Last Friday we met with the President of the ICT for Peace Foundation to explore possible areas of collaboration. The President of the foundation is a former Swiss diplomat whom I met in 2001 and who back then was heavily involved in the organization of WSIS.
The Foundation has essentially been working on crisis mapping and ICTs and, in fact, was one of the sponsors of the recent Build Peace conference hosted by MIT’s Media Lab. A reputation has been built on this topic. But the Foundation is now also involved in Cybersecurity and will be getting funding from DFID to support this area of work. ICT for Peace was present at the Seoul Cybersecurity meeting which gathered together 90 countries and agreed on 5 key follow-up action points (see my previous post on this).
I put forward two broad points during our meeting.
The first one relates to peace itself and links to the work we have been doing with BCPR on ICTs, governance and conflict. The idea that democracy and/or democratic governance is by definition peaceful and frictionless is sort of a myth. History tell us that the birth of democracy was closely related to conflict and contention, and some times very violent – but no one however was calling these nations “crisis countries”. I mentioned as example the case of Switzerland which endured a long period on conflict before it was able to achieved stability of some sort. Furthermore, I also suggested that democracies are also hotbeds for conflict and contention which end up affecting the degree to which they can be defined as more or less democratic. The curious thing is that very few are working on this and, for example, we still do not have a conflict mapping and ICTs network -similar to that of crisis mappers. I did not mention this last point at the meeting but I think this is an idea we can seriously pursue. A ICT conflict mappers network which includes all countries -and not just deemed “in crisis” by the international community.
The second point I put on the table relates to cybersecurity and developing countries. There is little to no information and research on this, as far as I know -and the President of the foundation confirmed this, in addition to the fact that this agenda is mostly led by the US and very few European countries.
There is thus critical need to foster this area of work. And one concrete what to do this is to link cybersecurity to development priorities while adopting, at the same time, a human rights based approach. By doing this we can ensure that policy makers do not see cybersecurity as either a pure technical issue nor as a new one that needs to be added to an already overcrowded development agenda. Adding the human rights touch will ensure that issues related to privacy, confidentiality, trust and surveillance, among others, are also part of the overall package.
Policy makers in developing countries should be aware that surveillance decreases security and attacks fundamental freedoms. By the same token, policy makers should also be aware that cybersecurity is much bigger than cyberwar, cyberattacks and cybercrime.
It seems that the Foundation will be organizing a series of regional workshops once the DFID money is approved. We agreed to help on this and to be present at some of the sessions. We will see.