Digital Debates

The Online Debate from a Civil Society Perspective

Digital Debate 3: Cyber Conflicts, Mediation, and Peace Building

It is a well-known that the internet has become a theatre of conflict. Thus, social media are used to stir up resentment and, in some cases, even hate. As the situation around the Rohingya minority has shown, violent internet presence can easily go hand-in-hand with military atrocities against civilians, violent oppression, and genocidal politics.

What is less known is the fact that the internet has also become a theatre of mediation between conflicting parties and programmes of inter-communal reconciliation and peace building.

The third Digital Debate discussed how to transform cyber conflicts into opportunities to engage in cyber mediation, inter-communal reconciliation, and peace building. Academics and practitioners showcased a wide range of experiences.

6 May 2021, 16:00 hrs. CEST 

Digital Debates: Event Series

Every month, this event series will provide inspiring discussions for the civil society sector based on the constant change that digitalisation brings to our societies. Each debate will be a call to action for CSOs to take a more active role in shaping our digital future.

Barbara Iverson will moderate each debate. She teaches Interpersonal Skills and Intercultural Management at the CODE University of Applied Sciences in Berlin.

One thought on “Digital Debate 3: Cyber Conflicts, Mediation, and Peace Building

  • Ryan Stanton says:

    Welcome to the chat! We’re excited ahead of Thursday’s debate and have uploaded resources below for anybody who wants to engage with the content before the conversation starts. Please use this chat to share any relevant resources or questions you would like the panel to address.

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Digital Debate Panellists

  • Dr. Sylvia Brown
  • Conflict Advisor, Islamic Relief Worldwide
  • Bio
  • Sausan Ghosheh 
  • Political Communications Strategist, Conciliation Resources
  • Bio
  • Dr. Richard Wilcox
  • Co-founder and President of the Digital Equity association
  • Bio

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Further Reading

Digital technologies and civil conflicts: Insights for peace makers

Mediators and conflict resolution institutions now face greater challenges in peace processes as conflict parties rely on both online and offline means to recruit followers, finance activities, censor the vulnerable and control conflict narratives, and spy on or disrupt an opponent’s digital systems. In this new context, mediators must develop a more sophisticated understanding of how such uses of digital technologies affect the dynamics of civil conflicts and disrupt peace processes. Discover this paper by Camino Kavanagh from the Institute for Security Studies.


Analogue crisis, digital renewal? Current dilemmas of peacebuilding

Read this toolkit by the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. This report is an attempt to assess the implications of growing connectivity and reliance on digital technologies for what has always been a human-intensive endeavour: the mediation of armed conflicts. It will inform and accompany the development of a Toolkit for mediators. The objective of this work is to: (i) raise awareness among mediation practitioners of the implications of digital technology use in mediation contexts; (ii) promote ongoing reflection and discussion on the topic; (iii) provide mediators with concrete examples and practical information on digital technologies; and (iv) establish a community of practice to exchange information and experiences, including on how to integrate digital technologies into mediation strategies. The report also showcases the manifold opportunities that digital technologies offer to mediators and their teams to support their work. It focuses on four thematic areas: (1) conflict analysis; (2) engagement with conflict parties; (3) inclusivity; and (4) strategic communications.


The Dynamics of Cyber Dispute Mediation and Resolution

The challenge that cyber actions pose to the international system have become a Tier 1 level threat for many states, and therefore they pose clear threats to domestic and international stability. No one is immune to the potential disasters that can emanate from digital space. From the Stuxnet case of the United States and Israel leveraging cyber tools to hamper Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons to Russia’s attempt to influence the United States presidential election of 2016, cyber conflict events are prevalent and increasing. The missing link is just what can be done to solve or stabilize these challenges? The securitization of the domain has become inevitable, yet we should question the foundations of the threat and seek pathways towards mitigation. This chapter, written by Brandon Valeriano and Ryan C. Maness, considers whether mediation might facilitate crisis management in the context of ongoing cyber disputes.


Cyberattacks and Cyber Conflict: Where is Conflict Resolution?

In this paper, Monika Wohlfeld and Jack Jasper analyse cyberattacks and cyber conflict and the challenges they pose to the field of conflict resolution. State and non-state actors alike are conducting cyberattacks in new and sophisticated ways that result in conflicts which are not readily addressed by conflict resolution approaches. Consequently, these developments in cyberspace take place without much input from conflict resolution scholars and practitioners.


Cyber conflict uncoded: The EU and conflict prevention in cyberspace

This Conflict Series Brief, by Patryk Pawlak, Eneken Tikk and Mika Kerttunen, examines the current practices and future possibilities of preventive action in relation to conflict in cyberspace. When categorising state uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a form of conflict, attention should be paid to three considerations. First, hostile uses of ICTs rarely occur outside of a pre-existing or broader politico-military dispute. Second, a malicious state use of ICTs can lead to an escalation in pre-existing adversarial relations. Third, the use of cyber capabilities in a conflict situation often includes the targeting of civilian infrastructure and therefore has wide-ranging implications for the proper functioning of societies. Against this background, this Brief argues that the use of malicious cyber tools for power projection can and must be prevented.