The 2021 Prize

New technology can be used to build peace – The Rapoport Peace Prize awarded to Aino Piirtola

The Rapoport Peace Prize was awarded to Aino Piirtola, M.Sc. in Economics, for her thesis Exploring Peacetech Platforms and Their Connection to End User Empathy. The thesis was presented for the Aalto University School of Economics.

The potential of using technology to maintain peace has remained an understudied field. Piirtola’s research shows that technologies are perceived to enable better and more sustainable peace processes if their use increases among peacebuilders. Best results come from social media and immersive technologies, such as virtual reality, when they are used to tell and spread stories. Technology can be used to strengthen empathy and thus support peace.

“It’s great to get recognition for the work I have done. Planning the thesis, conducting research, and writing the final text is a fairly big and even strenuous process. Above all, I am glad that others find my research interesting – after all, it’s not a run-of-the-mill economics topic,” says Piirtola.

Piirtola’s thesis can be read on Aalto University’s website.

Recognition for promoting peace through research

The Anatoli Rapoport Peace Research Fund is run by the Leo Mechel Foundation. 2021 was the first year the Rapoport Peace Prize was awarded.

“Research which promotes peace can potentially be done in many different disciplines. Unfortunately, many excellent studies do not receive enough attention, even if they have the potential to be used to prevent and resolve crises. We have very recent examples of arms-based security solutions not working well,” says Kari Välimäki, the chairman of the Fund’s governing body.

A total of eight theses were nominated for the prize. The nominated works were master’s theses from the universities of Aalto, Helsinki, Jyväskylä, and Tampere.

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The Rapoport Prize is awarded by the Anatoli Rapoport Peace Research Fund for university-level dissertations. The prize is granted based on criteria evaluating the scientific merits, multidisciplinary research approach, practical applicability, and forward-looking peace-restoring vision found in the thesis.

The 2021 prize was 1,000 euros. The prize was awarded in collaboration with SaferGlobe, a peace and security think tank. Representatives from the Embassy of Canada to Finland participated in the prize-giving ceremony. Anatoli Rapoport lived and worked in Canada for a significant portion of his life.

The prize was awarded to the winner during the UN Youth seminar organized by Finland’s UN Youth on Saturday 25th of September 2021.

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The Anatoli Rapoport Peace Research Fund supports multidisciplinary peace research and the publication of ground-breaking research. The fund is named after Anatoli Rapoport and is run by the Leo Mechelin Foundation. The core capital of the fund came from donations given in 2020 by four private individuals who value peace research. The aim of the fund is to become a significant supporter of Finnish peace research, and it accepts donations to increase its capital.