Category Archives: Build Peace 2015

Together Separate: exploring the choreography of contesting space (by Roseline de Thelin and Jason Meek)

We invite all conference participants to join us for one or more interactive community art events using expressive arts inquiry, a process-oriented method of facilitation and action research that encourages and supports people to gain fresh perspective about conflict and other disorienting dilemmas through movement, creative expression, and embodied experience. Come and explore your relationship to object, space, culture, and identity in new, insightful, and invigorating ways that everyone can do and enjoy. We will share techniques that you can easily adapt and apply in the field across cultures and contexts.

Register by April 23 to participate in our community art events!

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The song remains the same (by Luis Puig)

[Prologue: “Songs my father taught me” by Helena Puig Larrauri

Luis Puig is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Valencia, an avid gardener, and a keen blogger. He’s also my dad, and perhaps, above all these, his real passion has always been music. With years of experience curating his own refined collection, we asked him to put together a mixtape of songs about peace for the Build Peace 2015 conference. What he dug up were mainly songs about war. In this blog post, he reflects on what that means for peacebuilding. In many ways, this music represents the sensibility and values of the 1968 generation, filtered through a love of vinyl and the particular experience of anti-fascist activism in Spain. His musical taste and his values have informed much of what I do. We may go from vinyl to cd to digital and back to vinyl again; while the tech may change, the values of non-violent activism remain.]


Build Peace 2015 Tape by Luis Puig on Mixcloud

What is the point of war?

Edwin Starr shouts it loud and clear: “War! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”
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Going digital with the Peace Superheroes (by Marianne Perez de Fransius, Meg Villanueva and Sabrina Patrick-Urrutia)


A group of 9 and 10-year olds were playing in the park.

One of the younger boys had climbed pretty high up on the jungle gym and was trying to show off by making it look like he was going to jump from so high up.

He hadn’t anticipated though that the kids on the ground would start egging him on. “Come on Johnny! Show us if you really are that brave! You’ve gotta jump! Come on!”

Johnny was stuck: if he jumped, he ran a serious risk of injuring himself; if he didn’t, he faced near certain ridicule of the kind only middle schoolers can dish out. “You look sooo scared Johnny! Ha!” And in response to that unbearable truth Johnny jumped the two meters, twisting his ankle, but saving his pride.

In witnessing this banal playground conflict, Marianne Perez de Fransius saw many opportunities for how this bullying incident could have been peacefully transformed.

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PEACEapp winner: Everyday Racism (by Nova Longhurst)

All Together Now is the only national not-for-profit organisation that is dedicated to ending racism in Australia. All Together Now focuses on creating projects that are designed to educate the individual and wider society on what racism is, how to speak up when witnessing it and encouraging social discussion on racism. The Everyday Racism mobile phone app is one of the projects designed to start this national review on racism in Australia.

Everyday Racism is a mobile phone app offering the User the ability to walk in someone else’s shoes for an entire week. The challenge is set at the beginning of the App to live in the life of an Aboriginal man, a Muslim woman, an Indian student or as yourself for that week. It’s an immersive experience where you’ll receive texts, tweets, images and videos that will challenge you and your assumptions. It will help you understand the importance of speaking up when you witness racism.

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Introducing Technology to Traditional Peacebuilding Programs (by Cindy Chungong)

Cindy Chungong is Program Officer, West and Central Africa at Search for Common Ground. She is a professional in the field of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, focusing on West and Central Africa and the Sahel. Her work focuses on the promotion of mediation, dialogue and communication, youth and women’s leadership, and media arts and culture to consolidate peace in fragile environments. She is chairing Build Peace 2015’s panel on ‘Introducing Technology to Traditional Peacebuilding Programs’.

Photo licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Carsten ten Brink

Photo licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Carsten ten Brink

Peacebuilding as a professional field has undergone dramatic changes since the end of the Cold War. From a simplistic conception of ‘negative’ peace, defined as the mere cessation of violence, it has evolved to encompass holistic strategies for addressing the root causes of conflict, rebuilding social ties, creating institutions capable of responding to citizen needs, ensuring equitable economic development, and instituting participatory decision-making processes. Parallel to this shift in peacebuilding paradigms have been the astonishing technological advances of the past century. One of the most stunning developments, for example, has been in mobile communication technologies: from being unwieldy and expensive tools of the rich, today mobile phones are owned by most adults in most countries. In 2005, Facebook was the preserve of students at a small group of elite universities; today the social network counts more than a billion monthly users.

