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Improving the practice of cyber diplomacy: Training, tools, and other resources – Phase I

Year: 2021

[Update] Phase II of this study was completed in December 2021. Visit the dedicated page to read the full study.

Cyber diplomacy, the conduct of diplomacy with respect to a state’s interests in cyberspace, is too important to ignore. Yet, the participation of countries is far from ideal. This study analyses aspects of capacity development to increase the engagement of every country, that is, the availability of training opportunities, tools, and other resources and their reach and take-up.

Phase I of the study 

This study is made up of two phases. Phase I, which this page is dedicated to, analyses aspects of capacity development to increase the engagement of every country, that is, the availability of training opportunities, tools, and other resources and their reach and take-up. While we appreciate that technical training (such as how to set up a Computer Emergency Response Team ) is extremely important, this study focuses mainly on the need for diplomats to engage in cyber diplomacy. By that, we mean the need to understand the cyber security aspects of countries and organisations face, the laws that can address them, and how cross-border investigations work; how some countries engage in dubious activities to try to cripple each other’s critical infrastructures, and how laws can be interpreted to justify this behaviour; the policy measures a country needs to undertake to bring its hospitals back online if they are attacked, and how other countries can assist; the foreign policy a country’s ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) needs to develop for its diplomats to be guided by. The list goes on.

The survey we conducted as part of this phase confirmed that training and tools are indeed available (whether there are thematic gaps is a slightly different story), but they are certainly not reaching everyone. The findings also uncovered the reasons why practitioners are often not taking any, or further, training, and why they were not making use of the whole range of tools available to help them in their cyber diplomacy work. There are three main reasons.

  • The first is simple: If they aren’t aware of training and tools in the first place, they can’t make use of them.
  • The second is that even if practitioners know about existing training, they often do not have the financial means to enrol.
  • The third is that practitioners are often too busy to spend time training or exploring tools and possibly not encouraged to do so.

What comes next

In Phase II of our journey into cyber diplomacy capacity development, we will look at case studies which help us showcase good practices, identify gaps, and determine solutions. We will base our recommendations on the findings, and on our own experience of training diplomats for close to 20 years.

[Update] Phase II of this study was completed in December 2021. Visit the page for the complete study and link.

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