CCDCOE Launches New International Cyber Law Project

Experts from the University of Exeter, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence have joined forces to address the urgent global challenge of clarifying and applying international law in cyberspace.

As cyber operations continue to shape global security, economy, and politics, the need for further discussions on how international law applies in the digital world is more pressing than ever. The project builds upon the CCDCOE’s and University of Exeter’s significant prior research and contributions to the field of international cyber law, including the widely used Cyber Law Toolkit.

Led by Professor Kubo Mačák, from the University of Exeter Law School, the team will put together “The Handbook on Developing a National Position on International Law in Cyberspace: A Practical Guide for States”. This project is funded by a £75,000 grant through the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s Impact Accelerator Account.

The practical handbook will offer guidance on developing national or common positions on international law as it applies in cyberspace. This will serve as a critical resource for states worldwide, especially those from the Global Majority, aiming to strengthen the rule of law in cyberspace and promote an open, secure, stable and accessible ICT environment.
Thus far, 30 states and one international organization – the African Union – have issued position papers on international cyber law.

Researchers will engage with government officials, policymakers, international organizations, civil society groups, and technology experts as part of the project, which aims to empower states to develop and refine their national or common positions on international law in cyberspace.

Dr Ágnes Kasper, Head of Law Branch at NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, said: “International law, including international humanitarian law, applies in cyberspace. The challenging question is how exactly these rules apply. It is non-trivial to develop a comprehensive and consistent opinion about where the legal constraints of behaviour lie in the complex and interconnected digital environment. This handbook will be an invaluable and practical addition to the already existing resources on international law and cyberspace.”

“This project represents a significant step forward in our collective effort to navigate the complex legal challenges of the digital age,” said Professor Mačák. “With the support of our partners and the international community, we aim to create a resource that provides practical guidance on the legal and policy questions facing states when developing their national positions.”

Dr Anna-Maria Osula, Advisor for Cyber Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said: “States worldwide have reaffirmed the cumulative and evolving framework for responsible state behaviour in the use of information and communication technologies. It is our hope that this handbook will offer support to those countries that are developing their thinking towards the interpretation of existing international law and planning to publish their national positions.”

Mr Munehito Nakatani, Deputy Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, said: “Japan believes the announcement of national positions by many states will contribute to deepen shared international understanding on how international law applies to cyber operations. We are delighted to be able to take part in this crucial project and hope this handbook will serve as a useful tool to states that are considering publishing their national positions.”

The project will be formally launched on Tuesday 28 May 2024 at the 16th International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon) in Tallinn, Estonia. The Handbook on Developing a National Position on International Law in Cyberspace is expected to be published in mid-2025.