October 9, 2023
Advancing Technology for Peace
Reflecting on the 2023 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech Award Ceremony
By: Natalia González Alarcón, Sampriti Saxena, Andrew J. Zahuranec, & Stefaan G. Verhulst
On September 20th, the day before the International Day of Peace, Kluz Ventures, with support from The GovLab, hosted the 2023 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech award ceremony. Through awards, speeches, and a panel discussion, we recognized advances and achievements in the PeaceTech ecosystem.
Our key takeaways included:
The urgent need for PeaceTech: In an era marked by escalating conflicts, the quest for lasting peace has never been more pressing. The event highlighted the transformative potential of technology not just as a tool for peace but as a catalyst for social, and human well-being.
Humanity at the core: Amidst fears of a tech-dominated future, many speakers emphasized that it is crucial to remember that technology's true purpose is to amplify human values.
Diversity in applications: The role of technology in peacebuilding is diverse and global. Panelists discussed real-world applications of technology in peace initiatives, from the Magnolia Foundation's holistic peace approach in Colombia to Microsoft's AI for Good Lab's contributions.
Celebrating achievements: The ceremony recognized and honored innovators in the PeaceTech space. Commit Global took home the 2023 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech, with other notable recipients including Palantir Technologies, Project Didi, and Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG).
The winners from left to right: Shawn Guttman (Project Didi), Bogdan Ivanel (Commit Global), Ishraq Irteza (Palantir) and Annabelle Larose (Palantir). Photo by Jennifer S. Altman.
Unlocking the Potential of Technology for Peace
The event kicked off with opening remarks delivered by Artur Kluz, the Founder and CEO of Kluz Ventures, as well as the Founder of the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech. His journey in the PeaceTech ecosystem began in 2018 with the launch of the Global PeaceTech Program at Oxford University Centre, and the Global PeaceTech Hub in 2021, which works to accelerate innovation in the ecosystem.
Recounting the story of three young Ukrainian refugees, Artur spoke to the potential of technology for peacebuilding, not only as a tool to prevent conflict but also as a means to protect and enhance human dignity, and universal human rights. He said "We are living in exceptional times, where technology is leading to the reimagination of everything and transforming our lives. This is not just a technological revolution, but this is a social, business, and human revolution."
Artur suggested that the diversity and dynamism of the applications received for the Prize mirrored what the world needs to address conflict. Applications ranged from artificial intelligence systems creating actionable strategic recommendations, to data analytics systems to enhance service provision in cities, to the use of emerging technologies like Virtual reality (VR) and 3D printing in combat zones to name a few.
Artur Kluz (Kluz Ventures), Founder of the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech. Photo by Jennifer S. Altman.
In closing, Artur reflected on our role as a bridge between present innovation and future generations. He said “A long-term vision for The Kluz Prize is to build a global PeaceTech movement of billions of peoples.” He closed with a quote from Pope Saint John Paul II, “The future starts today, not tomorrow.”
The Humanity in Technology
Daniel Wilhelm (The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation), Member of the Prize Selection Committee. Photo by Jennifer S. Altman.
Following Artur’s remarks, Daniel Wilhelm, President of The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and a member of the Prize Selection Committee shared his insights on the role of PeaceTech in our world today based on lessons from his career in violence prevention and criminal justice in the United States and globally.
Daniel began his remarks by drawing parallels between the spirit of the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech and the history of the Foundation in creating and disseminating knowledge on the nature of, and responses to, violence in its many forms. In reflecting on the shared spirit of the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech and the Foundation, Daniel said, “Knowledge is necessary for the effective prevention of conflict, and for building peaceful and just societies.”
“We are firm believers in the transformative power of knowledge and information,” he added.
As a member of the Selection Committee, Daniel reviewed over twenty PeaceTech projects, shortlisted from the eighty-plus applications we received from more than thirty five countries around the world. While the creativity and innovation of each applicant was impressive, he argued, what struck him most about each applicant was the sense of humanity in their work. To learn more about our Selection Committee, we invite you to visit our website and the blog post about the applications.
“At the core of all of the submissions, there was a deep and abiding concern for humanity,” Daniel began. “As we’re reading about all the advances in technology, and are fearful of the future where robots are going to control us and artificial intelligence is going to write our children’s term papers, one of the things that gets lost in that is where is the humanity in this technology? [...] Sometimes it seems like technology exists without a purpose. In stark contrast, in the submissions, the humanity was front and center.”
For Daniel, these projects were an “antidote” for the ongoing discourse of the pervasive nature of technology and the fear associated with it. Rather than positioning technology as a one-stop-shop solution, most applicants were implementing technology to enhance existing systems and approaches, using it to address real needs and leverage real opportunities.
He concluded his remarks by emphasizing the hopefulness behind each submission, which he felt made the best case for the value of technology in our world today and its role in bringing about a better future for all.
The Role of Technology in Peacebuilding
From these remarks, the event moved into a panel discussion moderated by The GovLab’s Co-Founder and Chief R&D Officer, Stefaan Verhulst. The central focus of the conversation was understanding the role of technology in peacebuilding and their perspective on the current state of PeaceTech globally. He was joined by the following expert panelists from the peace and technology sectors:
Ana Carolina Gonzalez, Co-Founder of the Magnolia Foundation for Peace and Wellness
Andrew Zolli, Chief Impact Officer at Planet
William B. Weeks, Director of AI for Health Research at Microsoft
The panelists from left to right: Stefaan Verhulst (moderator), Ana Carolina Gonzalez, Andrew Zolli and William B. Weeks. Photo by Jennifer S. Altman.
To kick off the conversation, Stefaan invited Ana Carolina Gonzalez to talk about her motivation behind creating the Magnolia Foundation and its approach to comprehensive peace.
