Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to significantly impact the peace and security landscape in South-East Asia. However, various systemic issues and gender biases present in widely used AI systems pose a substantial obstacle to the positive use of AI in this context. Research conducted by UN Women and the United Nations University Institute in Macau (UNU Macau) highlights the risks that women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and women’s Civil Society Organisations (WCSOs) face in terms of cyber threats. While these individuals are aware of the dangers, they often lack the resources to effectively prepare for, or recover from, cyber-attacks.

The study underscores the importance of addressing four types of gender biases in AI – discrimination, stereotyping, exclusion, and insecurity. These biases need to be mitigated to ensure that the region can fully leverage the potential of technological advancements. AI has been found to have both positive and negative effects on gender-responsive peace efforts and women’s agency. While AI can enhance inclusivity and the effectiveness of conflict prevention, gender biases within these technologies can disproportionately impact women, limiting their access to these benefits.

The research also delves into cybersecurity threats faced by WHRDs and WCSOs in South-East Asia. It highlights the gendered nature of cyber threats, with these individuals being specifically targeted due to the nature of their work. Online harassment, trolling, and doxxing are among the most common threats faced by women’s rights advocates, leading to disruptions in their work, damage to their reputation, and even physical harm. To address these challenges, there is a need for inclusive and collaborative approaches in cybersecurity policy development, as well as building knowledge among various stakeholders to prevent and respond to cyberattacks effectively.

Empowering Women Through Training and Advocacy

The research findings are intended to contribute to the global discourse on ethics and norms related to AI and digital governance. Consequently, training materials based on these findings will be developed and rolled out in Thailand and Vietnam. These materials will be made available in English, Thai, and Vietnamese, aiming to empower women’s rights advocates and other stakeholders to navigate the digital landscape safely. The ultimate goal is to promote gender-responsive peace and security initiatives through informed decision-making and enhanced cybersecurity measures.

The integration of AI into the peace and security agenda in South-East Asia offers significant opportunities for progress. However, it is essential to address gender biases and cybersecurity risks to ensure that women are not further marginalized in the digital age. Through concerted efforts to promote gender equality in AI technologies and strengthen cybersecurity measures, the region can harness the transformative power of AI to advance women’s security and rights.


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