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Cyber Policy and Digital Diplomacy

Digitalization poses novel challenges to national security and foreign policy - diplomatic efforts, global cooperation, and multistakeholder engagement are the pillars to maintain peace and stability in cyberspace.

Cyberspace constitutes the fifth domain of warfare and geopolitical tensions are shifting to cyberspace. Armament processes can be observed and the danger of military escalation is increasing. In an attempt to increase global stability, governments have responded by launching diplomatic negotiations and initiatives.

At the UN level, there are two distinct processes in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security: The Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) and the Governmental Group of Experts (GGE). Within these processes, the UN member states have developed a framework for responsible state behaviour that consists of the application of existing international law, the norms of responsible state behaviour, as well as confidence and capacity-building measures in cyberspace. The “Program of Action” (PoA), initiated by France and Egypt, is an important addition to the UN's existing efforts to promote the application of international law in cyberspace, and the implementation of the framework for responsible state behavior. Nevertheless, not all governments follow these commitments. There are divergent views among UN member states in the deliberations on cyber norms, in particular between democratic and autocratic states. Further, these processes are strongly influenced by geopolitical tensions.

The discussion on norms and resilience in cyberspace also takes place in other international forums as well as on a national or regional level: The EU is instrumental in coordinating joint responses to violations of shared values in the context of responsible state behavior, and contributes to stability in cyberspace through its regulatory power. Further, cyber defence is part of NATO’s core task of collective defence by enhancing resilience and protecting its own networks. Cybersecurity has become a key concern within the National security strategies of many countries, whereas the OSCE aims to strengthen stability in the cyber domain on a regional level by increasing predictability, transparency, and cooperation through confidence-building measures.

Despite these numerous processes and initiatives, cybersecurity remains a relatively new topic in international relations and more research and international dialogue are needed to address the novel risks digitalization poses to national security and foreign policy.  


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Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar

Director, DSI
+49 30 21231–1652

Richard Skalt

Manager, DSI
+49 170 4807442

Lilly Schmidt

Research Associate and Program Lead, DSI