Conference Discusses Cyber Norms

By Farnsworth, Timothy | Arms Control Today, May 2015 | Go to article overview

Conference Discusses Cyber Norms


Farnsworth, Timothy, Arms Control Today


Representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector discussed cybersecurity issues, including measures related to state behavior in cyberspace, at an international conference in The Hague last month, but did not reach any written agreement on that issue.

The April 17 chair's statement by Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said conference participants discussed some measures on state behavior with regard to protecting national critical infrastructure and that some of these measures should be pursued at future conferences on cyberspace issues and at other forums such as the United Nations.

During an April 15 press event before the start of the two-day conference, Koenders said the goal of the conference was "not to negotiate agreements or conclude treaties" but "to promote the vision" of a "free, open, and secure" Internet.

According to the April 17 statement, the conference discussed the possible establishment of a norm against cyberattacks on certain network systems that provide essential civilian services, such as those used by utilities and first responders, and on critical components of the global computer network. The chair's statement encouraged countries "to be transparent about the roles and responsibilities of their defence forces and security services in the cyber domain."

The Hague conference was the fourth in a series of international conferences that began in London in 2011. Like the previous three, the gathering in The Hague covered a wide variety of topics dealing with cyberspace, from Internet governance to international peace and security.

At the 2011 conference, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the goal was to discuss international norms governing behavior in cyberspace and begin building a framework for future discussions on international cooperation in cyberspace. (See ACT, December 2011.) The London conference and the one the following year in Budapest were criticized for failing to register any tangible progress toward that goal, but the meeting in Seoul in 2013 produced the first written framework to come out of these conferences for how to move toward creating confidence-building measures among states and establishing international norms in cyberspace. (See ACT, November 2013. …

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