Against the backdrop of the horrific Israel-Hamas conflict, WACC partner the CDAC Network invited reflection on the theme “Communication in conflict: can we safeguard information in the age of AI?” with an inspiring public forum on 15 November in London.
The gathering spotlighted the need for trusted, timely, accurate information and two-way communication in situations of conflict. WACC General Secretary Philip Lee was among the 80 people present in person, with a further 60 taking part online.
Participants were asked to wrestle with questions around communication and conflict:
- Without accurate and trusted two-way communication, how can people caught in conflict settings make critical decisions for themselves and their families?
- How do they know how to seek help?
- How do they connect with each other – and with aid providers?
“Being able to talk to people affected by crisis is absolutely essential to sustaining trust going forward,” said Helen McElhinney, CDAC Network executive director, in her welcome address. She noted that inaccurate mass and social media coverage, which now happens instantly, has an instant knock-on effect on conflict resolution.
Shifts in the digital environment
Robert Mardini, International Committee of the Red Cross director-general, in conversation with BBC News presenter Geeta Guru-Murthy, reflected on key conflict trends. He explored shifts in the digital environment and their consequences for people living through conflict and humanitarian response.
“Disinformation and fake news are not new in conflict situations. What is new is how quickly and how easily information can be created, circulated, and even weaponised by all actors,” Mardini pointed out.
He stressed that choices in situations of armed conflict are matters of life and death. “And we should remember that communication is also a form of aid in itself – protecting and saving lives.”
Communication on the frontlines
The panel “On the frontlines of information and conflict: how do people navigate the challenges?” highlighted first-person experiences. Panelists talked about which information is most vital; which channels and media inform lifesaving decisions; and – given the surge in online mis- and disinformation – which sources are trusted and why.