Could better IT strengthen U.N. peacekeeping?

A new report from an independent expert panel evaluates how technology and innovation can improve peacekeeping.

Innovation is critical to United Nations peacekeeping missions, but the intergovernmental organization lags when it comes to advanced technology, according to a new report.

“The moment is now for peacekeeping to take greater advantage of the waves of technology and innovation washing over every dimension of life in societies the world over,” wrote the Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in U.N. Peacekeeping in its report.

When the U.N.’s Undersecretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations called on the expert panel to find ways tech could improve operations, the panel found itself “humbled” by the possibilities, the report’s authors said. In fact, the panel found that, while peacekeeping missions do use technology, it isn’t anywhere near the same level as what security forces across the globe use.

When it comes to technology, “the gap between what the average peacekeeping mission does have and what it should have is so pronounced, that some of the countries with the world’s most capable military and police forces have been reluctant to participate in many of the more difficult and challenging peacekeeping operations,” authors of the report wrote.


It warned that peacekeepers cannot concede the “information advantage” to groups that threaten peace.

“Fuller deployment and use of modern technology and innovation can help preserve and sustain life in the field, reduce a mission’s environmental footprint, and gain greater efficiencies over time,” authors wrote.

The panel recommended the U.N. focus on using tech to improve interoperability, provide sounder information sharing tools, offer better medical support, bolster camp and installation security, and improve mobile communications and information platforms.

The report called for the immediate implementation of certain technologies — like a customizable GIS-enabled command and control information system that allows different units to communicate with each other and the headquarters — and the need for a long-term plan to integrate more.

“The report argues for much wider deployment of technology and innovative practices to help strengthen peacekeeping and, in so doing, seeks to dispel some of the more pervasive myths that have impeded progress toward this aim,” Jane Holl Lute, the panel’s chairwoman, wrote in a cover letter for the report.

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