Meridian Conference 2016: Protecting critical information infrastructure across the world

News item | 07-12-2016

From 7 to 10 November 2016 the Meridian community held its 11th annual conference in Mexico City. The Theme of this year’s conference was ‘Capability Development in Critical Information Infrastructure Protection (CIIP)’. The Meridian community actively reaches out to new countries with less developed CIIP capabilities by organizing an Introductory Day to the conference in which CIIP concepts and terminology will be introduced. This introductory day is organized in partnership with the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE).

Written by: Peter Burnett, GFCE-Meridian Coordinator

11 years of Meridian

In 2005 a low-key governments-only conference was held in a former Naval College in the area of London known as Greenwich, near the observatory where the Greenwich Meridian was established setting the baseline for all lines of Longitude and the world’s time zones.  The delegates came from 30 + countries of the EU and the G8 and they talked freely about policy matters relating to CIIP.  It was a fairly new subject for many of the countries, though it is now familiar to all of them and considered part of Cyber Security (which hadn’t really been invented then).  We called it the conference Meridian.

The event was considered very valuable and its unique format and atmosphere led to it being replicated every year since then, each time hosted by a different country.  These hosts now make up the Meridian Steering Committee which governs the Meridian principles, and they agreed to try and bring the conference to new global regions each year in order to attract new countries to join this select community.  It started to become evident after the first 10 years that although there is great value in an event which brings together government officials to discuss CIIP issues in a confidential environment, the nature of CIIP (all CIIs are ultimately connected and therefore weak links threaten everyone) mandates that this expertise and experience should be shared with all countries regardless of the sophistication of their CIIs.  The focus has therefore shifted recently towards Capability Development, which is a new term encompassing Capacity Building as well as developing more advanced capabilities.

Engaging the global south

It is one thing to have a policy stating that Meridian is open to all countries, but quite another to attract many of those who are not yet fully engaged in CIIP or who simply lack the political awareness or resources to send any delegates. Furthermore, attending a well-established event like this and mingling with many of the world’s leading policy experts can seem a daunting prospect for someone new to the subject.  We have therefore established a special Introductory Day this year immediately before the main conference, in order to explain the concepts, terminology, developments and to introduce some of the key global organisations in the field.  We are hoping that this will not only attract new countries to the Meridian but help their delegates to get the most out of the event. The aim is to establish close and trusting relationships with a wide range of other countries that are all focussed on the same issues. Following through on the Introductory Day, a Buddying programme was launched during Meridian 2016 in which new members can partner with established Meridian members. The idea is to buddy countries based on shared mutual interests, either between peer countries, developed and developing partners, or any other combination.  The Buddying programme is intended to facilitate the sharing of the pool of experience, knowledge and ideas that is unique to Meridian and help everyone reach an optimum level of CIIP and be prepared for the ever-increasing challenges that threaten this increasingly vital aspect of a nation’s infrastructure.

Meridian Conference 2016 in Mexico

Meridian – GFCE Initiative

The Meridian has no resources of its own and relies on funding by individual members (such as hosting of annual conferences, the website and secretarial services). For its capacity building activities and outreach, Meridian has partnered with the GFCE. More information about the GFCE-Meridian initiative on Critical Information Infrastructure Protection is available on the GFCE website. New members of the Meridian receive access to the CIIP directory on the Meridian website with valuable resources (including contacts on CIIP related matters).

This article first appeared in the second issue of the Global Cyber Expertise Magazine – November 2016.