New UN Technology

Two of the fundamental objectives of Pugwash are to reduce the negative applications of technology, such as use and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, and to increase the positive applications, such as support of UN peace activities like arms control, peace operations, etc. The UN Secretary-General released in September 2018 a “Strategy on New Technologies,” outlining important principles for technologies in general. More particularly, the United Nations is making significant progress in implementing new technologies in its peace activities. For instance, peace operations technologies have expanded more in the past five years than the previous twenty-five, according to the experience and observations of Walter Dorn, who has been following this subject for over 30 years.

CPG member and former CPG Chair Dr. Walter Dorn (www.walterdorn.net) served a member of the UN’s Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping that produced the 2015 report “Performance Peacekeeping.” Since the mid-1980s, he has been seeking to assist the United Nations in using technology for its peace initiatives. He now co-chairs, with CPG member Robin Collins, the CPG project on New UN Technologies.

The project explores ways in which new technologies can enhance the peace initiatives of the United Nations, including arms control verification, peace operations, sanctions monitoring, peace enforcement, and UN technology in general.

As well as examining the benefits of such technologies, the project seeks to evaluate the drawbacks and challenges of incorporating new technologies. The project explores the ethical dimensions of new technologies, and the challenges of dual-use technologies. It explores technological efficiencies and deficiencies and the scalability of pilot projects.

It will also include UN measures to prevent globally the misuse of new technology, such as Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS, aka Killer Robots), new nuclear weapons, and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Five broad themes are envisioned for detailed examination in 2019/20.

  Broad Areas Specific Activities
Arms Control Examine the experience of the UN in arms control verification, e.g., the inspection work of UNSCOM/UNMOVIC, the IAEA and the OPCW
  • N. Korean nuclear/missile verification: potential UN and IAEA verification measures; learning from the 1994 Framework Agreement and its (mis)implementation
  • Mine clearance: new technologies
  • Other applicable tech
Cybersecurity & cyberpeacekeeping Examine the possibilities for a UN role in cyber security; follow the work of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation
  • Explore the possibilities for cyberpeacekeeping, analogous to the role that UN peacekeepers have long played in physical space
  • Current work of Digital Blue Helmets (DBH, operating under UN’s Office of Information and Communication Technology
Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) control> Examine why the development killer robots should be halted and a treaty developed to ban these weapons
  • Grouping and describing the reasons to prohibit LAWS
  • Summarizing the current activities and directions of member states and their arms control initiatives
  • Linking to NGO activities to stop killer robots
Peace Operations: New technological enablers Following up from the report of the Technology and Innovation Panel (TIP), on which Dr. Dorn participated, to look at specific measures for UN adoption and avoidance

 

  • Situational Awareness programme
  • Cell phone applications
  • UN-sponsored hackathons, e.g., for the development of new apps
  • Monitoring & analysis (including SEM)
  • Use of force in UN operations
UN Strategy on Technology Support the UN Secretary-General’s Strategy, released in 2018 (www.un.org/en/newtechnologies), and the proposed High Level Panel

  • Explore the principles in the strategy
  • Make contact with the relevant Secretariat officials
  • Benefits and drawbacks of “smart technology” and artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML)

Abbreviations of international bodies: UNSOM (1991-1998) and UNMOVIC (1999-2003) were UN bodies investigating the disarmament of Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.
The abbreviations are: UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) and UNMOVIC (United Nations United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission). The IAEA is the International Atomic Energy Agency and the OPCW is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

This project invites other Canadian Pugwashites to join in considering some of the cutting-edge issues and developments on UN tech. The project has the potential to significantly enhance the UN’s use of technology and foster new avenues of investigation in several areas.

The publications of Dr. Dorn in related research fields can be found at walterdorn.net/pub, including on UN Tech for peace operations: http://walterdorn.net/pub#tech.