Exploring the impact of digital technology on conflict dynamics and peace operations: the story so far
Having served in 2014 on the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping, I saw how useful such a body could be. It reviewed UN progress, explored new areas, and served as a channel for many new proposals. The 2015 TIP Report was enthusiastically accepted by those UN departments most involved with peacekeeping. An extensive 18-month TIP Implementation Strategy was very quickly developed. Good progress was made as the UN tried out many new technologies in the field, including aerostats (tethered balloons with video cameras), novel UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, for observation), mobile command centres, and new forms of data collection and analysis, as well as more secure means of communication. However, momentum for the TIP Implementation Strategy waned after 18 months. Some progress continued in the field but most of the 120 recommendations from the TIP report were left unimplemented, unexplored and unprioritized.
A stock-taking of progress since the TIP Report would be valuable, especially for the UN’s experiences with new technologies, e.g., UAVs, which have gone from three in 2014 to over 100 at present (mostly mini-UAVs). Many lessons can be learned from the past half-decade. New technologies have been explored, some abandoned, but all of the experiences provide significant opportunities for analysis and institutional learning.