The field of violence and conflict prevention is about to face an upheaval as it confronts renewed questions about its capacity to analyze data, mitigate risks, and exert normative leadership in an era of converging security threats. Threats to human rights and security triggered by artificial intelligence (AI) and data capture technologies will require peacebuilding and violence prevention actors to bridge the gap between early warning and response and anticipate new challenges.

Conflict prevention is rapidly becoming an element of UN peacekeeper mandates in which technological and data governance will have powerful and unprecedented implications. UN actors need to integrate emerging technologies to digitize, share, and secure the information they collect from open sources, human informants, and data capture technologies. They also need to monitor how armed nonstate actors evolve and blend into civilian environments, collude with transnational criminal networks, and adapt their attack strategies to new domains, including cyberspace. Experts must scrutinize how online hate speech and incitements to violence contaminate the lifeblood of social media and private messaging applications in countries where ethnic and socioeconomic tensions prevail.

In this policy brief, Eleonore Pauwels examines how AI and data capture technologies can be positively harnessed and potentially misused, as the new paradigm of predictive behavioral analysis and population data capture is increasingly being presented as a solution to challenges in humanitarian action, conflict prevention, and counterterrorism. The brief advances recommendations for ensuring a do-no-harm approach to deploying these technologies in the field.

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