Filed under: Development Development 2.0 Peace and security Social innovation

build peace

One of the many Mahallae workshops held in 2014 to support innovation for social good

Why has UNDP-ACT decided to build up?

Last year, my colleague Nilgun Arif was lucky enough to attend Build Peace in Cambridge.

She spent two full days among 250 fellow peacebuilders, activists, social innovators, and academics discussing how technology can be used to build peace in the 21st century.

Her experience left a profound impression; and on her return. we set about harnessing this energy.

Back in Cyprus, we had just launched our Crossroads for Civic Engagement programme, which seeks to connect Cypriot innovations in peacebuilding with Arab and European peace builders.

Convinced that Cyprus’ geographical position at the crossroads between the Arab and European regions would offer something special, we soon secured an agreement to host Build Peace 2015 on the island.

That’s right, this April in the world’s last divided capital, we will join Build Up to jointly welcome this exciting cohort to Nicosia to discuss how the use of technology can build alternative infrastructures for peace.

Participants this year will look at the big issue:

How do these technology tools make a difference to the rarefied table of political elites who negotiate a peace deal?

In her recent blog post, Jen Welch put it like this:

Build Peace 2015 will begin to examine issues of ‘depth’ – how the use of technology is resulting in the creation of alternative infrastructures for peace.

In Cyprus, I hope to draw inspiration from the many creative thinkers and practitioners who have been applying this question to the peace negotiations.

I am convinced that innovation can bring grounded legitimacy to the island’s search for a political settlement.

This is why I am eager to showcase three initiatives in particular, which I believe sets Cyprus apart in its peacebuilding efforts:

1) Social Cohesion and Reconciliation Index (SCORE)

SCORE is a smart tool designed to measure peace in societies around the world.

To do so, it looks at two main components of peace: reconciliation and social cohesion, and the relationship between them.

Flexible and versatile, SCORE works to help peacemakers answer a variety of complex questions, including which variables have significant effects on the  willingness for political compromise.

We are currently working to develop a platform for SCORE, where users will be able to engage with a rich set of data we have collected in Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Nepal.

We are determined that the tool remain adaptable and the prototype be easily applicable in many other countries that have experienced conflict.

2) Open Dialogue Forum

For the past 12 months, we have been working to nurture an open space for politicians, business leaders, heads of trade unions, and NGOs to design a forum, which can act as a feedback loop to formal negotiations, and provide recommendations to the leaders.

This is a first in Cyprus, and while the formal peace talks have stalled, I believe the Cyprus Dialogue Forum provides an effective venue where politicians and other civic actors from both communities can continue the discourse on the island’s future.

3) Mahallae

UNDP-ACT’s flagship peace innovation platform, Mahallae has been using the power of technology to democratize the playing field for civic participation in reconciliation and conflict resolution.

This “digital neighbourhood” for civic engagement was developed by Cypriot civil society and innovators from the Euro-Mediterranean region, directly designed to effect social change using the smart technologies in our daily lives.

Spinning the axle

In Cyprus we have found that innovation, which has a strong (but not exclusive) focus on technology, can be the axle that pushes the values required to legitimize the peacemaking project.

As Build Peace co-organizer, Helena Puig Larrauri describes it, this is “innovating from the ground up”, speaking directly to the “empowerment, behavioural change and impact” features which characterize tech for peace approaches.

The strategic connections between SCORE, the Cyprus Dialogue Forum and the Mahallae platform do well to set the scene for Build Peace 2015.

Together these innovations, underpinned by the human courage to make change happen in the face of daunting odds, can bring legitimacy to a peace process struggling to gain momentum.

It is this optimism that I’ve seen time and time again on this island, that we will be bringing as well.

Follow the blog

As we take the journey to build up, we have begun to document our efforts online in an attempt to create new opportunities for dialogue.

Check out our own blog, which features reflections from our team, interviews with project staff and folks on the ground, and a lot more.

I’m excited to hear from you and build up together.