United Nation’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs trains with QCRI to learn new ways for global conflict resolution
Technology continues to permeate every aspect of our lives, and in the case of the United Nation’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, it has the potential to lend itself in unique, impactful ways.
To explore its potential in peace time, the United Nation’s Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) collaborated with Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), organizing a three-day workshop in Doha. Through the workshop, scientists and researchers at QCRI trained 30 members of UN staff in how to use data and e-analytics in the field of peacebuilding.
Daanish Masood, Political Affairs Officer at the UN DPPA believes that after being around for 75 years, it is imperative for the UN to reimagine its current ways of working and adapt to the rapidly advancing technological ecosystem in order to ensure its success for another 75 years.
The nature of conflict is changing – either through the rise of new technologies, data breaches, or misinformation campaigns.
“When it comes to the landscape of conflict prevention, peace, and security, the reality is that the terrain is changing very quickly, which means the nature of conflict is changing too – either through the rise of new technologies, data breaches, or misinformation campaigns,” he said.
Martin Waehlisch, also a Political Affairs Officer at the UN DPPA, dubbed QCRI as the MIT of the Middle East. He emphasized how the significance, relevance and need for the work QCRI is doing in the region made it the perfect choice for this collaboration for the UN.
Waehlisch is also the founder of the Innovation Cell at the DPPA. The Innovation Cell looks at creating an ecosystem that brings the public and private sector together, and to serve as an incubator and catalyst for innovation across the department and its field presences, to improve the delivery on the DPPA’s mandate.
One of the QCRI tools and solutions that made an impact on the members of the UN were the Arabic language technologies. Since a lot of their work in terms of conflict resolution and peace promotion lies in the Middle East, QCRI’s Arabic language technologies are options that can be utilized for field work in the region.
Learning how to capitalize on publicly available data through apps such as Facebook can also help better determine indicators such as social backgrounds and financial status, ultimately leading to a better understanding of intergroup violence.
A principle we share with QCRI is designing projects and applications that are for everyone’s greater use.
Additionally, Tanbih – a tool created by researchers at QCRI that uses natural language processing techniques to identify propaganda, loaded language, name calling and a number of other factors culminating in the credibility of a certain story or organization – also piqued the team’s interest.
“At a macro level, the fact that it is essentially able to assign a credibility score is something we can potentially use both at headquarters and in our field presence, because we are often under pressure to develop different analysis on an ongoing basis,” Masood said.
Following the interactive training, the UN DPPA is positive about a long-standing partnership with QCRI built on a mutual outlook.
“A principle we share with QCRI is designing projects and applications that are for everyone’s greater use. It’s amazing to see that they stand for open source applications – there is nothing that needs to be paid for. We can make use of these technologies for anyone who needs them,” Waehlisch added.