In 2013, during the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (now known as the African Union), African leaders solemnly declared their aim to “silence the guns” in Africa by the end of 2020. Consequently, silencing the guns—ending armed conflict—is the African Union’s theme for 2020, with high-level discussions on how to implement this goal throughout the year.
Imagine this: You are a farmer in northwest Central African Republic. In 2013, several of your family members and friends were killed by the ex-Séléka, a predominately Muslim rebel group that briefly took control of a large part of the country. Your wife survived, but was violently raped by some ex-Séléka fighters. A loosely organized network of Christian militias, generally referred to as the anti-Balaka, managed to defeat the ex-Séléka. Subsequent retaliatory attacks by the anti-Balaka, and communal clashes between the Christian and Muslim populations, forced almost the entire Muslim population to flee from the area where you live.
Image courtesy of ev/Unsplash
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.