other organizations, thereunder the ICT4Peace Foundation offered a Crisis Information Management (CIM) course in Nairobi, Kenya.

Amongst the various CIM tools covered by the course was also the use of Social Media. Hence, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in that particular field. The ICT4Peace, represented by Mr Sanjana Hattotuwa, one of the best teachers I ever experienced by the way, though only revealing the tip of the iceberg, opened a whole new world to me as a Security Risk Manager. Tasks such as information gathering, incident and conflict mapping, travel security, crisis and information management are an everyday challenge and require a variety of sophisticated and very expensive tools. Without further elaborating on the subject: Social Media has the potential to revolutionize this and gives smaller organizations solutions at literally no cost. But I’m wandering from the subject.

The author during a visit to the iHub, as part of the course at IPSTC

Back to Kenya where subsequent to the course the 2013’s presidential elections took place and I was foresighted enough to not fly back home directly. To cut a long story short: I participated at another training in Nairobi’s iHub, Kenya’s version of the Silicon Valley and home to a company which provides some one of the most sophisticated Social Media tools I discovered so far: Ushahidi. One of these tools is Uchaguzi, exclusively developed to crowdsource information on the polls and subject to the training mentioned above.

Up to this point it was just an extension to the lectures I had received from Sanjana and that in itself would have been good enough. But than fate would strike me by letting me cross the path of a former colleague and friend of mine, who was hired to supervise the CIM of a huge company. However, given that a new outbreak of hostilities between the various ethnicities was not unlikely, as it was the case in the aftermath of the presidential elections of 2007/08, I was immediately hijacked to support him. And I gladly let it happen as it would give me an opportunity to apply the newly gained knowledge in real life.

When engaged in information gathering it is of utmost importance to utilize as many sources as possible. You have your personal network, which shares information with you, you have your people on the ground and all kinds of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) in earlier times mostly mainstream media. While your personal network in a new environment is most likely to be not that extensive and your (professional) sources on the ground are limited for obvious reasons, mainstream media mostly gives you already processed information that on top of it is often delayed. Receiving real-time information from the ground on a large scale was a thing one could only dream of. Here is where crowdsourced information, in the following especially Uchaguzi, kicks in and adds a new dimension to information gathering.

Uchaguzi basically allows everybody with a mobile phone or access to the internet to submit information via SMS, email, Twitter etc. to the Uchaguzi website where it is mapped in real-time. A dedicated team of volunteers edits these reports, i.e. translates, geolocates and verifies it by sending people to the field. Of course, due to the huge amount of information received, not every report can be verified but this is clearly indicated on the platform.

I need to make a preliminary remark: Public unrest is all about group dynamics and expecting it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me put it that way: If you expect someone to attack you, though it might not be his intention, you are likely to strike first if you have your back up against the wall. At the end of the day perceived reality is reality!

So, at the day of the elections we accessed the platform and monitored the incoming reports. Though limited in many ways and often of questionable reliability, they were allowing us to capture the ambience on the ground and by taking into account the above mentioned, thereby foresee trends. For instance, Uchaguzi allows you to filter reports by category. First of all, we could identify that there were no major security incidents (except one in Mombasa), which was further corroborated by Twitter and, of course, our people on the ground. There were a lot of reports in the morning regarding minor security issues, which we on the one hand traced back to the slum areas – easily done through Uchaguzi’s mapping function –, where violence is rather common, and on the other hand to a general tension amongst the population. Accordingly, the number of incidents in the non-slum areas decreased rapidly after it became clear that the general mindset was peaceful. This was indicated by the fact that Twitter was drowned with tweets promoting peaceful elections for instance. Hence, we concluded that there most likely will be no major incidents throughout the day. Interestingly, from an ex-post analysis point of view, it would have even been possible to foresee the increase in incidents shortly before the polling stations were officially supposed to close: As it was clear that the polling stations could not handle the enormous voter turnout in due time (there were queues reaching up to a mile!), tensions rose. Once it was clear that every voter will be able to cast his ballot, inter alia twittered (!) by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, incidents decreased again.

Another issue of major concern was if there might be organized election fraud, which could have easily led to unrest. By filtering Uchaguzi for Voting Issues and Polling Station Logistical Issues, we observed an accumulation in the large polling stations, which we ascribed to organizational issues, and thus were able to rule out organized election fraud.

