Digital Technologies in Conflict and Peacebuilding

Digital Technologies in Conflict and Peacebuilding

May 2022

How are digital tools polarising societies and fuelling violence? And how can they be used to build peace instead? These were the main questions explored at our panel event held on 10 May 2022.

Ambassador Markus Leitner opened the discussion, noting that “the war in Ukraine shows again the power of social media.” It was acknowledged that the wide availability of digital technology has changed the nature of modern conflict and the responses to it.

The panel discussion was chaired by the Co-founder & Strategy Lead of Build Up, Ms Helena Puig Larrauri, and the speakers included:

  • Ms Zigwai Ayuba, National Expert Adviser, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Nigeria
  • Dr Christine Cheng, Senior Lecturer, Department of War Studies, King's College London and Trustee, Conciliation Resources
  • Mr Enrico Formica, Senior Mediation Officer, Mediation Support Unit, UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs
  • Dr Andreas Hirblinger, Postdoctoral Researcher, Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), Graduate Institute, Geneva
    Visiting Researcher, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

A key concern discussed by the panel is that digital tools, and in particular social media, have become powerful means to increase division and foment violence.“We’ve realised that social media is being used to compound issues of violence and as a tool for terrorist groups to use,” said Zigwai Ayuba, National Expert Adviser at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Nigeria.

The panel also discussed how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a role, and how conflict parties themselves are manipulating opinions and content.

While on the one hand, digital tools and in particular social media have become powerful means to increase division and foment violence, on the other hand these technologies can be used to change the narrative of a conflict, anticipate and prevent the escalation of tensions, and as a tool for peacebuilding.

Panellists concluded that while there are tools that can aid mediation and support peacebuilding, ultimately digital technology cannot replace the need for human contact and human control.

Switzerland has a long-standing tradition of supporting conflict parties in finding negotiated solutions and promotes the development and responsible use of digital technologies in peacebuilding work. With Geneva as an international hub for digitalisation and peacebuilding, Switzerland also brings together expertise in humanitarian issues and digital governance, as well as creating space for dialogue.

If elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2023‑24, Switzerland intends to continue its engagement for peacebuilding within the Security Council.

Watch highlights from the panel discussion on Digital Technologies in Conflict and Peacebuilding.