How is artificial intelligence (AI) affecting conflict and its resolution? Peace practitioners and scholars cannot afford to disregard ongoing developments related to AI-based technologies – both from an ethical and a pragmatic perspective. In this blog, I explore AI as an evolving field of information management technologies that is changing both the nature of armed conflict and the way we can respond to it. AI encompasses the use of computer programmes to analyse big amounts of data (such as online communication and transactions) in order to learn from patterns and predict human behaviour on a massive scale. This is potentially useful for managing corporations and shaping markets, but also for gaining political influence, conducting psychological warfare and controlling populations.
In many cultures, the winter holidays are symbolized by shedding light onto darkness: Bright Christmas lights shine in dark alleyways and Hanukkah menorah candles are placed on windowsills of Jewish households. Scandinavian girls put a crown of candles on their heads; Iranians celebrate the triumph of the sun god Mithra over darkness on the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere; while Peruvians celebrate the sun god Inti on the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.
John Bercow, who stepped down as “Speaker” of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament on 31 October 2019, catapulted the otherwise obscure role into the public eye on an international level. This is due to the controversy over the Brexit parliamentary debates, his forthright manner, distinctive cry of “Or-derr!” whenever proceedings became rowdy – but I argue here that it is also due to his understanding of the role of speaker as mediator. In this blog post, I explore this understanding, and highlight what speakers of parliaments as well as mediators can learn from it.
Mediation Perspectives is a periodic blog entry that’s provided by the CSS’ Mediation Support Team and occasional guest authors. Each entry is designed to highlight the utility of mediation approaches in dealing with violent political conflicts. To keep up to date with the Mediation Support Team, you can sign up to their newsletter here.
Ongoing efforts to professionalize the field of mediation have focused upon the collection of lessons learned and good practice to better inform mediation strategies. My recently published study on “Peace Agreement Provisions and the Durability of Peace” seeks to contribute to this effort by analyzing quantitative research on the empirical relationship between the content of civil war peace agreements and the subsequent duration of peace. In my experience, this is an area of direct practical relevance to mediators, who can and do influence the design of peace agreements through introducing options from comparative cases, making bridging proposals or even occasionally drafting texts.
This article was originally published in Conflict Trends 2019/1 by the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) on 24 June 2019.
“The small is as important as the bigger picture. It is these smaller things, if they are coordinated, that can lead to the transformation of the bigger picture” (p. 10). These are the first two sentences of a recently published book on mediation in fragile contexts, written by Kenyan-Somali peacebuilder, Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, and Swiss researcher-practitioner, Simon Mason. These opening lines capture the essence of the book. The book is broadly concerned with how to deal with violent societal conflict ranging from intercommunity and community-state to nationwide ethnopolitical conflict. A common thread throughout the book is how small steps in peace processes taken by mediators and conflict parties from the bottom up can eventually lead to peace.