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Digital Games for Peace (by Jen Welch)

*This post was originally published as part of Issue 5 of Build Peace Magazine – #peacetech – here.*


As peacebuilders continue to explore new ways to manage and reduce conflict, digital games and apps present promising avenues for innovation. Digital games and apps are websites or web applications available on desktop computers or mobile devices that utilize game mechanics to engage users. Beyond entertainment, games can offer safe and engaging environments in which to showcase alternative narratives and develop and practice new responses to complex and dangerous situations. Games and apps for peace are part of a broader movement aiming to develop games that have social effects. While mainstream game publishers have been slower to adopt the idea, the movement is gaining momentum, as illustrated by the work of Games for Change or independent publishers such as Polish-based 11 bit studios and their critically-acclaimed release “This War of Mine“, which puts players in the role of a civilian trying to survive a siege by scavenging, hiding, and making life-or-death decisions.

Beyond entertainment, games can offer safe and engaging environments in which to showcase alternative narratives and develop and practice new responses to complex and dangerous situations. Games and apps for peace are part of a broader movement aiming to develop games that have social effects.
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Using open source mobile technologies to make people safer in the South (by Bruno Siqueira and Robert Muggah)

Information and communication technologies are dramatically transforming the way governments, private actors and people interact. With the advent and spread of technologies – especially wireless connectivity and wearables – new forms of communication and information exchange are possible.

Not surprisingly, technological innovations are having a profound effect on the form and content of law enforcement. Alongside big data surveillance systems, police officers in the Global North are testing body cameras. Studies are demonstrating that they can reduce police violence and complaints against officers.

But what are the possibilities for the use of these new technologies for improving law enforcement in the South? A new initiative led by the Igarapé Institute is seeking to answer this question. Working with partners across Brazil and South Africa, the Institute is testing open source mobile phone based tools to improve public safety and police-community relations. The initiative is called “smart policing”.


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Peacemaking in School Contexts Using Interactive Tabletops (by Andri Ioannou)

** This project will be presented at the Build Peace conference in a Short Talk by Chrystalla Antoniou, PhD Candidate, Cyprus University of Technology – see our Program for more info **

This study examines how the use of tabletop technology might be able to promote peaceful attitudes and mitigate conflict in a school environment.

interactivetabletop1The participants were twenty (20) K‐12 students (grades 3‐6) at a public elementary school in the eastern Mediterranean. The school is characterized by large numbers of foreign students (i.e., minority enrolment), high drop‐out rate and increased incidences of conflict (verbal and physical), violence and delinquency. Students worked in conflicting groups of four students each on various learning and game activities around an interactive tabletop, over the span of three weeks.

Analysis of student interviews, triangulated with findings from video data, revealed that tabletop technology can become a means for communication and collaboration, give the chance for students in conflict to share a common space, and help shape better attitudes and relationships among them, which extends beyond the duration of the intervention.

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Peacebuilders in the Sky? (by Patrick Meier)

The number of studies that examine the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in peacebuilding are far and few between.[1] Even less common (and virtually non-existent) are academic studies that explore the role that robots might play in peacebuilding. Take drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), for example. While drones are typically considered military weapons, few realize that small, non-lethal drones are also being used for peacebuilding purposes. I look forward to expanding on the examples below during my keynote presentation at Build Peace 2015 in Cyprus.

