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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.