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Conceptualizing an International Security Regime for Cyberspace

Posted by Elonnai Hickok and Arindrajit Basu at Oct 26, 2018 03:10 PM |
This paper was published as part of the Briefings from the Research and Advisory Group (RAG) of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) for the Full Commission Meeting held at Bratislava in 2018.

Policy-makers often use past analogous situations to reshape questions and resolve dilemmas in current issues. However, without sufficient analysis of the present situation and the historical precedent being considered, the effectiveness of the analogy is limited.This applies across contexts, including cyber space. For example, there exists a body of literature, including The Tallinn Manual, which applies key aspects (structure, process, and techniques) of various international legal regimes regulating the global commons (air, sea, space and the environment) towards developing global norms for the governance of cyberspace.

Given the recent deadlock at the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE), owing to a clear ideological split among participating states, it is clear that consensus on the applicability of traditional international law norms drawn from other regimes, will not emerge if talks continue without a major overhaul of the present format of negotiations. The Achilles Heel of the GGE thus far has been a deracinated approach to the norms formulation process. There has been excessive focus on the content and the language of the applicable norm rather than the procedure underscoring its evolution, limited state and non state participation, and a lack of consideration for social, cultural, economic and strategic contexts through which norms emerge at the global level. Even if the GGE process became more inclusive and included all United Nations members, strategies preceding the negotiation process must be designed in a manner to facilitate consensus.

There exists to date, no scholarship that traces the negotiation processes that lead to the forging of successful analogous universal regimes or an investigation into the nature of normative contestation that enabled the evolution of the core norms that shaped these regimes. To develop an effective global regime governing cyberspace, we must consider if and how existing international law or norms for other global commons might also apply to ‘cyberspace’, but also transcend this frame into more nuanced thinking around techniques and frameworks that have been successful in consensus building. This paper focuses on the latter and embarks on an assessment of how regimes universally maximized functional utility through global interactions and shaped legal and normative frameworks that resulted, for some time, at least, in  broad consensus.

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