Cyber diplomacy


The ever-increasing digitisation of our society, further accelerated by the recent COVID-19 crisis, confronts us with major social, economic, and geopolitical issues. Cyberspace has become a sphere of action where the foreign policy issues and national interests are at stake. The management of cyberspace has therefore evolved from a technical matter (communication between networks without a key role for states) to an important geopolitical point of discussion.

The same goes for several new technologies that are entering our society. 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and blockchains have a potentially huge impact on power relations. Worldwide, substantial differences can be seen in analyses and opinions concerning the right approach to tech giants, the regulation of the vast digital market, the relationship between citizen and state, the (de)militarisation of cyberspace and the protection of human rights.

However, countries have no choice but to engage in the international dialogue and seek cooperation: after all, cyberspace is by definition a cross-border issue. A (pro)active approach is necessary to defend our values and interests in a new and constantly evolving context. Diplomacy, therefore, has an important role to play in numerous organisations and fora.

 

The European Union (EU)

Our country is closely involved in the discussions on the digital future of the European Union whose importance for our prosperity and the position of Belgium in the world can hardly be overestimated. In this context, new initiatives on 5G, the security of our network infrastructure, artificial intelligence are undertaken by the European Commission and other European Member States to implement the European Cyber Security Strategy approved in March 2021.

Within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has in recent years developed a diplomatic toolbox to respond appropriately or to discourage other states from perpetrating cyber-attacks. By using restrictive (e.g., sanctions) or positive (e.g., capacity building programmes) foreign policy instruments, the EU tries to remind states of the limits of what is considered as acceptable behaviour in cyberspace.

 

United Nations Organization (UNO)

Complex negotiations on responsible behaviour by states in cyberspace are conducted within the UN. Whereas several countries believe that a new international treaty is necessary for this purpose, our country, together with the EU member states and other entities, believes that we should focus first and foremost on implementing already agreed standards and rules of behaviour. This represents the highest short-term added value for our security and prosperity and will allow us to better identify possible deficiencies.

 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

In 2016, NATO recognised cyberspace as an operational domain, just like land, sea, and air.

Increasingly frequent, complex, and destructive cyber threats impact on the security of the Alliance, creating an ever-changing environment to which Allies must adapt. The Alliance must be able to defend its networks and operations against the increasingly complex cyber threats and attacks it faces. The Allies are committed to strengthen and improve the cyber defence capabilities of national networks and infrastructure as a key priority.

 

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The OSCE focuses on the development of confidence-building measures between participating states in the field of cyberspace and cyber security. Belgium is actively involved in this process.

You will find more information on the official website.

 

Multi-Stakeholder Forum

Cyberspace, by its very nature, confronts multilateral fora to important questions. For example, how can non-state actors best be involved in discussions about states’ behaviour in cyberspace? Non-state actors such as technology companies have a central role to play in the management of cyberspace and the development of new technologies. It is therefore not surprising that numerous new initiatives are being launched, each of which must be evaluated in terms of their added value, but which are very important in shaping the international debate.