The Magnolia Foundation launched in 2018 as a response to the ongoing conflict in Colombia—a conflict which first began in the 1950s. Ana Carolina, who is a journalist and communicator, shared that she was inspired to work with survivors of the conflict after seeing the heavy mental and emotional toll that the violence had on people living in conflict zones. The lack of adequate mental health and rehabilitation services pushed her to partner with Juan Carlos Lucero, her co-founder, to provide peacebuilding, conflict resolution and wellness classes not only for survivors of the conflict, but also for former combatants through their School for Peace and their Wellness Lab.
The Foundation’s goal is to first empower individuals to heal and build inner peace using therapeutic tools like yoga and music at the Wellness Lab. From there, it encourages individuals to build lasting peace and become drivers for change themselves through courses at their School for Peace. In summarizing the Magnolia Foundation’s approach to comprehensive peace, Ana Carolina remembered the work of John Paul Lederach, saying: “If you want a strong house, you can’t focus only on the rooftop. You need to focus on the foundations because at one point, it’s going to fall.”
Building off Ana Carolina’s remarks, Stefaan turned the discussion to William Weeks to share more about Microsoft’s approach to peace in the context of their AI for Good Lab.
William, who has had a long career in academia before joining Microsoft in 2019, highlighted the four key areas of work the Lab focuses on that contribute to peace—climate change, trust, humanitarian action and health. In his work, he has found that peace flourishes during times of comfort and ease while mistrust, discomfort and uneasiness often leave groups more prone to conflict. For example, he noted, climate change will likely cause mass displacement of populations, and so the Lab is employing AI models to anticipate these shifts and intervene ideally before conflict can erupt.
In his different examples of Microsoft’s work, William emphasized the role of technology in building capacity and enabling the implementation of more efficient and effective solutions in the long run. Greater than their commitment to building cutting-edge technology, however, he shared that Microsoft and the Lab were “highly motivated to do the right thing and to give back.”
Finally, Stefaan asked Andrew Zolli to elaborate on his organization, Planet’s work.
Planet designed, built and currently operates the largest network of satellites looking at the Earth. Andrew began his remarks with an inspiring story of young NASA scientists who transformed satellites from large, capital and time intensive engines, to smaller, more agile machines. This shift in satellite technology enabled Planet to deploy their network of satellites, which have monitored the Earth since 2017. In his words, Planet witnesses “every growth of every crop, every act of deforestation, every refugee camp, everywhere on the Earth, everyday.”
With this technological power, Andrew emphasized that Planet is “profoundly dedicated to ensuring that [their network] is used for peace.” He explained that this technology has revolutionized the work of human rights protectors around the world. Where it used to take years, often decades, to document and identify human rights violations, Planet’s access to real-time information and analysis has trimmed these timelines down to days, as was seen in Myanmar in 2017.
Following the panelists’ remarks, Stefaan opened the floor for conversations between the group and audience. In an engaging open discussion, Ana Caroline, Andrew and William unpacked a diverse set of questions on the resources and capacities organizations need to use technology in an effective and responsible manner, ways organizations can balance the inherently dual-purposed nature of technology, and the role context plays in the success of a project and how it impacts the scalability and replicability of a project.
Celebrating Innovation in PeaceTech
After the panel, the event moved to the award presentation, where we had the opportunity to hear directly from the 2023 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech winner, and the recipients of our three Special Distinctions.
The winners from left to right: Shawn Guttman (Project Didi), Stefaan Verhulst (The GovLab), Artur Kluz (Kluz Ventures), Bogdan Ivanel (Commit Global), Ishraq Irteza (Palantir) and Annabelle Larose (Palantir). Photo by Jennifer S. Altman.
This year’s winners were:
Commit Global, 2023 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech
Palantir Technologies’ Foundry, Special Distinction for Big Tech Building Peace
Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), Special Distinction for a Non Profit Organization Advancing Peace
Project Didi, Special Distinction for Innovative Use of AI/ML
Each recipient delivered acceptance speeches, calling on the global community to work together towards building and sustaining a more peaceful future.
Juan Carlos Lucero (The Magnolia Foundation), recipient of the 2022 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech. Photo by Jennifer S. Altman.
To conclude the award ceremony, Stefaan invited Juan Carlos Lucero, the Co-Founder of the Magnolia Foundation, and recipient of the 2022 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech to say a few words.
Juan Carlos reflected on the role of the Prize and the work being done across the PeaceTech ecosystem in taking an abstract, ephemeral concept like peace and grounding it in tangible, technologically-driven actions to drive positive change. Looking ahead, he expressed his attitude that AI will play a key role in enabling actors to promote and scale up their work to reach more beneficiaries across the world.
The Magnolia Foundation, for instance, he noted, is beginning to employ AI systems at its School for Peace to meet the growing demands of their global audience.
Juan Carlos then talked about the intersection of peace and conflict. As a final, closing thought, he said: “Conflicts are not something negative or positive. They are a driving force. They can drive us and connect us. They can lead us to violence or to peace.
In 2024, we will work towards building partnerships across the technology and peacebuilding ecosystem from coast to coast, and across the world. We are seeking partners from tech accelerators, tech companies, big tech, venture capital, as well as public and civil society organizations. If you are leveraging technology to advance peace, we would love to hear from you! You can get in touch with our team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech
Founded by Artur Kluz, Founder and CEO of Kluz Ventures, in collaboration with Stefaan Verhulst, the Co-Founder of The GovLab at New York University, the Kluz Prize aims to identify and support groundbreaking initiatives at the intersection of technology and peace-building. They aim to propel the creation of a global movement promoting the use of technology for peace and to fan the flames of this movement for future generations. The 2023 judging panel consisted of esteemed figures from academia, tech investment, corporate sectors, and civil society. Learn more at www.kluzprize.org.