[This post was originally published on Andrew Greene’s blog.]
Technology can be used for building Peace not War. Whilst some folks may be wracking their brains to produce technology that is tantamount to accelerating conflict or causing blatant mayhem, a small but very influential organization ‘Build Peace’ has just done the reverse. They have proven that technology can be used for the greater good and to promote peaceful coexistence or mitigate conflict.
They ‘ve just hosted the ‘Build Peace, through technology conference and have figured out a spot to host this as no less a spot as the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They have n’t tried to do it alone as they found out it is too challenging and complex a thing to do all by themselves. Thanks to this conviction I became part of a carefully well chosen small group of experts who were flown over to the MIT to share, think, learn, innovate and explore new or successfully proven approaches to build peace via technology. The organizers believed that ” The Build Peace Conference brings together practitioners, activists and technologists from around the world to share experience and ideas on using technology for peacebuilding and conflict transformation and how to build peace”.
Both Francesco Mancini,( Senior Director of Research, International Peace Institute), and Chris Perry, (Research Fellow; Data Scientist, International Peace Institute), in the conference White paper observed that “the use of ICTs is leading to an unprecedented diffusion of both knowledge and power. The digital information age has contributed to the substantial growth of social networks as well as the number and diversity of actors with a microphone. Relatedly, the ability to be influential and to be influenced at a rapid and continual pace is fundamentally affecting the methods of conflict actors and creating new spheres of contestant. For example, much has been said about the role of social media in the eruption of the so-called Arab Spring. Factors such as the massive increase in the number of mobile devices with cameras add the capacity for wide spread documentation of events on the ground not previously available. Greater Internet access and the ability to reach millions of people worldwide has had huge implications both for information dissemination as well as narrative shaping. This implies that there are potentials for the rise of “citizen conflict analysts” or “citizen propagandists.”
On the Build Peace Conference website the organizers have also constructively set the stage for us clearly: “Technology is altering how we engage with the world, offering new avenues for social change. Over the course of two days, we will explore how information and communications technologies, games, networking platforms and other tools can enhance the impact of a broad range of peacebuilding, social cohesion and peace advocacy initiatives. Most ICT4Peace discussions focus on early warning and crisis response. Few pay attention to the use of technology for attitude and behavior change, collaboration, dialogue, or policy advocacy. Build Peace aims to complement existing forums by expanding the discussion to encompass other important areas of peace-building practice.”
At this inaugural Build Peace conference my views were reaffirmed again that technology does add value to a whole gamut of peace work. Technology helps and provides that space to build peace as well as a unique ability to recognize and protest horrific injustice when it occurs today.
Over the last 13 years of my efforts at promoting peace via technology, first working to help former child soldiers and children and youth victims of war in Sierra Leone use technology as a way to heal their minds from the trauma of war, and a chance to communicate to a global audience, and later on assisting amputee victims who have faced unprecedented violence to tell their stories and learn ICT skills, I have discovered the uniqueness of using technology in many of my peace efforts. These tools have till date, helped me profoundly in my commitment in achieving my goals for peace promotion and human rights. In a world where a lot of people face violence and intimidation as well as inequality and seem to go unnoticed, technology has provided the space and the tools to unearth these problems and allow a great deal of opportunity to open up the ‘Pandora’s Box’ of often concealed violations.
The ‘Build Peace through Technology Conference’ allows us to deeply reflect on how we can take action on behalf of people who are trying to forge their own paths to freedom and liberation from the scourges of war, neglect and abuse.
The Build Peace conference reflects our oneness and through communication, network opportunities, the event demonstrates the timeless truth that we are all one with God and life – caring for each other and the planet we share, so that people’s actions reflect this profound understanding within our generation. The conference shows us that living these truth is essential in solving the most chronic and acute world problems and are vital to creating a sustainable world peace, harmony and happiness.
I found the ‘Ignite Talks ‘ very powerful and shows how we have been committed in waging peace via technology, not war, and the sharing of powerful stories from different places. The stories of peace work were powerful and equally important and inspiring stories of peace efforts that needed to be told.
The conference and organizers brought together like-minded peace activist and professionals as well as communities whose ignite talks, videos and PowerPoint presentations shared breakthrough approaches in helping to mitigate conflict and build peace.
Ronny Edry’s Ignite talk on ‘Make a friend, make Peace’ does capture the simple ways that mutual friendship, even if virtual and online can reaffirm our commonality of purpose in living in living in a world that we share. Just a click away brings peace, joy and friendship and such online friendship does culminate into a very personal relationship that fosters peace and harmony even amongst often polarized groups of Israelis and Palestinians.
The event made room for interactions as well as immersive learning, with high calibre networking and thought-provoking discussions around various methods of using technology for peace. Many who spoke at the ‘Ignite talks’ have used social media to support their peacebuilding ventures in innovative ways. Some of the panels explored how ‘practitioners and organizations are using mobile and internet technologies and the data they might generate to analyse evolving conflicts in a more accurate and timely way, and provide better advice to peacebuilders responding to conflicts.’
I was so excited to hear stories and ideas that have come out of the build peace conference through technology, from people who don’t look like us, or people from diverse countries who still share a common belief of peace and tolerance and have so much to tell us or teach us about carving a world of peaceful co-existence with equal passion. I also saw and realized first-hand, the amazing opportunity to go in-dept and do a deep dive to learn about the nuances of peacebuilding through technology and I thought it was just so brilliant. It was indeed an amazing and enriching investment of my time in Boston, and education for peace through technology, an experience that helps me to become an even better peace building professional. It was an opportunity to meet with key Peace Builders from all sides of the peace building efforts and share my own inspirational stories in Sierra Leone in building peace in the hearts of those amputees who bore the most brutal consequences in our countries war, and to initiate activities of tolerance, reconciliation, forgiveness and bring the technology closer to them to foster networking opportunities that foster peaceful collaboration, friendship and peaceful co-existence.
Today, ‘Practitioners and organizations are using mobile and internet technologies and the data they might generate to analyse evolving conflicts in a more accurate and timely way, and provide better advice to peacebuilders responding to conflicts.’