UN Peacekeepers continue to stretch and strain under growing demand for their services, expansion of their mandate, and shifts in global security realities. UN Peacekeeping is being asked to increasingly do more with less in more complicated contexts. In response to these pressures, the UN has commissioned a series of reports and expert panels proposing reforms. Technological innovation and learning through robust partnerships has emerged as one common theme among some experts. In 2014 the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping argued that “Innovation at the institutional level is itself a political and a strategic decision, anchored in the fundamental conviction that human creativity at all levels is a valuable quality to be nurtured. In the panel’s strong view, DPKO and DFS leadership should demonstrably value innovation by creating the space for it to occur, absorbing its failures and rewarding its success.”
Out of this call for technological innovation and robust partnership has emerged the UNU-CS research project in Digital Peacekeeping, developed in collaboration with UN DFS/ICTD. This project has three principal components that weave together towards an overarching goal. The first component consists of a series of social scientific studies across 3-5 UN peacekeeping missions. The purpose of these studies is to baseline the state of ICTs and the circumstances of innovation-thinking among UN blue helmet operations: How do stakeholders envision the role of ICTs in peacekeeping operations? What are the most promising areas for innovation and experimentation? What are creative ways in which ICTs for peacekeeping can be designed, test deployed, experimented with, and scaled? How can UN Peacekeeping institutions best organize for innovation?
The second component will, based upon the findings of this first research activity, undertake a small number of specific ICT innovation research activities in partnership with DFS/ICTD and specific Mission stakeholders. The goal of this component is to both explore specific ICT advances and also collaboratively develop new learning and innovation approaches for the Peacekeeping context.
This baseline survey work, along with a limited number of specific innovation experiences, will allow us to make progress towards the final component, a series of innovation workshops with the goal of deepening and organizing innovation and institutional learning across UN peacekeeping activities.