Improving the practice of cyber diplomacy: Training, tools, and other resources

Publish Date: 1 December 2021

This is a research study that was commissioned by the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise (GFCE) as part of its Global Cyber Capacity Building Research Agenda 2021. The project was funded by Global Affairs Canada and the research was conducted by DiploFoundation.

This study is made up of two phases.

Phase I analyses aspects of capacity development to increase the engagement of every country, that is, the availability of training opportunities, tools, and other resources and their reach and take-up. While we appreciate that technical training (such as how to set up a Computer Emergency Response Team ) is extremely important, this study focuses mainly on the need for diplomats to engage in cyber diplomacy. By that, we mean the need to understand the cyber security aspects of countries and organisations face, the laws that can address them, and how cross-border investigations work; how some countries engage in dubious activities to try to cripple each other’s critical infrastructures, and how laws can be interpreted to justify this behaviour; the policy measures a country needs to undertake to bring its hospitals back online if they are attacked, and how other countries can assist; the foreign policy a country’s ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) needs to develop for its diplomats to be guided by. The list goes on.

The survey conducted as part of this study confirmed that training and tools are indeed available (whether there are thematic gaps is a slightly different story), but they are certainly not reaching everyone. The findings also uncovered the reasons why practitioners are often not taking any, or further, training, and why they were not making use of the whole range of tools available to help them in their cyber diplomacy work.

There are three main reasons.

The first is simple: If they aren’t aware of training and tools in the first place, they can’t make use of them.
The second is that even if practitioners know about existing training, they often do not have the financial means to enrol.
The third is that practitioners are often too busy to spend time training or exploring tools and possibly not encouraged to do so.

Phase II uses five case studies to look at good practices, identify gaps, and makes recommendations on how to close them. The recommendations are based on the findings, and on DiploFoundation’s experience of training diplomats for close to 20 years.