Mobile phone technologies are the subject of considerable enthusiasm in the peacebuilding sector. Yet little has been done to evaluate systematically the factors of success or failure in the use of mobile phones for peacebuilding. This event focused on the use of mobile phones in one of the most difficult conflict environments today: Afghanistan. 

 

Mobile phone technologies are the subject of considerable enthusiasm in the peacebuilding sector. In the past few years, they have been used in connection with campaigns to restrain election violence, reduce corruption, develop the news media, and support counter-insurgency to name just a few. Success has been significant, but mixed. Yet little has been done to evaluate systematically the factors of success or failure in the use of mobile phones for peacebuilding. 

So to best understand the true potential of these increasingly powerful tools, USIP -- in partnership with cell phone pioneer Mobile Accord (who raised a record sum of over $37 million within three weeks of Haiti’s earthquake crisis with their “Text HAITI to 90999” campaign), the National Defense University, the United Nation’s-mandated UPeace, and TechChange -- brought together experts on international peacebuilding and mobile phone technology to focus on the use of mobile phones in one of the most difficult conflict environments today: Afghanistan. 

Using techniques pioneered in the 2009 Smart Tools for Smart Power program, the Center evaluated the reality of cell phone deployments along three vectors: 
  • Improving governance -  rule of law and anti-corruption  
  • Countering extremism - media development and counter-insurgency 
  • Delivery of essential services - education, health, agricultural development, commerce

Read a USIP Special Report Can You Help Me Now:? Mobile Phones and Peacebuilding in Afghanistan

Multimedia

Watch videos from this event:

 


Sheldon Himelfarb, Moderator
Executive Director, Center of Innovation for Science, Technology, and Peacebuilding
United States Institute of Peace
 
Colonel J.M. "Matt" Venhaus, Moderator
Jennings Randolph Army Fellow
United States Institute of Peace
 

Panel 1: Tackling Corruption and Improving Governance

Panel 2: Countering Extremism and Counter-insurgency

Panel 3: Delivering Essential Services 

Panelists included innovators from the DoD, Department of State, UN personnel, World Bank, Internews, Roshan, and NGOs (US and European) like Development Seed, Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, and MobileActive.org.

Related Publications

Wrestling with a Humanitarian Dilemma in Afghanistan

Wrestling with a Humanitarian Dilemma in Afghanistan

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Recent decrees by the Taliban barring Afghan women from attending university or working in NGOs are severely damaging the country both socially and economically, especially coming atop a ban on girls’ secondary education last year. The marginalization of half the population also highlights the “humanitarian dilemma” that aid donors and international agencies face: Afghanistan is highly dependent on humanitarian assistance, not only for saving lives and easing deprivation but also to stabilize its economy. The quandary for international donors is what to do when alleviating suffering benefits the Afghan economy and thereby the Taliban regime, even when that regime is harming its own people?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics

Can the Taliban’s Brazen Assault on Afghan Women Be Stopped?

Can the Taliban’s Brazen Assault on Afghan Women Be Stopped?

Thursday, January 12, 2023

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Kate Bateman;  Andrew Watkins;  Scott Worden

The Taliban marked the New Year by doubling down on their severe, ever-growing restrictions on women’s rights. On December 20, they banned women from all universities — adding to their prior ban on girls attending middle and high school. Then the Taliban announced on December 24 that women cannot work for NGOs, including humanitarian organizations that are providing vital food and basic health services to the population that is now projected at 90 percent below the poverty rate. Western and regional governments have responded with uncommonly unified outrage and many humanitarian organizations have suspended their operations until women are allowed to return to their jobs.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderHuman Rights

The Taliban Continue to Tighten Their Grip on Afghan Women and Girls

The Taliban Continue to Tighten Their Grip on Afghan Women and Girls

Thursday, December 8, 2022

By: Belquis Ahmadi;  Scott Worden

Since the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover of Afghanistan, they have ratcheted up restrictions on women and girls as the group consolidates power. These restrictions include limitations on employment, education, public interactions and other fundamental rights such as access to justice. These restrictions have only tightened over time with increasingly draconian enforcement — the latest being public floggings that harken back to the Taliban’s 1990s rule. Amid the U.N.’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, USIP has compiled a comprehensive archive of Taliban decrees and public statements on the treatment of women and girls. While leaders and activists around the globe strategize and develop plans to address gender-based violence in their respective countries, Afghanistan stands out as a worst-case example, with two decades of hard-won progress rapidly unwinding.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

GenderHuman Rights

View All Publications