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On March 14-16, Berkeley hosted Global Cyberspace Cooperation Summit organized by East West Institute and attended by over 150 experts, government and business representatives from a number of countries. RIAC website editor Maria Smekalova talked to Marina Kaljurand, former Estonian Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Expert at the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications, about the norms regarding cyberspace.

On March 14-16, Berkeley hosted Global Cyberspace Cooperation Summit organized by East West Institute and attended by over 150 experts, government and business representatives from a number of countries. RIAC website editor Maria Smekalova talked to Marina Kaljurand, former Estonian Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Expert at the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications, about the norms regarding cyberspace.

A lot is being said about the need of adapting international law to the current development system. Can you agree with it?

If we talk about cooperation in the cyberfield, we should not make it too complicated or too difficult, because we do development cooperation in our everyday lives. Dealing with development cooperation, we also have the political part, which we have to consider in all development cooperation projects. So we will have to do the same with cyber. It’s exactly the same when we talk about international law. We have agreed in the United Nations that international law applies to cyber.

Do you think this agreement has been observed recently by the states? Do they show it applies to cyberspace in their actions?

Well, it’s up to each and every state whether to apply international law or not. What we have agreed is that the UN charter applies to the cyber-sphere. As to the further steps, I’d refer to the Tallinn Manual elaborated by the lawyers. But it’s now up to the states to see whether they are going to apply it in practical terms or not. We don’t have much state practice yet, because the cyberoperations that have taken place are of low threshold and usually have disturbing or destructive nature. Still, we have to look at the examples of state practice that we have and make our own conclusions.

The UN GGE 2015 report provides some recommendations. Do you think that the UN GGE, or maybe some other platform, will achieve to promote some binding documents regarding cyber?

Sometimes states will promote writing new conventions so as not to apply what we have already.

We have already agreed that international law applies to cyber, which means that all the binding documents that states have today, being it from cybercrime or humanitarian law, on human rights – they do apply also to cyber. I don’t think that at this time we have to start writing anything new. I don’t exclude that at some point we will come to the stage where some pieces are missing in international law for cyber, then we might think about writing some new norms and laws. Writing a convention takes years, and unfortunately I see that sometimes states will promote writing new conventions so as not to apply what we have already, and to not to work on how we should apply it. First step is to look into how we can apply international law. Second step – should we find something missing, let’s discuss the need for a new law.

If we talk about cybercrime investigation, what platform do you think is the most effective: bilateral ties, the UN or other international platforms?

If you talk about cybercrime, then both bilateral cooperation and international cooperation are crucial. You can’t usually solve cybercrimes that cross borders – you need international cooperation to be efficient with investigation and attribution. The best document that I know on how to fight against cybercrime is the Budapest Convention, which most countries have acceded to. At the same time the countries are talking about the need to write a new convention. The Budapest Convention might not be ideal, like the UN might not be ideal – we are reforming it all the time, but it is out there, and it is the best that we have. So, I would encourage all states to accede to the Budapest Convention – it’s a very good ground for cooperation in the fight against cybercrime. But, as I said, bilateral cooperation is needed, as well as multilateral. So it’s not only conventions, but conventions plus other forms of international cooperation that are needed.

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