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Peace and Conflict Futures

Introduction

We can imagine that in 2050, problems will be still human and natural but solutions would be virtual and digital.

Geo-Politics : from tradition to 2.0

Key words:multi-culturalism, tolerance, environment, ethnicity, Arab spring, cyber-activism, social medias

Roots of disagreement

Interactions between humans and others and humans and their environment, led and will lead to difficult situations, like sharing a land, a territory.

Gold wash and deforestation in South-America, uranium and diamonds exploitations in Africa, water and petrol wars in Middle-East, climate change refugees in Asia, make us realize that we, our economic system and our way of life, are linked to how we manage our environment.These still updated challenges, should be solved quickly but they raise one question : are we really ready to do that ? If, our societies led to these situations, isn't it because of our own interests and despite our neighbours' ones ?

Culture, religion and/or ethnicity define human beings, in order to help them to be organised, to survive. These different points which gather us, these common points which make us diverse, are too often used to generate clashes between people, forgetting our natural desire to live in harmony and tolerance together. The Human Security Report Project, in its 2012 report, indicated it is now widely accepted the number of armed conflicts has declined substantially over the last two decades. Analysis of the report by international relations security network ETH Zurich further suggested that there is little support for an overall trend towards longer conflicts.

But how to deal with fundamentalisms of different types ? And how to reach mutual understanding and peace though mass and social medias prisms ?

Conflicts and Social Media

Since 2011, we've deeply recognized the role of social medias during wars and conflicts. Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and nowadays Turkey, are some sad examples.

Twitter, Facebook had been used to spread informations, to create civil rebellions against repressive regims and then, to organise a new form of peoples' empowerment.

Newly acknowledged, every citizen gets information to become a cyberactivist, to decide about his/her political representatives, his/her future.

In which framework, social medias could be a real vector for civil society and be wholly reliable ? And how could social medias be turned into weapons of war like other technologies? This latter point may be especially pertinent given comments made by the independent watchdog Freedom House in its ‘Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media’ report, namely, that “Governments are responding to the increased influence of the new medium by seeking to control online activity, restricting the free flow of information, and otherwise infringing on the rights of users”.

Democracy 3.0 and beyond ?

Key words : democracy, governance, cyber-protection, citizen

Geo-politics 2.0, our nowadays geopolitics reaches its limits. This situation allowed us to re-think a new model of citizen's involvment.

As far as our physical protection goes through cyber-protection, could initiatives like Anonymous' action or Wiki-Leaks, be relevant ? Faceed with new NSA PRISM  scandal, could our governments imagine new relationships with citizens, new kinds of governance, a democracy 3.0 ?

Conclusion

Glenn Greenwald (Journalist-Columnist) : « This dynamic - the hallmark of a healthy and free society - has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That's the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable. »

(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/07/whistleblowers-and-l...)

Note:

The results of all brainstormings undergone at the "Ground-breaking Policies for Future Societies" workshop, including this very vision, can be found here.

Leading image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Supporting Evidence

Social media, democracy and good governance, Tim Unwin (http://www.commonwealthgovernance.org/assets/uploads/2012/10/Social-media-democracy-and-good-governance.pdf)

Social media and conflict prevention, Sheldon Himelfarb (http://www.usip.org/publications/social-media-and-conflict-prevention)

The use of media, including social media, to enhance citizen engagement and democracy, Resolution of the 128th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly (http://www.ipu.org/conf-e/128/res-3.htm)

Turkey's twitter generation is its European future, Heather Grabbe
(http://www.opendemocracy.net/heather-grabbe/turkeys-twitter-generation-is-its-european-future%E2%80%A8)

Interview with Evgeny Morozov, Rick Docksai (http://www.wfs.org/content/futurist-interviews-net-democracy-expert-evgeny-morozov)

Rule without Rulers, Michael Hardt (http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com/michael-hardt--3/6574-the-future-of-democracy)

New study quantifies use of social media in Arab Spring, Catherine O'Donnell  (http://www.washington.edu/news/2011/09/12/new-study-quantifies-use-of-social-media-in-arab-spring/)

Crowdsourcing as a tool in conflict prevention, Anne Kahl, Christy McConnell and William Tsuma (http://www.accord.org.za/images/downloads/ct/ACCORD_Conflict_Trends_2012_1.pdf)

Human Security Report 2012 (http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/2012/overview.aspx)

Human Security Report 2012, Chapter 6: Persistent Armed Conflict - An Increasing Threat? (http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Articles/Detail/?lng=en&id=156459)

New Report: Governments Grow Increasingly Repressive Online, Activists Fight Back(http://www.freedomhouse.org/article/new-report-governments-grow-increasingly-repressive-online-activists-fight-back)

Challenges: 
  • New technologies which enable social and political mobilisation & representation do not, of themselves, always produce consistent, desirable or even long-lived outcomes.
  • Open digital platforms are likely to be adopted by all parties involved in an issue or dispute leading to a ‘level playing field’ where problems such as the ‘gaming’ of the system or difficulty in differentiating between accurate information and propaganda occur.
  • States may exploit these technologies on a secretive basis for a wide range of activities from information monitoring, performing security assessments through to the active exclusion of individuals or groups. This issue may be exacerbated in countries which control the domestic versions of social media platforms, for example, China.
  • The adoption of such technologies does not, of itself, lead to the resolution of any wider social, economic, political or security pressures that either the nation or social group in question may be experiencing.
  • The adoption of such technologies does not lead to the automatic creation of enhanced forms of democracy or political representation.
Opportunities: 
  • If access to both devices and network connectivity is available, the technologies can be used to draw groups which may previously have been poorly represented or marginalised into wider civil society and public activism
  • New approaches are being developed to better understand how social technologies can be used effectively in conflict prevention (inter-ethnic dialogue, preventing or protesting violence or resource disputes, election management, constitution building)
  • Such technologies have begun to change traditional information distribution hierarchies enabling both top-down and bottom-up behaviour. This may offer rich opportunities to explore how governments and citizens can interact in the future.
  • There are emergent institutional responses in this area at national, transnational and global levels. Over time we may expect both a corpus of relevant strategies and guidelines to be developed as well as the adoption and dissemination of ‘best’ or most effective practices.
Questions: 
Many of the technologies we look to in this area are, in fact, owned and operated by commercial entities. What impacts could we envision if the tools and services we currently use are altered or changed?
What might happen if sectional or narrow interest groups (either governmental or commercial) sequestrate, restrict or even withdraw services in the future?
Our first shared experience of social technologies in this context (the Arab Spring) is widely perceived as being for the ‘good’. How might we react if social technologies were increasingly used to destabilise society and foment conflict?
Given the generation currently in school has only ever known a world in which these kinds of social technologies are available, might they be best placed to look for ideas on how to use them for wider political improvement or conflict reduction?
Having access to technology is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition, for new forms of participatory representation to be developed. What else is needed to create momentum and drive longer term change?
What elements (if any) of conflict or political disagreement cannot be overcome or reduced by social technologies?
Timeframe: 
2050
Desirability: 

Likelihood: 

Underpinning policy ideas

Driving trends