As the United Nations responds to the challenge of harnessing new technologies to improve its conflict prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding work, Virtual Reality (VR) is gradually gaining traction as a way of informing policy makers of situations more vividly, directly and compellingly than has traditionally been the case. DPPA recently turned to VR to brief experts from Security Council member States about its work and that of other UN organizations in Iraq, an experiment the Department hopes to continue and expand.
The UN Security Council regularly receives information from the Secretariat via written reports. These documents are then presented orally by senior officials, including Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo and different Special Representatives or envoys of the Secretary-General. Over the years, Council members have suggested that a more systematic use of visual materials would help better describe situations and anchor discussions. DPPA has been incorporating visual aids – such as maps and infographics – in Council consultations (discussions held behind closed doors) for some time but is now considering how to make that effort more systematic and using new technologies.
So, in April 2019, staff from DPPA traveled to Iraq to test the viability of VR as a briefing tool. The DPPA staffers, working with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN Country Team, went to Baghdad, Mosul, Erbil and a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Salamyiah to produce a 360° film. The DPPA team captured diverse scenes, from meetings with parliamentary representatives and other political stakeholders to intimate moments with IDPs and Iraqi students. “I think the film puts a human face on the ongoing recovery process in Iraq,” said Daanish Masood, who was part of the DPPA team.
The 9-minute film was shown in late April to experts from the 15 Security Council member States. Gathered at the German Mission to the UN in New York, the experts welcomed the DPPA initiative, with many highlighting the potential of new technology to provide a better and more human-centered understanding of situations on the ground.