Koenders: greater global effort required on cyber security

The Netherlands wants to unite countries, businesses, think tanks and internet experts, so that the world will be better equipped to prevent cyberattacks on political or military targets. ‘Cyberattacks are the key threat of the future,’ says foreign minister Bert Koenders. ‘They target countries, individuals, companies and infrastructure networks. The world is still too passive about this issue.’

The minister wants to set up a global commission that can come up with ideas for international agreements that will help keep the internet peaceful and safe, and enhance digital relations between countries. He launched his plan on Friday at the annual international security conference in Munich. It is to be fleshed out in the next few months.

‘The internet doesn’t belong to individual states or private companies,’ Mr Koenders said in his speech to the conference. ‘We have a joint responsibility to protect ourselves against misuse and make the internet free, open and safe. And to keep it that way for future generations.’

The number of cyberattacks on civilian targets is growing, and more and more countries are taking measures to defend themselves against them. Mr Koenders emphasised the importance of international consensus on what is and is not allowed in the cyber domain. The Netherlands wants to expedite this debate and is a candidate to participate in negotiations on legislation to be held within the United Nations.

The minister’s initiative to set up a Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace is intended to broaden the international debate and find solutions to cyber risks. Its members should not only be state representatives, but include lawyers, businesses, internet experts, researchers and other interest groups from all parts of the world.

‘The commission must be innovative and hold open discussions based on sound international research,’ said Mr Koenders. The Netherlands plays a leading role in cyber issues. Last spring the Netherlands took the initiative to hold a major international conference on the subject in The Hague, where participants discussed the importance of a free, open and safe internet for all. That goal requires an ongoing, concerted international effort. The establishment of the commission will be an important step in that direction.