Digitizing Access: Opportunities and Risks

In 2021, there was an increase in protection crises across the 32 protection cluster operations ranging from armed conflict, the climate crisis, economic shocks rising hunger and the covid-19 pandemic. This has contributed to increasingly complex and severe protection risks for people living through conflict and crises. In several operations, the crisis has accelerated particularly in more dramatic ways including with rapidly spiraling humanitarian needs, displacement and increasing food insecurity in several operations. Moreover, conflicts and violations of basic norms remain the single biggest driver of protection challenges today. Displaced people and local communities are under increasing challenges due their presence in conflict areas with State and non-State armed groups disregarding the basic principles of war. In many instances, some connected members of affected communities are able to access information and services through digital tools. Humanitarian agencies are increasingly turning to Digital Tools to strengthen strategies to engage with individuals and provide remote services – providing the potential to maintain proximity with communities where face-to-face options may not be feasible.

There are also inherent risks in the use of digital technologies for humanitarian efforts. This includes risks related to data protection and privacy which includes collecting data from affected people puts the responsibility on humanitarian organizations to ensure that affected people’s data is not misused. There are additional risks such as misinformation, disinformation and hate speech and other issues that are brought together with the widespread use of social media platforms and other online dissemination tools.

The session aims to identify and advance needed shifts in behaviours, practices and policies that will enable a system-wide and strengthened approach to securing access for protection for a diverse range of protection actors.