About the Conference
The Department of Field Support (DFS)-hosted international symposium is at the core of the DFS Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping initiative. The initiative aims to bring more involvement to peacekeeping from the international peace community to empower United Nations global operations, through a comprehensive framework that can support collaboration and the introduction of new technologies and concepts in the field missions.
Traditional support has come primarily from the Members States of the United Nations, which contribute their troops and finances to Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and DFS-supported field operations. The Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping offers Member States, as well as academia, think tanks and other UN partners, an additional opportunity to form a new kind of relationship with DPKO-DFS—one that aligns the technological and innovative capacities of the world with the specific needs of the field missions. Emphasis is put on tangible outcomes, optimizing operational procedures, and knowledge transfer on the use of modern technologies not yet included in the typical peacekeeping portfolio.
Toward this goal, the symposium serves as the impetus behind innovative partnership projects with the potential to quickly impact peace operations through real and effective solutions. Outcomes of the symposium lead to pilot projects and workshops to standardize and implement these technology projects and initiatives across missions.
“Next Tech Peacekeeping”
The 2018 symposium, hosted by Germany, was build upon the momentum and resulting initiatives from the three prior symposia: “Awareness, Protection, Innovation” (hosted by Korea in 2016), “Innovation and Next-Generation Peacekeeping” (hosted by Austria in 2015), and “Exploring New Partnerships” (hosted by Italy in 2014).
The event was attended by senior-level military and civilian representatives from Member States, delegates from academia, research institutions, and other United Nations partners from the international community interested in collaborating with leaders from the United Nations—from the peacekeeping missions, the Global Service Centre, and Headquarters—to find solutions to the most pressing needs of peacekeeping today.
The theme for this year’s five-day event, “Next Tech Peacekeeping”, centred discussions around innovations at the edge of mainstream adoption, focusing on technological discoveries and new opportunities that have the potential to impact the field.
The symposium programme featured a panel discussion on Innovative Technologies in Information and Communications and five moderated Working Groups:
» Working Group: Peacekeeping Intelligence
UN peace operations depend on highly sensitive information to operate; policies, procedures and platforms must be developed to protect and manage this data.
A variety of technologies exist in peacekeeping that gather critical information to inform operational decisions about the safety and security of UN personnel and the protection of civilians: Unmanned Aerial Systems, ground sensors, tethered aerostats/balloons, perimeter security, analysis software, and secured networks.
This Working Group will explore participants’ experiences and best practices, and the available platforms for peacekeeping intelligence on such issues as:
» integrating new and emerging earth observation satellite platforms into the analytical toolbox: new sensors, smaller sensors, daily (or better) sensors, radar sensors, fusion radar-optical
» fusing information sources to deliver better-integrated products: space and airborne imagery, open source information, knowledge of local context, UN internal and external reporting
Discussion will specifically include satellite imagery analysis.
» Working Group: Convoy and Patrol Protection
In addition to a headquarters, missions maintain camps and bases. These are in remote areas where the infrastructure is minimal or nonexistent. UN convoys that support these sites are often targeted by local security threats (e.g. extremist groups, gangs, etc.) and at increasingly alarming rates.
The UN is exploring available technologies and best practices that will contribute to the protection of UN personnel, UN equipment, and local civilians and support effective mandate implementation.
This Working Group will explore participants’ experiences and best practices, and the available platforms for the protection of convoys and patrols on such issues as:
» the composition and movement of convoys
» securing communications
» vehicle-mounted and UAV/GAV sensors
» civilian, police and military response and tactics
» Working Group: Improving Security through Situational Awareness
Situational awareness is a high priority for the United Nations, and it is currently implementing a global programme that will serve as an overarching umbrella structure for information reporting, analysis and visualization in peacekeeping. This will standardize the approach for field operations to equip field and HQ leadership with a common operating picture on which to make decisions. Information and communications technologies and expertise will underpin the success of the programme.
Related technologies currently in use by the field include Unmanned Aerial Systems, ground sensors, tethered aerostats/balloons, and perimeter security.
This Working Group will explore participants’ experiences and best practices, and the available platforms for situational awareness:
» how situational awareness is established and maintained
» how information is shared between various military components or between civilian and military
» identifying, prototyping, testing and field technology solutions
» low-cost, high-return areas that could be prioritized
» formats to acquire equipment and train UN personnel (outsource as a service or any other option)
The discussion will also include UN-specific topics: rapid deployment capabilities and about mission start-ups (setting up interim headquarters, the technologies required and implementation).
» Working Group: Training and Capacity Building
The over 100,000 authorized personnel deployed to peacekeeping operations require the support of high-performing ICT capabilities. Adequate training of military and police signals and ICT specialists is essential to ensure they have familiarity with field operations and the requisite knowledge and skills on UN-owned equipment.
The UN Signals Academy is an outcome of the first symposium. It was established to bridge the identified capabilities gaps and to enhance the preparedness of these specialized personnel while in service to the Organization.
This Working Group will explore participants’ experiences and best practices regarding training and capacity building for uniformed personnel:
» how to strengthen coordination and adopt integrated approaches, including through the expansion of the triangular partnership model and joint efforts towards the establishment of certification standards
» how to promote training of incoming technologies in concert with situational awareness/GIS initiatives, and ensure programme relevance in a constantly changing environment
» how to increase the participation of women in peacekeeping and enhance their level of preparedness, linking training with actual deployment
» building the training capacity of Troop and Police Contributing Countries, reinforcing local ownership
» addressing language barriers
» Working Group: United Nations Open GIS (Geospatial Information System) Initiative
The UN Open GIS initiative is one of the success stories from the second symposium. Open GIS aims to leverage free and open source-based geospatial technologies in support of peace operations.
The United Nations is working with Member States and technology contributing partners—taking full advantage of their expertise and experience—to identify and develop an open source enterprise GIS platform as well as solutions and technical capacities that meet the requirements of the field.
This Working Group will explore participants’ experiences and best practices in geospatial information systems and open source platforms:
» whether an open source GIS system is a viable, sustainable, cost-effective alternative to commercial off-the-shelf equivalent
» key benefits/advantages for United Nations operations
» risks in establishing and maintaining hybrid solutions
» Panel Discussion: Innovative Technologies in Information and Communications
Technology experts from both the private and public sectors will join the panel to discuss innovative technologies and their potential for mainstream adoption, particularly in a peacekeeping environment.
Attendees to this open discussion forum will have the opportunity to contribute their experience and expertise in, for example, establishing and managing formal and informal programmes.