The Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs (DPPA) is more important than the majority of organisations currently spouting off about the potential of the metaverse. In fact, when you see bodies like the DPPA (a department of the United Nations) take part in the metaverse speculation, you know it’s more than just the latest tech buzzword.
The department plays a central role in the United Nations’ efforts to prevent deadly conflict and build sustainable peace around the world. As founder of the Innovation Cell of the Department, Daanish Masood Alavi, defines it, “the DPPA monitors and assesses global political developments with an eye to detecting potential crises and devising effective responses.” The DPPA provides support to the secretary-general and his envoys in their peace initiatives, as well as to UN political missions around the world.
So why are they thinking about the metaverse? “In order to respond to insecurity in agile and effective ways, the DPPA needs to be able to deploy every new tool, method and technology that can help,” says Daanish. “The Innovation Cell exists to explore and apply these new tools and methods in a way that is deeply responsive to and collaborative with our on-the-ground colleagues in conflict contexts. Put differently, the Innovation Cell works to re-purpose emerging technologies, tools and research in the service of making peace around the world.”
With this broad aim in mind, the Innovation Cell’s priorities aren’t to jump on trends without cause, but are driven entirely by the needs of UN colleagues working in conflict contexts, in addition to the strategic direction set by the UN’s leadership on international peace and security.
In that vein, the Cell is currently working to innovate in a range of critical areas, according to Daanish. These include investigating the realities of global climate and security through the use of “space-based environmental sensors on satellites and data analytics”.
Another preoccupation is solving the language problems inherent in natural language processing (NLP) technologies – which are used by the DPPA to conduct mass public dialogues in local languages within conflict contexts using AI dialogue tools – the aim of this being to increase inclusivity in political processes.
But crucially, his team has recently been investigating spatial computing and immersive technologies to build environments to train peace mediators. The aim being to run future peace negotiations between conflict actors more successfully.
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