Peacebuilding is fundamentally about change, and most discussions about peacebuilding are really about how to change less than ideal situations into slightly better ones. Over time, answers to these questions have increasingly recognised that conflict might in fact contribute to positive political, cultural and societal processes. The change needed no longer revolves around resolving or managing conflict, but rather transforming it away from violence and destruction towards constructive change.
This perspective sees the different spheres of politics, culture and society as closely linked in conflict contexts and the potential subjects to such transformations. So while we explored whether there was a role for technology in peacebuilding in 2014, focusing more specifically on who and how in 2015, we propose to tackle the change question head on at Build Peace 2016 by asking why we use technology to build peace. What are we trying to change, and what can technology affect in these processes?
To cover the key facets of these complex questions, we identify three areas of enquiry as starting points to continue our discussion on how technology can contribute to building peace.
- Political transformation Discussions on the role of technology in political processes have often focused on resistance – how activists mobilise against oppressive regimes (we heard from Dalia Haj-Omar and her experience in Sudan last year), for example. We propose to extend this conversation to explore whether and how technology can support wider inclusion in and engagement with political processes in peacebuilding. Does technology provide new avenues to engage with or challenge Track 1 negotiation processes? Or does it lead to alternative (or complementary) peace efforts, independent of political and institutional support? Can technologies closely associated with political processes be trusted in fragile or rapidly changing peacebuilding environments?
- Socio-cultural transformation From current project data we know that the bulk of work that uses technology for peacebuilding focuses on mobilisation and engagement, with the aim of changing behaviours. But in order to contribute to peace, these transformations require reaching a certain critical mass. So what role can technology play in changing behaviours and cultural manifestations? And can technology facilitate processes to build this critical mass? And can it help us know when a critical mass has been reached?
- Ethics Finally whether we are engaged in political or socio-cultural transformation, there are always values that guide how we go about this work. But technology brings about specific considerations. What ethical challenges does technology highlight in peacetech? What are the ‘side effects’ of using technology in peacebuilding and do they outweigh perceived benefits? How do we avoid the ‘white saviour industrial complex’ and the perpetuation of dominant power structures? Does the sourcing of the technologies we use matter? What values should guide a peacetech industry that seeks to constructively transform society?
Contribute your experience to Build Peace 2016
Ideas, projects and research that consider these questions will be the focus of debates at Build Peace 2016. We are busy curating keynote speakers, dialogues between experts and workshops. The 2016 conference will have more than double the hours of workshop or informal discussion time to create more spaces for making valuable connections or collaborative working. And we are also looking for contributions from all of you. There are different ways you can apply to share your work at the conference:
- Short Talks are intended to present concrete projects that are in progress or completed. Presenters will speak for 5 minutes and then take questions from the audience.
- The Build Peace Lab offers presenters a chance to explain a concrete project that is at the idea or design stage. Presenters will speak for 10 minutes and then receive feedback and questions from the audience for 20 minutes.
- The Crowdsourced Arts project is a global exhibition of visual arts related to peacebuilding and technology, with a focus on the conference themes of political and socio-cultural transformation. We are looking for great photographs or other visual media suitable to reprint.
- The Technology Fair is a space for people or organizations to present technology tools that can be used to build peace. The Fair will take place in the main conference space throughout the conference. We expect most people to visit the Fair during lunch and coffee breaks.
Join us at Build Peace 2016: what you need to know
- You can buy conference tickets now: click here. Our standard registration procedure allows to buy up to five conference tickets. If you would like to order more, please contact Tonei to discuss your requirements.
- If you are interested in sharing your work, you can apply here to deliver a Short Talk, present at the Build Peace Lab, have a stand at our Technology Fair or to submit a piece of artwork for our crowdsourced arts project. Applications are open until April 15, 2016.
- Most of our ticket sales are used to fund those who could otherwise not afford to attend, and applications are also open until April 15, 2016 for our Travel Fund.
- You can also apply to be a volunteer at the conference by filling out this volunteer application form.
- Successful applications for the Short Talks, Build Peace Lab, Travel Fund and volunteers will receive a free conference ticket. Unsuccessful applicants will be given the chance to buy conference tickets at the end of the selection process.