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PeaceTech: Communication to Build Peace

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PeaceTech is an organisation established in 2006 with the goal to promote peace and communication through technology. Based here in the Philippines, PeaceTech focuses on youth affected by armed conflict through two programs, namely: “Global Classroom” and “EPIC” (Empowerment for Peace through Information and Communication). Some of their programs have been sponsored by the Australian Embassy in the Philippines. More recently, PeaceTech is supported by the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines.

 

Recently, PeaceTech held a forum entitled “Social Media vs Extremism” posing the question: “Can social media be an effective weapon in the fight against extremism?”

 

At the forum, Robin Pettyfer, the founder of PeaceTech, and Meg Villanueva, Executive Director, discussed how information technology can be used to build peace among communities historically in conflict with each other.

 

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Prior to the presentation, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Pettyfer about the projects of PeaceTech.

 

Robin Pettyfer: “At PeaceTech we use “technology” to reduce conflicts and are currently focusing on what’s going on right now in Marawi – violence, extremism, and conflict. We are just sharing our approach. It is not the only approach, but it is what PeaceTech does in responding to extremism. Basically, we recognize that the population is getting larger while resources are declining. If you combine those two realities with information technology you have a problem — rising population plus declining resources results in inequality. And inequality plus information equals conflict.

 

This is because the entities now have the information unlike before to realize that what the other person has is not what they have! So it’s not surprising there is more tension today as the world gets smaller through social media.

 

What is the best way to respond to this reality? PeaceTech believes education is one important approach.

 

Education can be used as a method for prevention, or if later in the cycle towards violence, as an intervention.

 

Education as a prevention is by far the most effective method to deter negative consequences. Just as in medicine, it is best to identify the potential for a problem before it takes root. Education as an intervention, on the other hand, happens if a problem has not been foreseen and now has taken root! In this situation, one uses education to stop and then reverse negative consequences.

 

But, Pettyfer adds, it is essential that education be accessible. That’s one reason why PeaceTech uses ICT because with time, ICT makes limiting education more difficult.

 

PeaceTech applies education as a prevention and intervention in its programs.

 

The EPIC Program with the US Embassy — Manila, combines education as a prevention and intervention. The Program does deal with people who are at risk of being recruited by groups. You go in and try to get them to change their ways of thinking, even though they are pretty close to doing some tough things. That involves education, empowerment, and most importantly, a sense of inclusion. For other beneficiaries in EOIC, education is used more as prevention.

 

For the reader: the following description of EPIC is on the PeaceTech website: http://www.peacetech.global

 

“The EPIC  Program United States Embassy, Manila, we are working with out-of-school youth in Cotabato City, Zamboanga City and the provinces of Basilan, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, Philippines. Our objective is to connect young people from rival groups in Central and Western Mindanao – using video conferencing and social media – so they realize they may have more in common than what they have been told.

 

We also aim to bring these young men and women into the Mindanao Peace Process so they feel included. Young people learn conflict management and conflict resolution. They learn history and about one another’s cultures. They learn the employment benefits of ending conflict. And they learn management skills, which they use in implementing projects in their communities.”

 

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Technology put to good use by PeaceTech ~ Video conferencing between schools from Mindanao with Manila, and more.

 

Robin_Pettyfer

Robin Pettyfer, Founder of PeaceTech

 

“The other program, ‘Global Classroom’, is purely prevention. The beneficiaries need not be victims or young people living in conflict-affected areas. Rather, they are regular high school students, although most come from low-income backgrounds. (PeaceTech is now expanding to include private schools). This program uses social media and video conferencing to increase familiarity and tolerance. PeaceTech connects schools in different regions that have preconceived ideas as to their differences. Through this simple exposure – via. videoconferencing – they can experience that they are NOT that different, pre-empting the prejudice, which may otherwise develop.”

 

PeaceTech_speakers_2017

(Left to right) Robin Pettyfer (PeaceTech Founder), Meg Villanueva (PeaceTech Executive Director), Gemma Guerrero, Bambina Olivares, Krista Bustamante (U.S. Embassy in the Philippines) and Simon Gemayel (Group Founder and Chairman, 3D Vision Technologies, Ltd.)

 

In conclusion, technology, through social media, is making the world smaller. With the growing population in the Philippines and the scarcity of resources – or perhaps due to the imbalance in the distribution of resources – there is a tendency for people to have tension and conflict.

 

When used correctly, technology facilitates proper communication and access to education. With education, people’s minds are molded around correct principles and founded on friendship, tolerance, and respect, regardless of the “island” where they are from. PeaceTech has been working hard to achieve these goals for several years now.

 

 

 

Author: Marcelle Villegas

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Photo source:

Poster and video conferencing – from PeaceTech – www.peacetech.global/

All other photos – courtesy of the author

 

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Acknowledgements:

Leslie Ann Murray, AmCham Publications

Robin Pettyfer for invitation to attend the forum and for this interview.

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Video Reference:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S4moIxcN-M&list=UU5mCf5EFxIDvjBeyNRMoWGg

 

 

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