The Future of Peacebuilding

Why Investing in PeaceTech is Essential in Today’s Geopolitics

Reflections on the role of technologies for peace in today's geopolitical landscape.

May 28, 2024

By Artur Kluz and Dr. Stefaan Verhulst

This blog was originally posted on Medium on May 27th, 2024 and reposted on the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech website. Find the original blog here.

Secretary Blinken’s recent speech on Technology and the Transformation of US Foreign Policy sets the stage for a deeper consideration of the role of technology in geopolitics. However, today’s strategy is missing a key component: investing in peacetech or the responsible use of technology to prevent conflicts and build peace for the long term.

Screenshot 2024 05 28 at 2.33.18 pmInvesting in PeaceTech is Essential in Today's Geopolitics

In today’s geopolitical landscape, marked by escalating tensions and technological advancements, there is a significant opportunity for technology to contribute to conflict prevention and peacebuilding: i.e. peacetech. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his recent speech on Technology and the Transformation of US Foreign Policy, emphasized the crucial role technology plays in geopolitical contests and its potential as an “engine of historic possibility — for our economies, for our democracies, for our people, for our planet.” His assertion that “security, stability, prosperity — they are no longer solely analog matters” underscores the necessity to urgently focus on and invest in technological innovations that can support peacebuilding in the digital age.

Peacetech is an emerging field that describes a range of technologies that can be used for peacebuilding. From satellite internet constellations and early warning systems to AI-driven conflict prediction models, peacetech has the potential to transform the landscape of peacekeeping and conflict prevention. With its diversity of applications, it can support institutions’ peacebuilding or conflict prevention activities by providing insights faster and at scale. It can empower local populations to promote their safety and security and help observers predict future conflict. However, it is important to note that technology itself cannot solve these conflicts. We are fully aware that the root causes of conflicts often involve complex human, social, and political factors that cannot be solely addressed by peacetech. Effective solutions require more comprehensive strategies that include policy changes, diplomatic efforts, and community engagement alongside technological tools. Yet, technology is and should be an important tool to inform and implement these strategies, enhancing their effectiveness and reach.

There are several peacetech applications already making an impact across the globe. For instance, in Ukraine Commit Global’s Humanitarian Digital Civic Infrastructure, has supported Ukrainian refugees by providing access to information about aid and transportation among other topics. Similarly, the United Kingdom’s Homes for Ukraine (HFU) scheme, using Palantir’s Foundry software, helped provide Ukrainian refugees with resettlement plans. These are just a few examples of the potential of the global peace tech community. In addition, in Israel, Project Didi is analyzing public news reports using AI and machine learning to measure subjectivity and perception across large population groups in the context of the war in Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Understanding subjectivity and perception, what people think and feel, are the keys to facilitating more inclusive dialogue and effective international diplomacy.

As Blinken’s speech hints, the tech sector has become an important geopolitical actor. Tech companies, startups, accelerators, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists provide capacities essential for developing innovations in peacebuilding — often not present within government and international organizations. Their involvement, however, must be steered by rigorous ethical standards and a commitment to the common good and safeguarding human dignity and universal human rights, ensuring that technological advancements foster peace rather than exacerbate tensions or potentially destabilize global security.

International cooperation is also essential in using technology in the context of today’s geopolitical challenges. Secretary Blinken highlights “digital solidarity” as a key concept, emphasizing technology’s role as a unifying force. In the context of peacetech, this means working together across nations and across sectors to develop technologies and set common standards for their use in peacekeeping and conflict resolution. Ensuring everyone has responsible access to data and technology, including both developed and developing countries, and marginalized communities, is crucial. By leveraging global networks and involving local communities in both developing and applying these technologies, digital solidarity can ensure that peacetech solutions are widely supported, ethically sound, and effectively promote global security, stability, and inclusivity. Yet, in some cases digital solidarity alone may not suffice to responsibly steer technology for peace; we may need new robust global mechanisms to oversee its use, considering the growing influence of tech entrepreneurs and private companies in responding to today’s complex global interdependencies.

In today’s geopolitical landscape, the call by Blinken and others to harness the potential of technology for the betterment of humanity resonates deeply. Investing in peacetech is not merely a technological or financial endeavor — it is a profound commitment to reshaping the future of peacebuilding and conflict resolution. And that’s also the impetus behind the Kluz Prize for PeaceTech, which seeks to identify those peacetech efforts worth supporting. In doing so, we can move towards a world where technology serves as a cornerstone of peace and stability, reflecting our highest values and aspirations for a safer, more connected global community.

Artur Kluz is Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Kluz Ventures

Dr. Stefaan Verhulst is Co-Founder of The GovLab (NYC) and The DataTank (Brussels) and Research Professor, New York University

Kluz Prize for PeaceTech 2024

Applications are Open

Apply to the 2024 Kluz Prize for PeaceTech and be recognized for your achievements and contributions to the evolving field of technologies for peace.

Applications are due by 11:59 PM EDT on July 15th.