small UAVThe Sentinel Project recently launched their Human Security UAV program in Kenya’s violence-prone Tana Delta to directly support Una Hakika (“Are You Sure”). Hakika is an information service that serves to “counteract malicious misinformation [disinformation] which has been the trigger for recent outbreaks of violence in the region.” The project is powered by a dedicated toll-free SMS short code and an engaged, trusted network of volunteer ambassadors. When the team receives a rumor verification request via SMS, they proceed to verify the rumor and report the findings back (via SMS) to the community. The Sentinel team recently introduced the use of UAVs to support Una Hakika’s verification efforts and will be expanding the program to include a small fleet of multi-rotor and fixed wing platforms. While Una Hakika’s verification network includes hundreds of volunteer ambassadors, they can’t be everywhere at the same time. As the Sentinel team mentioned during one of our recent conversations, there are some places that simply can’t be reached by foot reliably. In addition, the UAVs can operate both day and night; wandering around at night can be dangerous for Una Hakika’s verification ambassadors. The Sentinel team thus plans to add InfraRed, thermal imaging capabilities to the UAVs.

The main element of the Sentinel’s UAV program will be to use the small drones (pictured above) to set up perimeter security areas around threatened communities. Furthermore, the program can address other vectors, which have led to recent violence: using the UAVs to help find lost (potentially stolen) cattle, track crop health, and monitor contested land use. The team mentioned that the UAVs could also be used to support search and rescue efforts during periods of drought and floods.

Satellite Sentinel has also started discussing the use of UAVs for payload transportation. For example, UAVs could deliver medical supplies to remote villages that have been attacked. After all, the World Health Organization (WHO) is already using UAVs for this purpose. With each of these applications, the Sentinel team clearly emphasizes that the primary users and operators of the UAVs must be the local staff in the region. This explains why I connected them to my colleagues at the Syria Airlift Project who are looking to use UAVs to deliver much needed supplies to crisis-affected populations in Syria.

The Syria Airlift Project is building fixed-wing UAVs that can deliver cargo at fairly long ranges by airdropping parachute bundles. These UAVs can currently deliver 1kg bundles at a range of 30km and then return. The team is now designing a plane that can carry 2kg at 50km. The novel part of this initiative is that they’re looking to develop a swarming model, which would enable local communities to launch large numbers of these planes. “If one crew could launch a plane every 5 minutes, that would add up to almost 200kg in an eight-hour time period,” they recently wrote in an email exchange. This is where their community approach comes in. Indeed, a swarming model will only work if this becomes a community project where lots of people can get involved and take ownership. Peacebuilding is often about changing the balance of power. UAVs can clearly play an important role in shifting powerbases.

Guyana UAVMeanwhile, in Guyana, an indigenous community has learned to build and operate their own drones to monitor illegal logging and deforestation. When my colleague Gregor from Digital Democracy traveled to Guyana a few months ago to catalyze the project, he didn’t bring a drone; he simply brought a bunch of parts and glue, lots of glue. “We didn’t want to just fly into Guyana and fly a drone over the local villages,” writes Gregor. “Our interest was whether this technology could be something that can be used and controlled by the communities themselves, and become a tool of empowerment for helping them have more of a say in their own future. We wanted the Wapichana to be able to repair it themselves, fly it themselves, and process the images to use for their own means.” Oh, and by the way, Gregor had never built a drone before. Building the drone was truly a community effort. “When the motor mount broke, the team scoured the village for different types of plastic, and fashioned a new mount from an old beer crate. The drone was no longer a foreign, mysterious piece of technology, but something they owned, built and therefore understood.”

As the Sentinel Team in Kenya recently noted, “We believe that successful technology driven programs must not only act as tools to serve these communities but also allow community members to have direct involvement in their use”.  As such, their approach helps to “counteract the paralysis which arises from the unknowns of a new endeavor when studied in a purely academic setting. The Sentinel Project team believes that a cautious but active strategy of real-world deployments will best demonstrate the value of such programs to governments and global citizens.”



Patrick Meier is an internationally recognized thought-leader on humanitarian technology and innovation. His new book “Digital Humanitarians” has already been endorsed by Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford, UN, World Bank and the Red Cross. Patrick directs QCRI’s Social Innovation Program where he develops “Next Generation Humanitarian Technologies” in partnership with international humanitarian organizations. Patrick has a PhD from The Fletcher School, Pre-Doc from Stanford and an MA from Columbia. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Times, Wired and Mashable. Patrick’s influential blog iRevolutions has received over 1.5 million hits. He tweets at @patrickmeier.