On May 22nd 2019, Dr Alexander Evans, Cyber Director at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spoke at the Centre about the changing international politics of cyber issues. He began the presentation with an overview of the entanglement of modern politics with new technology, arguing that how the world of cyber is imagined, shaped, and regulated is consequential for the future of international relations. He stressed the importance of fostering a productive dialogue – ideally finding common language and understanding – between governments and academia as well as between different specialist fields within academia.
Alexander painted a complex picture of the ongoing debate on how to regulate and govern the globe’s cyberspace. Referring to empirical cases ranging from from social media platform regulation to the United Nation’s diplomatic discussions of acceptable interstate behaviour in cyberspace, he argued that these debates are not just anchored on security, but will be key to the future of commerce, human rights, and international development. This process of norm shaping, he argued, is complicated by different values and views on governance in cyberspace – differences essentially underpinned by two contrasting visions, one anchored on a free, open, peaceful and secure internet and one founded on a more authoritarian and controlling view of cyberspace.
He concluded his presentation by providing an account of how the United Kingdom approaches these challenges – through active policy engagement, efforts to bridge the gap between practitioners and thinkers, and a strong focus on conversation with all stakeholders, whether 193 UN member states or non-state stakeholders ranging from the private sector to civil society.
Alexander Evans is Cyber Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was previously Britain’s Deputy High Commissioner to India, Britain’s Acting High Commissioner to India, a senior fellow at Yale University and led a United Nations Security Council Expert Team.