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Can AI mediate conflict better than humans?

Can AI mediate conflict better than humans?

For decades, humans skills alone enabled dispute resolution. Now, AI could help, say experts. But risks loom too.

Doha, Qatar – Diplomats whizzing around the globe. Hush-hush meetings, often never made public. For centuries, the art of conflict mediation has relied on nuanced human skills: from elements as simple as how to make eye contact and listen carefully to detecting shifts in emotions and subtle signals from opponents.

Now, a growing set of entrepreneurs and experts are pitching a dramatic new set of tools into the world of dispute resolution – relying increasingly on artificial intelligence (AI).

“Groundbreaking technological advancements are revolutionising the frontier of peace and mediation,” said Sama al-Hamdani, programme director of Hala System, a private company using AI and data analysis to gather unencrypted intelligence in conflict zones, among other war-related tasks.

“We are witnessing an era where AI transforms mediators into powerhouses of efficiency and insight,” al-Hamdani said.

The researcher is one of thousands of speakers participating in the Web Summit in Doha, Qatar, where digital conflict mediation is on the agenda. The four-day summit started on February 26 and concludes on Thursday, February 29.

Already, say experts, digital solutions have proven effective in complex diplomacy. At the peak of the COVID-19 restrictions, mediators were not able to travel for in-person meetings with their interlocutors.

The solution? Use remote communication software Skype to facilitate negotiations, as then-United States envoy Zalmay Khalilzad did for the Qatar-brokered talks between the US and the Taliban in 2020.

For generations, power brokers would gather behind doors to make decisions affecting people far and wide. Digital technologies can now allow the process to be relatively more inclusive.

This is what Stephanie Williams, special representative of the United Nations’ chief in Libya, did in 2021 when she used a hybrid model integrating personal and digital interactions as she led mediation efforts to establish a roadmap towards elections. That strategy helped her speak to people living in areas deemed too dangerous to travel to. The UN estimates that Williams managed to reach one million Libyans.

However, practitioners are now growing interested in the use of technology beyond online consultations.

Geographic information systems (GIS) store information in maps to monitor ceasefire agreements. Virtual reality (VR), meanwhile, creates immersive environments that can provide diplomats with a deeper understanding of what is happening in faraway crises they are mediating.

In 2021, the UN invited a group of diplomats to try out VR to understand the work of its verification mission in Colombia on the country’s peace process. Ambassadors said they were given an extraordinary glimpse of the context, fear and feelings that people in the country were going through.

“It’s more direct, more emotional, it’s less letters and papers,” said one of the diplomats.

Read the complete article here.

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