The Secretary-General emphasized in his Strategy on New Technologies (2018) the opportunities offered by digital technologies for accelerating the implementation of SDG 16 and enhancing the work of the peace and security pillar. With the appointment of the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation, the Secretary-General stressed that the UN must strengthen its internal capacities and deepen exposure to new technologies while increasing understanding, advocacy and dialogue around technology.
As digital technology changes societies, economies and governance, it can also has a role to play in conflict resolution. Big data, machine learning, crowdsourcing, digital opinion mining, and other e-analytics tools have the potential to enhance the UN’s operational approach to conflict prevention and peacemaking. Data is available at an unprecedented scale and in real time. Open data, including social media, and big data provide new entry points for peace and security assessments. Improvements in machine learning algorithms and computational power yield new opportunities.
A major benefit of technology-driven approaches is the ability to expand situational awareness, particularly in settings without political presence or limited access. They also offer opportunities to triangulate information based on empirical data. In addition, new technological frontiers such as artificial intelligence can help to detect patterns and political trends, monitor incidents and track community perceptions more efficiently and at a fast speed, thereby enhancing the organization’s capacity to forecast trends.
The use of data and technology for prevention and crisis management efforts continues to face technical and operational challenges. Limited internet access and restrictions in conflict zones remain impeding factors for digital sentiment analysis or opinion mining. Data privacy and data sensitivities need to be carefully considered, while insufficient or manipulated data can distort analytical conclusions.
There are also limits on the extent to which digital tools can leverage conflict prevention forecasts and diplomatic efforts. The human factor remains key in the new digital era.
Finally, as the Secretary-General’s Strategy on New Technologies emphasises, it is critical to maintain a culture of innovation in which both successes and failures from exposure to new technologies are a source of learning. New technologies and e-analytics approaches will take time to become integral parts of work flows and institutional mechanisms.
About this guide
This guide offers an overview of e-analytics in the context of peacemaking and preventive diplomacy. It is rooted in the e-analytics course that the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs has been conducting jointly with Global Pulse and a range of other partners since 2017.
The guide presents a summary of e-analytics tools as well as examples from the peace and security field. It includes a data project planning matrix that aims to help facilitate and motivate data-driven analysis. Part of the guide is a glossary on basic terminology related to new technologies.