The Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) is expressing an increased commitment in the fight against cyber crime.
ASEAN consist of 10 member countries from the South East Asian region, and focuses on mainly economic, social and cultural issues as well as overall regional stability. Its extension, ARF, brings together 27 participating countries and reflects the political priorities of a much wider region, including, for example, Russia, China, the United States (US) and the European Union (EU).
ARF offers a formal, multilateral forum for a number of topical concerns, including fostering dialogue and consultation, promoting confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the region.1 It also serves as the region’s main forum for promoting security, holding on average twenty-five events annually across several key security areas.2
Cyber security has been on ARF’s agenda before, notably during last year’s 19th ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia where the Ministers adopted a Statement on Cooperation in Ensuring Cyber Security, confirming the need to further intensify regional cooperation on ICT-related security through a number of regional measures.3
Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime
During the 20th ARF held in July this year in Brunei Darussalam, cyber security was one of the core issues discussed within the area of counter-terrorism and transnational crime.2 In particular, the Ministers reaffirmed the importance of intensifying cooperation between the countries in the region, including through “information-sharing and capacity-building”4 and recognised the role of the ARF as a good platform for developing cooperation among ARF members in effectively mitigating cyber threats and combating cyber crime.5 Regarding the latter, the ARF has decided to develop a work plan related to cyber security, and the Ministers tasked officials to elaborate on these issues to be able to finalise the work plan at the next ARF Ministerial meeting.5
US increasing involvement in the region
As one of the member of the ARF, the US is actively engaged in the cyber security related activities and is “committed to working through the ARF process to enhance peace, security, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region”.2 US Secretary of State John Kerry underlined that the US is “very eager to help ASEAN member states build capacity here in order to make sure that all of us are protected against cyber threats and in order to reduce the risks that these cyber threats carry”,5 this policy approach being reflected in the growing number of cyber initiatives launched in cooperation with the US. Examples include the first ARF seminar on countering the threat of proxy actors in cyber space, plans to conduct a series of cyber workshops focused on developing confidence building measures for the ASEAN region5 and the ASEAN Cybercrime Capacity-Building initiative, co-organized with Singapore, which focuses on requirements and models for national high-tech crime investigative units and digital forensics programs.6 The US has also been active in creating bilateral relations with other countries in the region.7
- ASEAN Regional Forum, http://aseanregionalforum.asean.org/about.html
- U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Engagement in the 2013 ASEAN Regional Forum,” press release, July 2, 2013, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/07/211467.htm
- ASEAN Regional Forum, “ARF Statement on Cooperation in Ensuring Cyber Security,” http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000016403.pdf
- ASEAN Regional Forum “Chairman’s Statement Of The 20th ASEAN Regional Forum 2 July 2013,” July 2, 2013. available at: http://aseanregionalforum.asean.org/files/library/ARF%20Chairman%27s%20S…
- U.S. Deparment of State, “The ASEAN-U.S. Ministerial Meeting,” press release, July 1, 2013 http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2013/07/211389.htm
- Jennings, Peter. “Rise of the cyber-men in Asia”, The Strategist, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (blog), July 5, 2013. http://www.aspistrategist.org.au/rise-of-the-cyber-men-in-asia/