At the UN Security Council calls for consensus on the use of digital technologies

“We have a critical opportunity to reach consensus on how digital technologies can be used to benefit people and the planet while addressing the risks associated with them,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations. . “But collective action by member states is still needed to achieve this goal.”

She noted that social media has changed the protection of human rights and humanitarian assistance, “allowing people around the world to be quickly and effectively mobilized to solve problems that require urgent action.”

In the field of peace and security, he said, technological developments have improved the ability to detect crises, better deploy humanitarian aid in advance, and create data-driven peacebuilding tools.

UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Rosemary DiCarlo, Chief of Political Affairs of the United Nations, before the Security Council.

Tools that can improve security

And when it comes to conflict prevention, new digital tools have strengthened peacekeeping and peacebuilding by providing better information and early warning data, DiCarlo added.

She noted that the United Nations Mission in Support of the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) in Yemen is using mapping and satellite technology to improve ceasefire monitoring and enhance the UN’s ability to “understand, analyze and respond to crises that can have a digital dimension, and.. .to deal with digital risks.”

In addition, new technologies can support political processes, in particular by promoting inclusiveness. “During various peace negotiations, we have used digital dialogues with artificial intelligence (AI) to reach thousands of interlocutors, learn their views and priorities,” she said. “It was a particularly rewarding way to reach traditionally marginalized groups, including women.”

New technologies can also improve the safety and security of peacekeepers and civilian personnel on the ground.

“The launch of the Digital Transformation Strategy for Peacekeeping Operations represents an important step towards that goal and towards better delivery of the mandate – through enhanced early warning capabilities,” said the Chief Political Officer.

These tools also help visualize information and convey rich data analysis to inform Security Council decisions – an example of this is the recent virtual reality presentation on Colombia, which highlights the UN’s work on the ground for ambassadors.

Worrisome Trends

However, there are areas of concern, DiCarlo continued, citing estimates that the number of incidents involving technology used for malicious purposes has nearly quadrupled since 2015.

“Of particular concern is activity targeting infrastructure that provides essential public services such as medical and humanitarian facilities,” she said.

At the same time, lethal autonomous weapons raise questions about human responsibility in the use of force. Echoing the UN Secretary General, she called machines capable of killing people without human intervention “politically unacceptable, morally repulsive and should be banned by international law.”

“Non-state actors are increasingly able to use low-cost and widely available digital technologies to achieve their goals,” the UN spokesman warned, noting that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are actively using social media platforms to recruit, plan and raise funds. .

She drew attention to the implications of new technologies for human rights, from surveillance technologies that can target communities or individuals to artificial intelligence that can be discriminatory.

“We are also concerned about the growing use of Internet disruptions, especially in situations of active conflict, that deprive communities of the means to communicate, work and participate in political life,” Ms. DiCarlo said, citing Myanmar, where such incidents have taken place, as an example. the number and duration have increased since last year’s military coup.

In addition, she continued, social media can contribute to polarization and violence by spreading disinformation, radicalization, racism and misogyny, which heighten tensions and exacerbate conflict.

“In Ethiopia, as the fighting intensified on social media, there has been an alarming increase in messages spreading inflammatory rhetoric, some of which have gone so far as to incite ethnic violence,” recalled a senior ISIS representative to the UN Security Council. “We also know that disinformation can prevent our missions from fulfilling their mandates, fueling lies and fueling polarization.”

Taking advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies to strengthen peace requires reducing risks and encouraging responsible use by all.

Through the Action Plan against Hate Speech and communications initiatives such as Verified, the UN is acting to mitigate these dangers by avoiding misconceptions and misunderstandings, Ms. DiCarlo said at the meeting.

“However, much remains to be done,” she concluded, highlighting the Global Digital Pact, which will define the general principles of “an open, free and secure digital future for all”; a new agenda for the world based on a holistic view of global security; and a draft code of conduct on the integrity of public information.

A student uses AVR technology at his school in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam.

© UNICEF/Hoang Le Vu

A student uses AVR technology at his school in Lao Cai Province, Vietnam.

Digital rights

In a videoconference presentation, Nanjala Nyabola, Director of Advox, the digital rights project of the Global Voices online community, emphasized the need to protect and respect digital rights.

“Over the past two decades, we have seen a dramatic expansion in the use of digital technologies,” she said, but “unfortunately, this has not been accompanied by similar investments to protect us from the damage caused by this expansion.”

The rapid pace of technological change has created problems that could have been avoided at an earlier stage, Ms Nyabola said, calling for a broad moratorium on new surveillance technologies.

She drew the Security Council’s attention to digital access policies and Internet disruptions, highlighting how they negatively impact cultural and economic minorities and create barriers to women’s access.

“Digital rights are human rights,” she said, adding that users must be protected.