To sum it up: Social Media did not only serve as a great monitoring and CIM tool for our operation, but it also helped to calm down tension amongst the population. I need to stress, however, that I am only talking about the election day itself and no one knows how the situation will evolve after all the ballots are tallied or a candidate is announced winner, respectively. Because unfortunately, Social Media could also serve as a means of mobilization of unrest. After all, it was a great experience to utilize those tools for CIM and unlike the Titanic, I would be happy striking what is below the tip of the iceberg in the future!

Crisis in Mali | New ICT4Peace wiki launched

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The ICT4Peace Foundation carefully curates a collection of unique and widely acclaimed wikis geared towards the humanitarian aid community as well as media and policy makers. They feature vital information from government, the UN system in the disaster / crisis stricken area, other NGOs, the World Bank, comprehensive situation reports, mapping information and GIS data, photos, video, who/what/where information and links to domestic and international media coverage.

Each CiM wiki usually features, inter alia,

  • Background information, including any UN operations
  • Key UN contacts
  • Key situation reports, including from UN OCHA
  • A plethora of carefully curated Twitter feeds and other social media updates in English
  • Videos, photos and podcasts
  • Mainstream media news updates, including streams and content from Al Jazeera, New York Times, BBC, France24 and CNN.
  • Discoverable and free GIS / mapping resources
  • Google Maps mashups
  • Ways to help IDPs and refugees

The latest wiki is on the on-going crisis in Mali. Access it here.

Webinar: Digital activism, an Egyptian perspective

TweetNadwa in Cairo. Activists meet and discuss

Member of the ICT4Peace Foundation’s Advisory Board, Egyptian digital activist, blogger, and WACC member Kamal Sedra will lead the webinar about how social media has influenced—and is influencing—the Egyptian political landscape.

Based in Cairo, Mr. Sedra founded and manages DISC Development, an organization that works in the fields of Human Rights and Freedom of Expression, and provides technical support for other civil society actors. Mr. Sedra also serves as a Senior Technical Advisor for ICT4Peace Foundation, a Swiss NGO that supports global peace through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). He is a well-known digital activist, blogger, and digital media consultant, having served as a trainer with international NGOs in numerous countries on these topics. As an expert on digital activism, Mr. Sedra has presented at conferences around the world, including the Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference in San Francisco (2011), the Internet Governance Forum (2012), and many others.

In 2009 Mr. Sedra’s website won the eDemocracy Forum and Politics Online prize as one of the top ten websites how changing the politics and world.

Register online for this webinar.

2012: Year in Review and Activity Report

Dear colleagues and friends,

While 2011 was the year marked by the Arab Awakening and increasing awareness of ICTs for peace building, protection of human dignity and crisis management, in 2012 academia and think tanks started to analyse in more detail what happened and what the real contributions by ICTs in these instances were. The overall conclusion remains that ICTs has been changing how today societies function, especially in crisis, but that more research on the causality between ICTs and social and political outcomes is required. ICT4Peace has co-organized and participated in several events and processes in this field with Universities and international organisations, including the United Nations in addition to critically commenting on developments throughout the year. This role and work will need to continue in 2013.

We also continued our close cooperation with UN Chief Information Technology Officer and the UN Crisis Information Management Advisory Group (CiMAG) to support the implementation of the UN Crisis Information Management Strategy (CiMS) as part of the UN Secretary General’s overall UN ICT strategy. This Strategy is based on the recognition that the international community has time and again failed to adequately protect and support the victims of man-made or natural crises, including conflicts and natural disasters. This was and is inter alia due to the lack of willingness to share information and to inadequate Crisis Information Management Systems and capabilities, for the identification, prevention, mitigation, response and recovery of all types of crises. At the same time all UN stakeholders recognise the need for credible, accurate, complete and timely information for managing crises.

Some of the difficulties are also attributable to what has become a highly fragmented Information and Communication Technology (ICT) environment. In parallel, crisismapping, with the integration of crowd-sourced information, has radically changed the way information is collected, viewed and analysed in conjunction with other spatial and non-spatial datasets. Interests have also shifted from static maps to placing data and tools into open platforms that contain continuously updated feeds and map services. In many ways this represents a paradigm shift, whereby information management becomes a collective effort that integrates the affected population into information flows instead of a specialty managed by relatively few professional personnel. Many humanitarian organizations are curious about this new opportunity and some are using these initiatives in their programming. At the same time, other organisations may not realize that they have used new crisis maps (e.g. OpenStreetMaps or Ushahidi instances) while others are uncertain of its added value during crisis. Peacebuilding and humanitarian practitioners, often working hand in hand, and Volunteer & Technical Community (V&TC) members – now called digital humanitarians – are asking to better understand the impact of these initiatives.

