Joint Statement South Africa and the Netherlands: Cyber Policy Dialogue

On 4 and 5 April 2022, South Africa and Netherlands held their bilateral Cyber Policy Dialogue in Pretoria, with consultations on international cybersecurity and cybercrime. The Dialogue reinforced the close cyber collaboration and partnership between the two countries in the areas of the UN processes on responsible state behavior in cyberspace, cyber capacity building, digitalization, and national and international efforts to increase cyber security, to improve digital resilience of companies and communities, and to prevent and combat cybercrime.

As part of the visit, the Netherlands delegation spoke with a range of stakeholders in the South African cyber community and took part in a trade mission on digital transformation, organized by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

The South African delegation, led by Mr Zaheer Laher, Acting Chief Director, UN Political, Peace and Security including representatives from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The Dutch delegation, led by Ambassador-at-Large for Security Policy and Cyber, Ms. Nathalie Jaarsma, included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Embassy in Pretoria.

The Dialogue underlined the two countries’ ongoing efforts to enhance bilateral engagement on, and mutual understanding of, cyber issues consistent with the commitment expressed by both Foreign Ministers during the Joint Commission of Cooperation held on 22 November 2021. Participants discussed the evolving situation in cyberspace, including main challenges and best practice approaches to managing strategic threats, national cyber security strategies and relevant legislation.

Participants expressed strong concern about the increasing frequency, complexity and severity of cyber security incidents, including disruptive or exploitative network attacks, ransomware and hack-and-leak operations by malicious actors who seek to exploit opportunities such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dialogue affirmed South African and Dutch agencies’ ongoing commitment to further improve international cooperation in the fight against cybercrime while fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, including by playing a constructive and active role in the UN Ad Hoc Committee. Participants underscored the importance of capable and robust national law enforcement institutions and judicial authorities, as well as the value of international exchanges of best practices and technical knowledge involving multiple stakeholders.

Both countries noted the importance of international mechanisms that contribute to keeping cyberspace open, free, stable and secure, including the UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG, 2021-2025), and the International Telecommunications Union. In that regard, South Africa and the Netherlands reaffirmed their commitment to the UN framework for responsible State behavior endorsed by the General Assembly. They reaffirmed their intention to act in accordance with these consensus agreements and to promote a peaceful and stable cyberspace underpinned by international law, including human rights law, and the 11 norms of responsible state behavior. South Africa and the Netherlands expressed their common wish for multilateral discussions to be based on inclusivity and transparency and noted the importance of enabling means of implementation support for developing countries, in the form of finance, technology transfer and capacity building, as well as engagement with the multi-stakeholder community. Participants noted with appreciation the ongoing international efforts to implement confidence building and capacity building measures in order to strengthen the existing international legal order and to help implement the normative framework. Both countries acknowledged the need for international coordination to respond to irresponsible behavior in cyberspace which undermines international peace and security, taking into full consideration each country’s specific national circumstances and capacities.

Both countries noted the positive outcomes of bilateral cooperation projects in the field of cyber capacity-building, such as jointly organized regional round-tables and training on cyber-diplomacy. South Africa and the Netherlands agreed to collaborate further on joint initiatives that promote awareness, reinforce digital resilience, incident-response and skills development, inter alia.

The delegations of South Africa and the Netherlands expressed their appreciation for holding this bilateral cyber policy dialogue and looked forward to organizing another bilateral dialogue on cyber issues in due time.