Games and Apps that Build Peace

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Anne Kahl is the Programme Specialist at the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support at the United Nations Development Programme. This piece was originally published in UNDP's "Our Perspective" blog on October 7, 2014.

(Photo Credit: Turning Tables)

When I was in Liberia last year, my national colleagues were making fun of me because of my ancient Nokia, compared to their flash phones. I will admit that I could use an upgrade, but I was struck by how ubiquitous smart phones have become — even in developing countries.

Of course there are big gaps and the spread of technology has not been completely equitable — but 6.8 billion people use mobile phones daily and mobile use in developing countries is growing at an annual rate of 7.5 percent. And in many developing and conflict affected places, phones, tablets and computers today offer a great opportunity for communities to interact and engage with one another — and especially to bridge gaps between young people.

When I was growing up video games were all about killing aliens, shooting bad guys and jumping over barrels to save the girl from the angry gorilla. Today however, their scope has broadened. A new breed of games and smart phone apps are being designed to promote peace and development. As my friend Helena says in a recent blog, “Is it a crazy proposition to suggest that digital games could also be venues for dialogue and conflict management?” I think it isn’t.

An international competition called PEACEapp — supported by UNDP, the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, and Build Up, is currently seeking to promote games and apps as a venue for cultural exchange and conflict management.

Technology gurus and geeks from around the world have been building apps that create space for dialogue and preventing violence. Some amazing games and apps have already been entered that for example, offer new ways for youth to speak up about human rights abuses and gender violence. Other apps and games submitted to the competition help different cultures and faiths to share stories and experiences. It isn’t too late to join in and have the opportunity to win up to USD $5,000 plus mentoring from experienced game and app designers.

The deadline for entries is October 15, 2014.

There are literally dozens of examples of games and apps that teach and reinforce the skills needed for peace and conflict resolution. They focus on communication and collaboration, foster dialogue and negate negative stereotypes, narratives of blame and discrimination.

UNDP’s experience in places like Cyprus, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan shows us what is achievable if we adopt these emerging technologies. This is low cost technology that has huge potential for making people safer, building peace and linking communities and institutions together.

Follow PEACEapp or enter the competition.

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