For example after the Libya Crisis Map which UN OCHA stood up with the Standby Volunteer Task Force, an in-person Lessons Learned meeting was called, where the activities undertaken were reviewed in detail and resulted in over 40 lessons learned as well as the recommendation for the creation of ten thematic Communities of Interest aimed at improving collaboration between V&TCs and the traditional humanitarian community, including UN, Governments and NGOs.

These interactions grew more frequent and stronger in 2012. The ICT4Peace Foundation was proud and humbled to support a cutting-edge simulation exercise involving the newly established Digital Humanitarians Network (DHN) after ICCM 2012, held at the World Bank in Washington DC.

In line with the above, the next five years will redefine the praxis and approach to humanitarian operations in times of crisis, manmade and natural. This new combination of technology platforms, policies and field practices will change the way crisis are managed, peacebuilding operations and relief is designed and delivered.

The Foundation continued its support for UN OCHA to populate and strengthen the Humanitarian Response – Common and Operational Datasets (CODs) Registry to make critical information during a humanitarian crisis more widely available and accessible. In addition to this, the Foundation gave input and support towards the development of the Humanitarian eXchange Language (HXL) focussed on demonstrating the viability of this approach to enabling data flows within humanitarian responses and making that data available to all actors and the public. This proof of concept work focused on a core set of data of interest to all humanitarian actors: the humanitarian profile (HP), which contains estimates of the numbers and types of affected populations in a given crisis. During 2012, the UN OCHA HXL team finalized the HXL standard components needed to support HP data and built several tools for enabling partners to share this data.

The Foundation continued in 2012 the development of training courses in Crisis Information Management (CiM) for multidimensional and multi-stakeholders missions in peacekeeping and peace-building together with the Folke Bernadotte Academy, ZIF, CMI and CMC. The content of this course is anchored to new dimensions in peacekeeping and disaster management, including harnessing the potential of new media, the web, Internet and mobile technologies for increased situation awareness. The next course will be held at IPSTC in Nairobi from 23 February to 2 March 2013. ICT4Peace also lectured in training courses offered by ISCRAM and the University of Lugano Master Programme for Humanitarian Logistics as well as the Folke Bernadotte Academy.

Finally, the new and positive role that the Internet and web have been playing in recent years in developing and applying new tools to safe lives and protect human dignity might be put into question if a sustainable and resilient Internet is not assured. Cybercrime, cyberterrorism, and cyberhooliganism in particular threaten a well functioning cyberspace. In addition, the risk of a militarization of the cyberspace could lead to its fragmentation and put into question all the positive achievements for the people and societies. It was for this reason that the ICT4Peace Foundation started to look more comprehensively into the question of cybersecurity and resilience of the internet and web. ICT4Peace started to map out the instruments, processes and actors in the on-going global cyber security discussions and negotiations. It was observed, that the solutions to some of these new challenges will be generated as much by States (e.g. developing norms of State behaviour and confidence building measures (CBM’s) as by non-State actors, by building for instance new cyber security standards with the help of the new intermediaries (e.g. ISPs), business companies and consumer organisations.

Thank you for your support, encouragement and engagement. All of us from ICT4Peace wish you and your families a prosperous and healthy 2013!

Download a report of our activities from 2006 – 2012 here.

Download this update as a PDF here.

Daniel Stauffacher

ICT4Peace 2012 Year-End Report

Navigate a new paradigm: Crisis Information Management Training Course


Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), Zentrum für Internationale Friedenseinsätze (ZIF) and ICT4Peace Foundation announce the new Crisis Information Management Training Course at the International Peace Support Training Center (IPSTC), Nairobi from 23 February to 3 March 2013. The Course will teach Information Management practices in Crisis, including Peace and Humanitarian Operations.

A special focus will be given to the use of new Media, including SMS, Twitter, crowd sourcing and crisis mapping to obtain manage and share data. This Course is also linked to the UN Crisis Information Management Strategy Implementation.

For more information, click on the image below.

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Course Description
Efficient and timely provision of Shared Situational Awareness (SSA) and Crisis Information Management (CIM) are essential to enable effective decision-making in Multi-dimensional Peace Operations and are a prerequisite for effects-based operations and the comprehensive approach, founding principles of the United Nations and African Union integrated mission planning processes.

Ultimately, successful integration and coordination requires a high degree of sensitivity to the interest and operating cultures of a broad set of actors, and efficient and appropriate Information Management (IM).

