An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Fall 2016

New Technology for Peace & Protection: Expanding the R2P Toolbox

Lloyd Axworthy and A. Walter Dorn

New technological advances in digital information, algorithmic forensic data analysis, autonomous surveillance vehicles, advanced robotics, and multispectral sensors can help avert war, introduce more effective peacekeeping, lessen the impact of conflict on civilians, and help rebuild war-torn states. Lloyd Axworthy and A. Walter Dorn discuss that when such technologies clearly show that international humanitarian action is urgently needed, including the use of force as a last resort, then those same tools can be used to constrain harmful forms of intervention and ensure that enforcers are abiding by international law and UN guidance. It is an ethical failure when such technologies exist to save lives, reduce risks, and secure peace, but are not employed.

LLOYD AXWORTHY, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy since 2003, is Chair of CUSO International. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Cabinet chaired by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and as President of the United Nations Security Council in 1999 and 2000. He was also President of the University of Winnipeg from 2004 to 2014. He is the author of Navigating a New World: Canada's Global Future (2003) and Liberals at the Border (2004).

A. WALTER DORN is Professor of Defense Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces College. He has served as a consultant to the United Nations and with the UN's Panel of Experts on Technology and Innovation in UN Peacekeeping. He is the author of Air Power in UN Operations: Wings for Peace (2014) and Keeping Watch: Monitoring, Technology and Innovation in UN Peace Operations (2011), and editor of World Order for a New Millennium: Political, Cultural and Spiritual Approaches to Building Peace (1999).

One of the key challenges for the international community is to apply new technology under effective international authority to support peace. Fortunately, as will be shown, institutional reform is emerging to enable new peace strategies and new un applications for the preventative, proactive, and protective use of new technologies. Another very promising development is the increasing technological capacity of local populations to provide for their own protection. The Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies rightly asserts:

Affected populations are the primary responders in disasters and conflict zones, and actively use information technology to self-organize, spread information about their condition, call for aid, communicate with humanitarian actors, and demand accountability. New technologies also have the potential to put responders at the center of the entire life cycle of humanitarian action.1

Exciting prospects lie in advancing population-centric early-warning systems to enhance prevention through the quantum leap in information technology, big data collection, and analysis. These can substantially improve the ability to anticipate looming issues and enable those directly affected to become involved in a preventative response. .  .  .


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