Balance between Access and Security

From the 8th International Security Forum
By Yoshiko Kurisaki, traduction française Aude Elser, traducción española Yasmina Guye
28 May 2009

Over 500 international participants gathered to discuss security from a wide variety of aspects in more than 30 sessions, from country to international levels at the International Security Forum in Geneva from 18 to 20 May 2009. Volunteers from ICVolunteers worked for the Forum, from pre-conference welcome desk at the Geneva airport to various conference support services, as well as assistance with the wrapping up of the conference site on the last day.

ICVolunteers also participated in sessions on “Implications of Strategic Technologies to Global Security”, and “Roles of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO, such as ICVolunteers) for the Security Governance in Post-Conflict Situations”.

On strategic technologies, information and communication technologies (ICT) being in hands of the public, the main stream of media is shifting from mass to personal. We observe a growing media personalization, such as My Blog, My Web Portal, and My Community all over the web sites. Thus information flow is increasingly becoming peer-to-peer, while influence of mass media is decreasing.

Mainstreaming use of electronic media by individuals necessitates new paradigms of security. Security specialists tend to think that “those who control the space and information control the world”. Such a paradigm is outdated in a modern information sphere, as it is not possible for one single entity to control the creation and flow of information. Information is created by any individuals and flows from any-to-any beyond national borders. Thus, politicians can no longer control personal information nor its flow.

As people’s lives are increasingly reliant on the information network, its infrastructure has become critical to support our society.

Malicious attacks of the information infrastructure -- or cyber attacks -- have become a major concern for national security of countries. Estonia (2007), Georgia (2008) and Lithuania (2008) recently experienced large scale cyber attacks that paralyzed key social institutions, including Governments, banking and defense systems. The three cases have high similarities in terms of targets and methods of attacks, which lead one to detect a shadow of political motivations behind. Estonia has the highest damage among the three, as the country has national administrations and banking systems highly dependent on online systems. For example, only two percent of banking transactions is done off-line in Estonia.

If such attacks are manipulated by or used to attack States, it may be necessary to introduce some more control on cyber space. According to several speakers, cross-functional collaboration, involving a wide variety of stake-holders, would be necessary to create such rules. Stakeholders include Governments and public agencies, as well as entities from the public and private sectors at national and international levels. The telecommunications community, including the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and Intelligent agencies would also have to participate.

Further, researchers and academics recognized that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and volunteers are indispensable force in the post-conflict situations. They typically collaborate with public or official organizations, such as local Governments and various international organizations.

A major strength of NGOs is that they are to a great deal free from state interests or diplomatic constraints. This allows them to work in niche areas which governmental organizations may not sufficiently address, such as activities for marginalized groups of people.

NGOs’ major limits are resource constraints and lack of governmental legitimacy. The latter is a challenge especially when NGOs have to urge people to act.

It is expected that in-depth analysis of roles of NGOs and volunteers in the security governance creation process would cast clues to benefit from people acting and working out of their own will.

ISF enjoyed benefits of synergy of knowledge and views brought by specialists from diversified areas. Even on the security theme, there are surprisingly wide variation in terms of themes, methodologies and approaches. ISF provided an excellent opportunity for professionals to cross-fertilize across areas of expertise.

For the development of public consensus on cyber-security, it will be useful to create opportunities of inter-disciplinary discussion, in which security researchers and ICT specialists will supplement their expertise with each others’. Coincidentally in the same week, ICT and information policy makers, and NGOs were debating social and cultural issues of the information society at the World Summit on the Information Society Follow-up Forum held in International Telecommunications Union (ITU), next door to ISF. Our society is in search of new policy paradigms, which would support the free exchange of ideas and knowledge over the network in a secure environment. It will help citizens of the Information Society to create well-balanced security rules drawn upon social, legal and technical expertise. In such consensus-based processes, NGOs should take active roles to represent citizens connected with each other over the cyberspace across national borders. They also can help to make sure the security agenda does not get hijacked for other means and purposes and all citizens of this planet can access information in a positive way.

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