The role of CIM in Peace and Humanitarian Operations is the provision of SSA and Crisis Information Management, allowing decision-makers to make accurate and appropriate decisions in crisis situations – whether humanitarian or conflict based – using information collected from a variety of military, police and civilian sources. CIM is performed by civilian, military and police peacekeeping personnel, which requires increased cooperation and coordination amongst these institutions. In addition, modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) including social media (Twitter, Facebook) and crisis mapping and crowd sourcing have become essential tools to support CIM.

This course provides an overview of CIM. The course will look at the process of CIM itself, from data collection, through data processing and analysis to information dissemination and look at the cutting-edge platforms and tools now in use, within and outside the UN system. An interactive simulation exercise will accompany the entire course and will allow participants to practice and apply the theories discussed in the different modules.

Although this course is centered on the UN system, the role that CIM can play in the process of informed decision-making and the activities that an information manager undertakes can apply to a much wider context. The course language is English.

This course was developed in cooperation with ICT4Peace, Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), Crisis Management Center (CMC), Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), the Cairo Regional Centre for Training on Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa (CCCPA), the African Peace Support Trainers’ Association (APSTA) and ZIF.

Objectives of the Course
The CIM Training Course aims to strengthen skills, competencies and capacities of present and future CIM staff (civilian, military or police ) working in multi-dimensional peace and humanitarian operations. Participants will be able to integrate new information technology into an information management system in the crisis environment.

The Course will also demonstrate the opportunities and challenges of new ICTs and social media tools and provide reality-based simulation exercises.

Course Modules

  • Introduction to Crisis Information Management
  • Information Management Cycle
  • Building Information Networks
  • Conflict Mapping
  • Integrating New Information Technology & Social Media
  • Information Analysis
  • Source Evaluation
  • Information Protection
  • Information Dissemination

Course Audience
The course is open to civilian, military, and police experts currently working or planning to work in peace or humanitarian operations or other crisis management organisations in the area of information management. The course especially targets experts working in departments of information analysis at a peace operation, with a special focus on operations in Africa.

Training Location
This training takes place at the International Peace Support Training Centre (IPSTC) in Nairobi, Kenya. For more information on the training locations selected by ZIF, please see the document in the sidebar.

Training Date
23 February (course begins at 16:00) – 2 March 2013 (course ends at 15:00)

Course Fee
€700,00 for all applicants

The course fee covers the cost for accommodation and food during the training. The course program is designed to also include informal evening events. Therefore, it is recommended to stay at the course site. The course fee will not be reduced if you choose not to stay at the official training location. Insurance and travel costs are not included in the course fee and will not be reimbursed. ZIF does not offer scholarships.

Course Coordinator and contact person on behalf of ICT4Peace Foundation, Folke Bernadotte Academy and ZIF is Brigitta von Messling, ZIF (

ICT4Peace: Sustainable and resilient Internet a prerequisite to protect human dignity and save lives in crisis

Image courtesy TechChange

ICT4Peace’s Daniel Stauffacher participated in a Symposium at Harvard University (6-8 December 2012) on “Internet-Driven Developments: Structural Changes and Tipping Points”, co-hosted by the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, the Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society in Berlin, the Centre for Internet and Society Bangalore, the Center for Technology & Society at the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, KEIO University SFC, the MIT Media Lab and its Center for Civic Media, the NEXA Center for Internet & Society.

The participants deliberations centred around the following two questions:

  • What are the structural shifts (as opposed to hype, fashion, or spikes), from a societal, economic, legal, and educational perspective, promoted by the Internet and related technological advancements?
  • What are the tipping points and other forces that have catalysed these structural changes— including the actions of individuals (such as users, citizens, policy makers, academics, and activists) and institutions (such as government, academia, business, and civil society/advocacy organizations)?

In addition to discussing these substantive topics, the meeting served as an opportunity to talk about the vision of a networked community of international Centres of Internet and Society (“Towards a Global Network of Internet & Society Centres”). Participants were invited to scope and identify mechanisms for collaboration, research, informal coordination, and development of collective capacity.

ICT4Peace proposed and chaired a session on the positive role of ICTs in crisis management and peace building, and the new challenges to a sustainable and resilient Internet posed by emerging cyber security issues. The underlying theme of the discussion was that an open, free and sustainable internet cannot be taken for granted, and that the new and positive role, that the internet and the web have been playing in recent years in developing and applying new tools to safe lives and protect human dignity might be put into question, if a resilient internet is not assured.  All stakeholders, and in particular academia need to identify and analyse these new challenges and threats more thoroughly and describe possible solutions at national and global levels. And it is here that the great value of the proposed new Network of Centres on Internet and Society becomes apparent, because regional and cultural specificities, approaches and methods must and can be brought to bear, when doing research and education in these complex and often sensitive fields.

