United Nations University Centre for Policy Research

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Policy and Research Papers

The New Geopolitics of Converging Risks: The UN and Prevention in the Era of AI

We are entering an era of hybrid opportunities and threats generated by the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and other powerful dual-use technologies, with implications for nearly every aspect of daily lives. The convergence of AI and affective computing, cyber and biotechnologies, robotics and additive manufacturing raises complex global implications that are poorly understood, leaving the multilateral system with limited tools to anticipate and prevent emerging risks. At the same time, the spread of AI convergence across a wide range of States, non-State and transnational actors and entities means that the challenges of tomorrow must be addressed collectively and innovatively.

How can the multilateral system better understand and anticipate risks as AI convergence with dual-use technologies intrudes increasingly into the political, social, economic, and security spheres, creating new potential for systemic vulnerabilities and distributive inequalities? How can actors within the multilateral system build better anticipation and prevention capacities in the face of these risks?

This report is the first step in developing a common understanding of the emerging impacts of AI convergence on the United Nations’ prevention agenda. It provides: an analysis of current trends in AI convergence; scenarios that examine emerging opportunities and risks; principles to guide how innovation should be deployed responsibly by actors in the multilateral system; and a recommendation for a foresight capacity housed within the UN and shared across key communities.

Click the link provided to access the full report, The New Geopolitics of Converging Risks: The UN and Prevention in the Era of AI


Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan

In December 2018, Adam Day, Head of Programmes, led a team of researchers to South Sudan to conduct research into the effectiveness and impact of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The team interviewed more than 260 individuals and visited four field locations in the country. The resulting report, conducted under the auspices of the Effectiveness of Peace Operations Network (EPON) assesses the extent to which the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is achieving its current strategic objectives and what impact the Mission has had on the political and security situation in South Sudan. EPON is supported by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), together with over 40 partners to jointly undertake research into the effectiveness of peace operations.

The report focuses on the most recent period of UNMISS’ mandate (2014-18), aiming to provide a “snapshot” of the mission’s work across its four main mandate areas: the protection of civilians, facilitation of humanitarian delivery, promotion of human rights, and support to the peace process. As a large, multidimensional peacekeeping operation – with 17,000 troops, 2,000 police and 2,000 civilians – UNMISS has been provided with significant resources and an extraordinarily ambitious mandate.

Assessing the match between resources and mandate, and the ways the Mission has adapted its approaches to be effective in extremely challenging circumstances is a key objective of this report. Furthermore, this research highlights some of the key dilemmas facing UNMISS today, related to the short-term protection risks to the people of South Sudan versus the longer-term prospects for peace in the country. Learning from the UNMISS experience, it offers broader lessons for UN peacekeeping.

Please follow the link provided to read the full report, Assessing the Effectiveness of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.