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Cultural Diplomacy and Human Rights, Genocide, Human Rights

A Lecture by Christopher Tuckwood about The Role of Technology in Localized Early Warning and Prevention

By Christopher Tuckwood, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy.

Hello and thank you for having me as a part of the Symposium, I have to apologize that I haven’t been able to attend in person; unfortunately it just was not possible. Perhaps is appropriate considering the nature of the Sentinel Project and the technology work, and of course the topic of my talk which will be focusing on the aspects of the technology and atrocity prevention. So I still have to say I regret not being able to participate in the Symposium and see what other sort of topics are covered, but hopefully next time I will be able to attend.
That being said I will move on with my talk. It is probably important to start with some points about the Sentinel Project just as background, and since I am not there I don’t know what type of information I’ll be given and I want everyone to know where I am coming from in term of context and work that we do at the Sentinel Project. So I called the Sentinel Project for Genocide prevention, and I should mention that we are broadening our mandate from genocide to include mass atrocity. The mission then has become to actively assist people worldwide whenever they are threatened by mass atrocities.

This mission contains two main pillars: prediction and prevention, which means that our work focuses on the prevention and on the development of early warning capabilities and on the ability to implement prevention measures. Key components of the early warning conclude in preconditions that have been identified as predisposing given society that have genocide or mass atrocities taken place, as well as monitoring genocidal processes. We are also very interested bringing together the quantitative and qualitative approach because these two are complementary rather than mutually exclusive, so the aim of the project is to take different approaches in terms of these two factors. In order to implement all that we have a really diverse team working on expertise in fields such as intelligence gathering, disaster management, engineering, political science, computers, history etc.

Other key factors of this project are incorporating innovative technology and cooperation with threatened communities. Our goal is to work below the state level and we are not interested in targeting states governments. An example of out work is “Eight Base”, which intents to be the world’s largest online platform for free speech, and allows people around the world to come and submit examples of hateful terms or powerful language that they have heard or used, and has an automated scan for social media as Twitter. We also did recently some field work in Kenya where we observed the general elections from this year.

The main body of my talk is built on the role of technology in localized early warning and prevention, and I will focus more on the work we plan to do in the future rather than the work we have done before. We started to move towards a sub-national localized early warning and prevention work, and this is going to be a general trend within our work and I imagine the all our S.O.S projects will start to work this way focusing on sub-national agents, rather than on the entire country. Also, we will focus on geography and chronological factors, and hopefully we will be able to say that one city, town or neighborhood is at risk of atrocity within the next three months, weeks or even days, and this means that we can actually give early warning to threatened zones and people. If this information is shared with them correctly, then they themselves can act correctly to prevent the violence in whatever way is more appropriate for the situation. This might sound as an ambition goal which it is, however the majority of conflicts are interstates and committed by non-state actors and most countries are diverse based, thus it is not enough to have a general knowledge of the country as a whole. Taking the Tana Delta in Kenya as example, where we made a field expertise during the general elections, one of the things that stood out was the misinformation in the area and both national groups see themselves as victims having in the same time misconceptions about the other group. This is why we chose Tana Delta as the ideal testing ground for one of our ideas about localized early warning and prevention, and we chose to focus on misinformation in that area and how it can be countered. So the question then is how do we overcome the challenges in this area. One of our answers would be the technology we have available nowadays to keep the communication between worlds and people, and the ability to talk to anyone in the world instantly. With the help of the internet we will broadcast the early warning in the threatened areas, but we have to careful in the way we do it in order to no exacerbate the potential of violence in those areas, which is a significant risk that have to be taken into account. Therefore, the first steps for this project will be support any resources to set up our mapping system in the Tana Delta and then test the capability to map the misinformation.
Hopefully having given a good introduction in why is important to move from national level down to local level early warning and to include members of threatened communities in it. Lastly, how the technology will help us to save lives by preventing mass atrocities.

So, of course I am not there in person to answer any question that people might have but I encourage you to get in contact if you are interested in what you heard here, if you want to work together or have any questions. Our website is http://www.thesentinelproject.org and please do visit it and my email address is chris@thesentinelproject.org, so please do not hesitate to get in contact, we will be happy to hear from you. Thank you very much.

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publications
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy


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