Paris Peace Forum 2021: A call for greater collaboration and evidence-led approaches

Paris Peace Forum 2021: A call for greater collaboration and evidence-led approaches

This week, the Paris Peace Forum marks several significant milestones for the CyberPeace Institute. It is roughly the two year anniversary since the Institute launched in 2019, and two years since the Institute held its first event at the Paris Peace Forum. This year, the Institute is proud to participate as a co-leader of Paris Call Working Group 5: Building a Cyberstability Index (Working Group 5).

Working Group 5 is one of the six working groups launched by the French government in November 2020 to implement the Paris Call’s 9 principles. These principles range from the protection of individuals to the defence of electoral systems. Since the French government’s announcement, the CyberPeace Institute joined efforts with GEODE (Géopolitique de la Datasphère) and the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) as part of Working Group 5 to better understand the current state of cyberstability and how this concept has evolved over time. Important work on the concept of cyberstability has been led by the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC), including a definition, which is outlined in their 2019 report. However, few people in the community have focused directly on the concept of cyberstability itself, how it has evolved over time, and what needs to be done to better protect it in the future. This was the initial idea of the Working Group, as the Paris Call community noticed this gap in understanding and wanted to dedicate resources to actively improve the stability of cyberspace. 

Moreover, building an index is a complex process, so the Working Group started by evaluating existing indices in order to first understand what topics they cover, and to see if any of this existing work could then be applied to the concept of cyberstability. This review process took quite a bit of time, and ultimately the team compiled a list of a few hundred indicators that were then narrowed down to focus on only the ones that directly apply to cyberstability. The methodology for this index looks at the evolution of stability in cyberspace and aims to inform users not only on how different activities and actions lead to stability, but also the gaps in measures that could contribute to stability based on the obligations, actions or omissions of states and industry. Indicators of confidence in and security of ICTs also help with this understanding.

The Working Group put together a final report that provides an overview of our work and methodology, as well as key findings and future areas of research. This methodology is the first step of the process, as we hope that others in the community will take on this work to better understand cyberstability and to create an even more collaborative tool. 

As this project wraps up, here are the two key takeaways I would like to stress:

  1. Importance of multistakeholder collaboration

The Paris Call Working Groups are multistakeholder by design, rather than an added afterthought. It’s been stated time and again in this field that multistakeholder communication and collaboration is key, because different entities and organisations bring unique perspectives and expertise to common issues. Together, we have a much better chance to come up with sustainable solutions to the ongoing obstacles to securing cyberspace for all. 

For our specific Working Group, each entity raised different points and contributed insight based on their own work and experience. This made for an invaluable experience and ultimately a more comprehensive tool than what we could have produced on our own. We also saw this with other Working Groups who solicited input from the community on their work. It has been a great experience to be part of this community, and to contribute directly to the operationalization of the Paris Call Principles.

  1. Data and evidence-led approach as the key pillar of work

At the CyberPeace Institute, we always make an effort to employ an evidence-led approach in our work. In the case of the Working Group, the creation of the methodology would not have been possible without a lot of time and effort put into the background research of the project. This collaborative process to research, analyse, and synthesize data was necessary in that it allowed the Working Group to create a solid foundation in which further work can be built upon. However, it is also important to note that we ran into a number of data challenges – namely an overall lack of accessible data for indicators relating to cyberstability. This makes an evidence-led approach that much more difficult, but also that much more important. The Working Group didn’t want to create something in a silo and in the spirit of the Paris Call and its multistakeholder approach, Working Group 5 wanted to produce something that would continue to foster collaboration even once the Groups themselves have concluded.

Overall, the project with the Working Group confirmed that cyberstability is a necessary step to achieve cyberpeace. Without a clear notion of cyberstability and its current state in cyberspace, we are that much further from achieving cyberpeace for everyone, everywhere. We are pleased to have been able to contribute to this Working Group, and look forward to the future projects that flourish as a result of the groundwork we accomplished. If you have any questions about this project or thoughts on how to bring it forward, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Juliana Crema is Research Associate with the CyberPeace Institute Advancement team. 

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