After a introduction and description of the positive new opportunities that e.g. social media, crowd sourcing and crisis mapping can bring to better crisis management, peace building and humanitarian operations, ICT4Peace briefly mapped out the instruments, processes and actors in the on-going global cyber security discussions and negotiations. It was observed, that the solutions to some of these new challenges will be generated as much by states (e.g. developing norms of state behaviour and confidence building measures (CBM’s) as by non-state actors, by building for instance new cyber security standards with the help of the new intermediaries (e.g. ISPs), business companies and consumer organisations.

The representatives from Keio University Japan, Getulio Vargas (FGV) Law School, Rio de Janeiro, BCAC, Kenia, Faculty of Law at the Istanbul Bilgi University and ICT4Peace agreed to continue to collectively observe some of these new phenomena, with a special focus on national, regional and global, private and public governance frameworks for addressing some of these issues.

The Programme of the Symposium can be found here and the list of participants can be found here.

“Asia-Pacific Security: New Issues and New Ideas”: 4th Xiangshan Forum

Image courtesy Zhe

Daniel Stauffacher, President of ICT4Peace participated in the Fourth Xiangshan Forum (Beijing, 16 to 18 November 2012) entitled “Asia-Pacific Security: New Issues and New Ideas”.

The aim of the Forum was to provide a “high-level academic platform for leaders and senior scholars from world-renowned security-defense think tanks to exchange ideas on hot issues concerning global and Asia-Pacific security and defense, and to explore approaches to cooperation and dialogue among these think tanks”. In particular, Daniel Stauffacher was invited to co-chair a working group, called: “New Areas in Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation: Space Security and Cyber Security”. He called for improving cooperation among states to safeguard a free, open and peaceful cyberspace, increasingly challenged by cybercrime, malware, and terrorist acts using ICTs etc. In view of the increasing number of incidents of cyber-operations (e.g. Stuxnet), he informed the Forum, that the UN and some regional organizations such as the OSCE and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), have been seeking to develop and negotiate Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) – voluntary commitments to enhance transparency concerning state-on-state action and avoid escalation of cyber incidents. He also recalled other multilateral initiatives, including the UN Group of Governmental Experts (UN GGE), the process launched at the London Conference last year (continued in Hungary 2012 and Korea in 2013) and within relevant IGOs including the ITU, OECD, APEC and NATO. He urged that states considerably increase their focus on these new security challenges and devote more resources for peaceful cooperation and for enhancing cyber-security, through political and technical means.

Amb. Paul Meyer, Senior Advisor of ICT4Peace also participated in the Forum and made an enlightening presentation of the similarities and differences of the challenges and opportunities in Space Security vs Cyber Security.

New Technologies and Human Rights Monitoring: Workshop Summary

Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law together with the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution and, convened a two-day workshop to advance strategic thinking on how to leverage new technologies to strengthen U.N. human rights monitoring around the world. Bringing together a small group of United Nations Human Rights Council mandate-holders, leading civil society activists, government representatives, and technologists working at the intersection of technology and human rights, the workshop developed concrete proposals for how technology platforms can be used to amplify the voices of mandate-holders, broaden their engagement with activists and citizens globally, and increase the awareness and impact of U.N. human rights monitoring mechanisms.

Sanjana Hattotuwa represented the ICT4Peace Foundation at this meeting. The full workshop report is now available as a PDF. You can download it here, or read it online here.

As the report avers at the end,

It was agreed that the technological expertise required to build and sustain technological platforms in support of U.N. special rapporteurs exists and that potential sources of funding could be cultivated. It will be critical, however, to identify a procurement process that enables the OHCHR to partner with innovative technologists, rather than the large firms that generally bid for U.N. contracts. For example, funding could be provided through the U.N. Foundation to support such an effort, which might create more flexibility to partner with a smaller, more innovative firm. The group also recognized that the OHCHR could draw on voluntary efforts including Coding for Social Good and the philanthropic work of Google’s engineers to identify individuals who could lend their technical expertise.

Of course, new technologies will not be a panacea to address all the challenges of increasing the efficacy of the U.N. human rights monitoring mechanisms, and they will not eliminate the need for greater financial resources and human capital to support special rapporteurs. There was consensus, however, that exciting possibilities already exist for harnessing new technologies to support the work of mandate holders, as well as a committed core of technologists and human rights activists who are willing to advance that effort.