Over the past decade there has been growing interest in using the internet and other communication technologies for conflict management and peacebuilding. Two key areas have emerged: (1) using publicly available data on events and social dynamics to monitor and predict escalations of tensions or violence, and (2) harnessing the increased access to the internet and mobile telephones to promote positive peace. In both areas exciting innovations have developed as well as encouraging results.
In the first area, perhaps the most comprehensive information source is Kalev Leetaru’s “Global Database of Society” or GDELT Project that “monitors the world's broadcast, print, and web news from nearly every corner of every country in over 100 languages and identifies the people, locations, organizations, counts, themes, sources, and events driving our global society”. The event database alone covers 300 categories of peace-conflict activities recorded in public media since January 1979, while the identification of people, organizations and locations enables network graphing of connections in media records.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in Warsaw to attend a conference jointly organized by the Polish and Turkish Central Banks (“Polish and Turkish Transitions: Achievements and Challenges Ahead”) on the occasion of 600 years of diplomatic relations between Poland and Turkey. Six centuries of (predominantly friendly) relations is indeed worthy of commemoration, but for our Polish hosts another anniversary was of even greater importance: 25 years ago, Poland was the first country from the former Communist Block to embark on the transition towards democracy and market economy. For Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries that joined it as new members of the European Union 10 years ago, this transition laid the foundation for a remarkable economic, cultural and political revival as Indermit Gill and I have argued in Golden Growth. Indeed, many in Poland would agree with the Economist that Poland has not had it as good as today ever since it was the preeminent Central European power some 500 years ago.
World Humanitarian Day, celebrated on August 19, seeks to raise awareness around the important activity of humanitarian workers, as well as the dangers that they face.
This year's campaign featured the theme "The world needs more Humanitarian Heroes" and a call from popular personalities to show support for humanitarians by tweeting with the hashtags #humanitarianheroes and #theworldneedsmore. A new platform, Messengers of Humanity, was also launched to encourage individuals to become members of an online community where they can share images, important facts and figures, opportunities to get involved, and messages of hope.
Last month I was interviewing participants in the World Bank’s Urban Youth Employment Project in Port Moresby, talking about the challenges that PNG’s young people face in finding work.
One issue that came up repeatedly was mobility – or the lack of it: the basic ability to travel to and from the workplace. It is no secret that parts of Port Moresby are dangerous and crime is high. There are regular stories of carjacking but public transport is also a huge risk – an issue which disproportionately affects workers coming from poorer parts of the city.
The HR Manager told me casually how she was stabbed at a bus-stop and her billum (bag) stolen; one of the reception staff was stabbed twice on a bus getting home from work. The young woman we were profiling was held up on a bus at gunpoint in the area of Two Mile.
David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, opened a recent piece brilliantly titled ‘Aflame’ thus:
"Because memory, particularly historical memory, fails unfailingly, this summer feels like a uniquely horrific season of dissolution and blood."
Wars seem to be kicking off or intensifying everywhere. States are unraveling in what someone called ‘a great sorting out’. Global leaders and global institutions are struggling, unsuccessfully thus far, to contain, manage, and end not one conflict but several. And some of the conflicts are merging, evolving, transforming in ever more macabre ways. Above all, civilians are being killed in every one of these conflicts. Mortars are landing on homes. Women, children, the old and infirm are being slaughtered. The hard men – and they all seem to be men – leading these fights have welded iron into their souls. They have decided that they will not allow moral or legal niceties about protecting non-combatants to get in the way of an all-out drive for ‘victory’ by any means necessary.
Regular FP2P readers will be (heartily sick of) used to me banging on about the importance of ‘killer facts‘ in NGO advocacy and general communications. Recently, I was asked to work with some of our finest policy wonks to put together some crib sheets for Oxfam’s big cheeses, who are more than happy for me to spread the love to you lot. So here are some highlights from 8 pages of KFs, with sources (full document here: Killer fact collection, June 2014).