UN leveraging new technology for peacekeeping missions

23rd November 2020 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Creamer Media Reporter

The UN is introducing new technologies to assist in its peacekeeping operations, says UN Support Office in Somalia supply chain management service chief Herbert Pechek.

Some of the elements of the UN’s peacekeeping programme are arms control, cease fire monitoring, elections, enforcement and combat, public information, protection of civilians, and sanctions and border management.

Focusing on military peacekeepers, Pechek said during supply chain industry body Sapics’ webinar on November 23, that from a digital perspective, the UN is looking at introducing visors used as head-up display monitors, to allow the user to access real time situational information, and visualise data and media streams from surveillance systems or body cameras.

Moreover, it has started looking at the use of physiological sensors for real-time readings and emergency alert capabilities, virtual triage, and to enable real time emergency medical response.

The UN is equipping military peacekeepers with thermal sensors, night-time-capable video cameras, and chemical sensors, with these all integrated into combat packs, Pechek said.

Pechek emphasised that it was important for military peacekeepers to have continuous connectivity to headquarters, at every level, to enable secure and reliable communication for voice and data.

Moving away from personnel, and looking at supporting equipment for military peacekeeping, Pechek mentioned that vehicles acted as core technology hubs for mobile communication, data centres and analytic cells.

The UN also deploys police peacekeeper personnel.

In this arena, Pechek said digital innovations include mobile forensic and crime investigation equipment; end-to-end case tracking systems; diagram systems for crime scene mapping; digital crowd analysis equipment; mobile thermal analysis equipment; contribution to a common operational system; handheld speech recognition devices; mobile real time video surveillance systems; GPS-enabled vehicles and units; and on-site data access.

Pechek mentioned that the UN viewed leveraging emerging technologies, such as artificial technology (AI) and blockchain, as essential to developing solutions that would facilitate its core work.

One of the UN’s programmes in this regard was the UN ICT AI Programme, called Unite Cognition.

The UN was also looking at introducing more sophisticated versions of distributed ledger technology, to enable it to trace weaponry back to the country of origin or manufacture, given that disarming troops is a key part of its peacekeeping missions.

Some of the elements of the UN’s support supply chains were safety and security, communications and information technology (IT), engineering and infrastructure, life support, aviation and air operations, medical support, and ground and sea transportation.

In terms of digitalisation in its support supply chains, Pechek noted that South Korea Research Institution in 2017 proposed the concept of a UN Smart Camp, based on the country’s smart city development experience.

He explained that the aim of a UN Smart Camp was to integrate geospatial, information and communication technologies, and various physical devices and sensors connected to the network (Internet of Things).

Moreover, it aimed to optimise the efficiency of UN camp operations and services; and enhance safety, security and situational awareness.

Another featured project of the UN was the Field Remote Infrastructure Management (FRIM) project, which converged sensing devices and IT technology, with the aim of enabling field missions to better understand and optimise their consumption of resources – particularly at locations where fuel, energy and water were scarce.

Pechek said the UN was undertaking the integration of FRIM with the smart city concept.


Also speaking was SAP Strategy-Solutions Engineering global senior director Lloyd Keays.

He emphasised that AI must be used to amplify human capabilities, rather than aiming to replace it – therefore, a human centric approach to innovation, whereby AI was a tool for humans.

Keays indicated that AI acted as a bridge between two problems or two solutions, to engender these faster.

He said that companies implementing this successfully would be those that take a human desire, preferably one that has been round for a very long time, figuring out the process to get to that desire, and then using AI to take out or bridge the steps between the desire and the solution.

Keays mentioned that AI could be a mechanism used in procurement, for example, to favour some types of suppliers, add clauses to contracts, add new categories to procurement, and offer short payment terms for purpose-driven procurement.  

Moreover, it has applications in terms of tracking and tracing in the supply chain, to, for example, ensure that no human rights abuse is taking place.

Looking ahead to 2025, Keays predicted that purpose-driven procurement would be the main use of AI, with clients expecting this.