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8 September 2016

Peacetech in Syria: new research published

A new report from British Council and Build Up considers current peacetech initiatives responding to the Syrian crisis as well as options for future work using technology for peace building and development

Stitching My Syria Back' (2014) © Mohamad Khayata

“For Syria, in a changing conflict context, definitions of ‘peacebuilding’ or ‘peacebuilders’ are fluid.”

The British Council is consistently working to develop creative approaches to support the development of fragile and conflict affected places. 

Despite suspending operations in Syria in 2012, the British Council has continued to deliver programming supporting Syrians and host communities affected by the crisis. Our work has focused on supporting a new generation of Syrian social leaders, creating pathways to greater hope and opportunity for young Syrians, and contributing to systemic development in neighbouring countries.

As part of this we commissioned Build Up to produce Innovative Peace Building in Syria; an exploration of the ‘peacetech’ sector,  an emerging body of peacebuilding practice involving the strategic use of technology, and the role it’s playing in responding to the crisis.

Drawing on desk research and interviews with 20 experts the report gathered the opinions of organisations funding or researching work in Syria and also those working in or on Syria, ranging from large international NGOs to local civil society associations.

The research focused on three key areas:

  • Mapping existing peacetech responses to the Syrian crisis
  • Identifying key areas of British Council peacebuilding and development work where greater utilisation of technology could enhance impact
  • Defining the different roles the British Council could play in this space and recommending a variety of strategies for future British Council investment in peace tech programmes

“…[a number of] organisations rely on online presence to disseminate information on their activities, and thus consider online presence critical to their peacebuilding aims.”

Results make for fascinating reading. Looking at the wider context of peacetech, the report examines how this sector is unfolding in different regions, highlighting success stories, those taking leadership and funding opportunities as well as associated challenges.

It then turns the lens on Syria itself, the wider peacebuilding context, opportunities and constraints of the current technology landscape, including power outages and breakdown of infrastructure, alongside the influx of apps and how different individuals and organisations view the role of tech in their work and activism.

“New applications and websites are being released every day to support Syrian refugees. It’s very confusing.”

It identifies short and long-term gaps in peacebuilding activities that peacetech could contribute to filling, from more effective external communication, to reaching those in hard to access areas of Syria.

This piece of research is already helping to shape the British Council’s understanding of the current context and future work in Syria, ensuring that what is delivered, meets the needs of the British Council’s partners and crucially, that those participating benefit. 

You can read the report in full here.