Like-minded states cooperating together, not an overarching global agreement, is likely to emerge as the primary way to avoid destabilisation in cyberspace, according to the first working paper of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG), an independent, non-partisan think tank on international governance.
In The Regime Complex for Managing Global Cyber Activities, Professor Joseph S. Nye, Jr. said “it is unlikely that there will be a single overarching regime for cyberspace any time soon.”
In his assessment of the cyber system, he argues that a variety of issues, such as crime and privacy, are developing at different rates, which is causing compliance, cooperation and confidence-building measures to evolve unevenly.
“Governments want to protect the Internet so their societies can continue to benefit from it, but at the same time, they also want to protect their societies from what might come through the Internet,” he said.
“Governments and non-state actors cooperate and compete for power in this complex arena,” Nye said. “Given the youth of the issue and the volatility of the technology, there are many potential paths along which cyber norms may evolve.”
As such, Nye argued that the international relations model of regime theory, given the insight it offers on the full complexity of systems, is the best approach to understanding how normative structures will develop in cyberspace.
“Predicting the future of the normative structures that will govern the various issues of cyberspace is impossible because of the newness and volatility of the technology, the rapid changes in economic and political interests, and the social and generational cognitive evolution that is affecting how state and non-state actors understand and define their interests,” he said.
Nye is one of 29 members of the Global Commission on Internet Governance, a two-year initiative launched in January 2014, by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House.
Chaired by Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, the commission will produce a comprehensive report on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance.
Download and read a free copy of The Regime Complex for Managing Global Cyber Activities.
Joseph S. Nye Jr. is a university distinguished service professor and former dean of the Kennedy School at Harvard University. He has served as assistant secretary of defense for International Security Affairs, chair of the National Intelligence Council, and deputy under secretary of state for Security Assistance, Science and Technology.
CIGI is led by experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI’s interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world.
It was founded in 2001 by Jim Balsillie, then co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and collaborates with and acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is based in London. Its mission is to be a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all.
The institute engages governments, the private sector, civil society and its members in open debates and confidential discussions about significant developments in international affairs; produces independent and rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities; and offers new ideas to decision-makers and -shapers on how these could best be tackled from the near- to the long-term.