Before the Security Council, the UN pleads for a consensus on the use of digital technologies

“We have a critical opportunity to build consensus on how digital technologies can be used for the good of people and the planet, while addressing their risks,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations. political affairs and peacebuilding. “But collective action by member states remains essential to achieve this goal.”

She noted that social media has transformed advocacy for human rights and humanitarian aid, “making it possible to quickly and effectively mobilize people around the world around issues in need of urgent action.”

In peacekeeping and security, technical developments have improved the ability to detect crises, better pre-position humanitarian aid and create data-driven peacebuilding tools, he said. she stated.

UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Rosemary DiCarlo, Chief of Political Affairs of the United Nations, before the Security Council.

Tools that can improve security

And when it comes to conflict prevention, new digital tools have strengthened peacemaking and peacebuilding, providing better information and early warning data, DiCarlo added.

She noted that the United Nations Mission in Support of the Hodeidah Accord (UNMHA) in Yemen is using mapping and satellite technology to improve ceasefire monitoring and increase the UN’s ability to “understand , analyze and respond to crises that may have a digital dimension, and… deal with digital risks”.

In addition, new technologies can support political processes, in particular by promoting inclusion. “In various peace negotiations, we have used artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted digital dialogues to reach out to thousands of interlocutors, to hear their views and priorities,” she said. “This has been a particularly useful way to reach traditionally excluded groups, including women.”

New technologies can also improve the safety and security of peacekeepers and civilian personnel in the field.

“The launch of the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of Peacekeeping represents a critical step towards this goal and towards more effective mandate implementation – by increasing early warning capabilities,” said the Chief Political Affairs Officer. .

These tools also help visualize information and convey data-rich analysis to inform Security Council decisions – as exemplified by a recent virtual reality presentation on Colombia, highlighting the UN’s work on the land for ambassadors.

Worrying trends

However, there are areas of concern, DiCarlo continued, citing estimates that the number of incidents involving technologies used for malicious purposes has almost quadrupled since 2015.

“Activities targeting infrastructure that provide essential public services, such as health and humanitarian agencies, are of particular concern,” she said.

At the same time, lethal autonomous weapons raise questions about human responsibility when force is used. Echoing the UN Secretary-General, she called machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement, “politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be banned by international law”.

“Non-state actors are increasingly able to use low-cost and widely available digital technologies to pursue their goals,” the UN official warned, pointing out that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda use actively use social media platforms to recruit, plan and fundraise.

She drew attention to the human rights implications of new technologies, from surveillance technologies that can target communities or individuals to artificial intelligence that can be discriminatory.

“We are also concerned about the increasing use of internet disruptions, particularly in situations of active conflict, which deprive communities of their means of communication, work and political participation,” said Ms. DiCarlo, citing as an example Myanmar, where such incidents have increased in number and duration since last year’s military coup.

Additionally, she continued, social media can fuel polarization and violence by spreading misinformation, radicalization, racism and misogyny, which heightens tensions and exacerbates conflict.

“In Ethiopia, as the fighting intensified, there was an alarming increase in social media posts spreading inflammatory rhetoric, with some going so far as to incite ethnic violence,” the senior ISIS official recalled. UN to the Security Council. “We also know that misinformation can impede the ability of our missions to implement their mandates, exacerbating lies and fueling polarization.”

While seizing the opportunities offered by new technologies to advance peace, the risks must be mitigated and responsible use must be promoted by all.

With the Hate Speech Action Plan and communications initiatives such as Verified, the UN is acting to mitigate these dangers by avoiding misperceptions and misunderstandings, Ms. DiCarlo told the meeting.

“However, more needs to be done”, she concluded, highlighting the Global Digital Pact, which would define common principles for an “open, free and secure digital future for all”; the new agenda for peace, which takes a holistic view of global security; and the draft code of conduct for the integrity of public information.

A student using AVR technology at his school in Lao Cai province, Viet Nam.

© UNICEF/Hoang Le Vu

A student using AVR technology at his school in Lao Cai province, Viet Nam.

Digital rights

In a videoconference presentation, Nanjala Nyabola, Director of Advox, the digital rights project of the online community Global Voices, highlighted the need to defend and uphold digital rights.

“Over the past two decades, we have seen a dramatic expansion in the use of digital technology,” she said, but it has “unfortunately not been matched by a similar investment to protect us from damage caused by this expansion”.

The rapid pace of technological progress has created problems that could have been avoided at an earlier stage, Ms. Nyabola said, calling for a broad moratorium on new surveillance technologies.

She drew the Security Council’s attention to digital access policies and internet disruptions, highlighting how they negatively impact cultural and economic minorities and constitute barriers to women’s access.

“Digital rights are human rights,” she said, adding that users must be protected.

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