QCRI develops a search engine to access official statements of UN member states

A new search engine developed by an entity of the Qatar Foundation makes it easier to instantly obtain official statements from all United Nations (UN) member states.
Diplomaticpulse.org developed by the Social Computing Group of the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) allows users to quickly search official statements and press releases from all UN member states.
Based on a close partnership with the UN, the work was led by Dr. Ingmar Weber, Research Director of the Social Computing Group at QCRI, part of QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, according to an article on the QF website.
Dr Weber said: “We were attending a workshop on how to use new technologies for conflict prevention and peacemaking, and that’s when the Department of Political and United Nations Peacebuilding Organization (UNDPPA) expressed its struggle with the lack of a database that consolidates the statements made by UN member states on a specific topic. The only way to do that then was to go to each country’s official website and find it, which was a tedious and time-consuming process.
Dr. Weber is a German data scientist based in Qatar for nine years. His interdisciplinary research examines what online user-generated data can tell us about the offline world and society at large.
“If you wanted to see the official statements made by different UN member countries during COP26, you had to go to each country’s website and find them there. It works but it’s not effective at all,” says Dr. Weber.
“Working with UNDPA, QCRI’s social computing team then brainstormed to see what we could do from a practical perspective. The solution was simple: a personalized search engine,” continued Dr. Weber.
The Diplomatic Pulse differs from traditional search engines like Google because “it only uses specific official sources, rather than the internet as a whole”.
To create the search engine, the first thing needed was the official list of websites for each UN member state, which was provided by UNDPPA.
“We then worked on learning the tool to identify relevant elements on each website and article,” Dr. Weber noted.
“With 193 UN Member States and several different website layouts and styles, this was no easy task. And what has made it more difficult is that some countries do not type their official statements, but upload scanned copies,” the expert remarked.
“The biggest challenge was managing the different layout of each website and then the different article structures. Because we were teaching the information retrieval tool, we had to tell it exactly where to look in an article for relevant information that needed to be indexed,” he pointed out.
The web tool offers the ability to search by keyword as well as by country, and the ability to filter by date. Speaking about how often the tool is updated or refreshed with new information, Dr. Weber said: “Every 15 minutes. For this kind of work, it’s almost in real time.
Dr Martin Waehlisch of UNDPPA’s Innovation Cell, said: “Using new technologies to quickly extract information allows us to better understand the positions of global state actors and see where consensus is lacking or emerging. And this is just the beginning, the data collected will help us in the long term to analyze trends and patterns in foreign affairs.
“We want to improve the tool so that it is more than a search engine that works on the basis of keywords. We aim to add advanced analyzes to it that would allow it to decode diplomatic language to some extent. This will revolutionize diplomacy in the future through new technologies that are being co-developed by the UN and QCRI for the common good of peace,” Dr. Weber added.