Data for Peace and Humanitarian Response? The Case of the Ukraine-Russia War

Article by Behruz Davletov, Uma Kalkar, Salwa Mansuri, Marine Ragnet, and Stefaan Verhulst at Data & Policy: “Since the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine on 24 February 2022, more than 4,889 (28,081 according to the Ukrainian government) civilians have been killed and over 7 million people have been displaced. The conflict has had a significant impact on civilians, particularly women and children. In response to the crisis, local and international organizations have sought to provide immediate humanitarian assistance, and initiated numerous initiatives to monitor violations and work toward peacebuilding and conflict resolution.

As in other areas of society, data and data science have become important to tailor, conduct, and monitor emergency responses in conflict zones. Data has also become crucial to support humanitarian action and peacebuilding. For example, data collected from satellite, GPS, and drone technologies can be used to map a conflict’s evolution, understand the needs of civilians, evaluate migration patterns, analyze discourses coming from both sides, and track the delivery of assistance.

This article focuses on the role that data has played in crisis response and peacebuilding related to the Russian-Ukrainian war so as to demonstrate how data can be used for peace. We consider a variety of publicly available evidence to examine various aspects of how data is playing a role in the ongoing conflict, mainly from a humanitarian response perspective. In particular, we consider the following aspects and taxonomy of data usage:

  • Prediction: Data is used to monitor and plan for likely events and risks both prior to and during the conflict;
  • Narratives: Data plays a critical role in both constructing and countering misinformation and disinformation;
  • Infrastructure Damage: Data can be used to track and respond to infrastructure damage, as well as to associated human rights violations and migration flows;
  • Human Rights Violations and Abuses: Data is used to identify and report human rights abuses, and to help construct a legal basis for justice;
  • Migration Flows: Large-scale population flows, both within Ukraine and toward neighboring countries, are one of the defining features of the conflict. Data is being used to monitor these flows, and to target humanitarian assistance;
  • Humanitarian Response: In addition to the above, data is also being used for a wide variety of humanitarian purposes, including ensuring basic and medical supplies, and addressing the resulting mental health crisis….(More)”.