Nearly everyday, startup companies and nonprofits alike from India to Iraq, the U.S. to Ukraine, South Africa to Sweden are tackling the drivers of violent conflict using tech, media, and data in new and exciting ways. Whether it’s the brilliant website “I Paid a Bribe.com”, which is being used in over 60 countries to expose corruption, or Annona, the startup company in our PeaceTech Accelerator that is tackling food security with software to connect small farmers in Africa with global buyers.Read More
It has been almost two decades exactly since conflict prevention shot to the top of the peace-building agenda, as large-scale killings shifted from interstate wars to intrastate and intergroup conflicts. What could we have done to anticipate and prevent the 100 days of genocidal killing in Rwanda that began in April 1994 or the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica just over a year later? The international community recognized that conflict prevention could no longer be limited to diplomatic and military initiatives, but that it also requires earlier intervention to address the causes of violence between nonstate actors, including tribal, religious, economic, and resource-based tensions.Read More
If there is one word that has been on everyone's lips during the political crises in Iraq, Ukraine, and Afghanistan, it is "inclusive."Heads of state, foreign secretaries, and even military chiefs like NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen have made headlines in recent months with their cries for more inclusive political processes -- by which they generally mean fair elections, constitutional reforms, reduced corruption, and participation in governance by all parts of society. But repression and faltering political accountability, they say, has all but defeated efforts to produce inclusive governments in these three violent and fragile states -- not to mention in Libya, Nigeria, Egypt, and elsewhere.
The research, however, suggests that things aren't quite so grim.Read More
Three years to the month since protests swept across the Middle East, the new year once again sees peaceful demonstrators facing off against hardened and sometimes violent security forces, this time in the Ukraine. And like in the Arab Spring, social media is being said to play a significant and potentially decisive role in empowering Euromaidan protesters in ways that couldn't have been imagined a decade ago.
While the world watches the Ukraine protests unfold, however, the narrative of how social media helped fuel democratic protests during the Arab Spring is undergoing a major revision. The democratic gains of early 2011 have proven largely ephemeral. Initial optimism about the future of the region's women and youth has dampened, and generalized violence plagues countries once thought to be on the cusp of a brighter future, such as Libya, Iraq, and Syria.Read More
When 2013 began, there was still smoldering controversy over theInnocence of Muslims movie "trailer" that had gone viral, sparking riots across the Middle East that left 50 dead and reportedly fueling the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. A year prior, an attack on a United Nations compound in Afghanistan that left at least 12 dead was spurred by the pastor of a tiny church in Gainesville, Fla., who publicized his planned Quran burning online. The Internet, it appeared, was proving its power to amplify a few lone, offending voices from one corner of the world enough to spark violence thousands of miles away. Then, halfway through 2013, after the Boston Marathon bombing, we witnessed another brand of online hysteria, as users flocked to Reddit and Twitter to try to identify the bombers, prompting an apology from Reddit for what it called "online witch hunts and dangerous speculation."Read More
On Saturday, Nov. 23, for the third evening in a row, the website Aymta.com sent a text message and e-mail blast to its subscribers, saying that a scud missile had been launched from Damascus, on its way to the northern Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah. Residents there had about ten minutes to shelter themselves however they could.
Aymta.com, designed by a 27-year-old software designer and former Syrian army conscript who is now in the United States, is an open-sourced warning system that relies on the reporting of volunteer spotters -- that is, ordinary citizens -- and a series of formulas that calculate a missile's trajectory and probable target. When it's locked on the probable destination, the site (the name of which means "when" in Arabic) automatically sends information to subscribers as a warning.Read More
While much attention has focused recently on debating the role of social media in high-profile events like the Arab Spring and the war in Syria, a quieter revolution has been happening around the globe. It's a revolution in innovation, information, and communication. And it could have big implications for the lives of people from Colombia to Egypt, Kenya to Afghanistan.
This revolution is in the way technologies are being used at the community level to mitigate causes of violence. It's difficult to think of a single issue in the conflict-management field -- election violence, interethnic hatred, land disputes, gender violence, and so on -- in which there hasn't been an effort to use digital media and technology-enabled networks to inflect the causes of conflict.Read More