From Promise to Prospects: Artificial Intelligence and Inclusive Peacemaking

By: Andreas T. Hirblinger | June 2021 | Blog



There are moments when a change in the environment challenges established approaches and innovation becomes key. The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced large parts of the global workforce – including those who make and build peace – into new ways of meeting and collaborating online, has been such a moment. Of course, many efforts to prevent conflict and make or build peace already somewhat relied on using a diverse set of digital technologies, with efforts to promote “ICT4Peace” dating back to the beginning of the century (Hattotuwa 2004). Yet, the core practices of making and building peace continued to be viewed as “human-centred” – and many professionals stuck to the idea that technology should only play a marginal role in facilitating peace processes (Lanz and Eleiba 2018).

However, international efforts to build peace are commonly guided by yet another important “soft” norm, namely that peace processes should be inclusive by taking into account the views and needs of all conflict stakeholders, not only those of powerful conflict parties (Hellmüller 2019). The pandemic seems to have tilted the balance between these two principles. Today, there exists a considerable number of cases in which mediators employ digital technologies in their effort to seek more broad-based participation, such as by running consultations on messaging apps or developing new crowdsourcing tools to collect data about rumours.

In fact, “digital inclusion” can serve a broad array of strategic purposes – from strengthening the legitimacy of processes and outcomes to empowering particular stakeholders, to protecting vulnerable groups (Hirblinger 2020). At the same time, there are increased concerns about the new exclusions and hierarchies that result from this new  reliance on digital and internet-based technologies. This is especially true in conflict contexts that are characterised by limited connectivity and digital literacy, making it difficult or impossible for many to make their voice heard.

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