Social media and conflict management in post-conflict and fragile contexts

Question

What is the recent evidence of the role of social media in post-conflict and fragile contexts with regards to conflict management?

Summary

Some of the roles social media has played in conflict management include:

  • In some cases social media and other new media tools have been used to help hold governments accountable, bring citizens together to protest violence, coordinate relief efforts, empower citizens, provide information to reduce tensions, and build bridges of understanding across boundaries.
  • In other cases social media and other new media tools have been used to help polarize society, thwart peace movements, promote violent agendas, and convey inaccurate information.

National reconciliation:

  • The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) website has helped facilitate post-conflict reconciliation and healing through its participatory design process, emphasis on the process of the TRC’s work, and use of multimedia. However, it was targeted at the diaspora as much of Liberia does not have internet access.

Peacebuilding:

  • Although empirical evidence is thin, there is positive anecdotal evidence that social media can contribute to peacebuilding by improving knowledge for conflict prevention and increasing contact and understanding between opposing groups.
  • Social media has been used to crowdsource information in conflict hotspots as part of various conflict prevention measures in countries like Kenya and Nigeria, especially around elections.
  • Social media enables people to engage in their own initiatives for peace and allows for interactive dialogue.
  • However social media can also be used to create divides.

Stronger state-citizen relations:

  • Social media has opened up new opportunities for public engagement and inter-active dialogue and changed the relationship between states and citizens. Social media and the sharing of videos relating to things like regime violence and electoral fraud contribute to transparency and accountability, and appear to contribute to new norms against such behaviour.
  • Egypt and Tunisia have been used as examples of how the successful use of information and communication technologies seems to be correlated with nonviolent revolutions in particular. However this does not hold up in the cases of Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, or Libya.

Social cohesion and inclusion:

  • Social media could offer a platform for people to confront each other and conduct rational discussions to form common understandings, even across socio-economic, religious and ethnic divisions.

Enquirer: