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The Significance of Cyber Diplomacy in the 21st Century

Diplomacy has recently expanded to cover new areas of policy, such as issues related to cybersecurity. For this purpose, the term “cyber diplomacy” has emerged as a result. States foster relations between international public and commercial sector entities by using widely accepted norms, procedures, and behaviors. As nations are growing more digital, cybersecurity is becoming essential in their foreign and security policies. Nowadays, international discourse via cyber diplomacy has become more crucial than ever since the risks and difficulties in this area are widespread and continually expanding.

What Is Cyber Diplomacy? 

Cyber Diplomacy is defined as the use of diplomatic techniques and the performance of diplomatic tasks by governments, organizations, or individuals, in cyberspace to protect their interests. This is also called digital diplomacy, virtual diplomacy, or more commonly known as e-diplomacy because it views digital technology as a means or an instrument to promote the interactions between states, people, or businesses in various avenues such as politics, economics, culture, or science while maintaining peaceful relations.

The Concept and Practice of Cyber Diplomacy

The concept of cyber diplomacy refers to a worldwide approach, comprising all players dealing with cyber security challenges at the international level. For example, the European Union (EU) has a strong emphasis on Germany’s cyber diplomacy. For assisting practitioners in their own practice of cyber diplomacy, there are three categories in order to adhere to a practice-based approach of tools which are as follows:

  • Research and publication collections.
  • Online databases
  • Toolkits, policies, and manuals 

The Emergence of Cyber Diplomacy

In response to the growing politicization of cyberspace and broader techno-geopolitical dynamics, dozens of foreign ministries have established offices solely devoted to cyberspace and appointed “cyber diplomats” in the previous decade. 

The emergence of cyber diplomacy can be traced back to the publication of the US International Strategy for Cyberspace, the first government document to concentrate on the international elements of cyber threats.  The strategy outlines several priorities, including the economy, network protection, law enforcement, military, internet governance, international development, and internet freedom. Furthermore, in order to achieve these objectives, it relies on three pillars: diplomacy, defense, and development (3Ds).

The use of diplomatic instruments and resources to further cyber-related goals was explicitly justified for the first time in this strategy. According to the proposal, the US State Department created a new Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Challenges, which is the first foreign office in the world to be focused on cyber issues. The Coordinator, Christopher Painter became the first cyber-diplomat in history.

Moreover, In 2015, The United Nations Group of Governmental Experts (UNGGE) published a report on developments in Information and Telecommunications in the context of International Security to create a framework of international standards for responsible cyber behavior.

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The Function of Cyber Diplomacy

The main function of cyber diplomacy is the use of diplomatic instruments and efforts to accomplish goals in the intricate and constantly changing domain of cyberspace. By furthering the interests under its scope, cyber diplomacy seeks to enhance the position of the state, country, or organization it represents, in the perspective of others. It has a range of diplomatic agendas, following are; 

  • The formation of dialogue and communication between states and non-state actors
  • The collective response to cyber threats
  • The non – proliferation of cyber arms
  • The advancement of national interests in cyberspace through diplomacy and cybersecurity policies
  •  The protection of human rights in cyberspace 
  • The development of international cyber laws. 

The Practitioners of Cyber Diplomacy

The following are the primary practitioners of cyber diplomacy:

  1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) oversees the promotion of a cyber diplomatic agenda in close collaboration with other governmental entities. This refers to policymakers from other branches of government as well as diplomats and other MFA representatives, such as tech coordinators or ambassadors, who are responsible for advancing the MFA’s agenda through bilateral or multilateral forums.
  2. Non-state players who interact with diplomats and policymakers in conversations or negotiations on cyber problems include members of the academic community, business, industry, and civil society organizations. 

How Cyber Diplomacy Is Different From Other Forms of Diplomacy

As it is the first true multistakeholder form of diplomacy, cyber diplomacy differs from traditional types of diplomacy. As a global, linked system, the Internet is inherently too complicated to be controlled by a single nation, business, or organization. All pertinent parties will need to work together effectively if we are to effectively resist dangers coming from cyberspace, notably state cyberattacks.

Cyber Diplomacy Challenges discussion

Cyber Diplomacy Challenges

States face various challenges when engaging in cyber diplomacy related to the fields of law, policy, politics, and technology. These challenges include the following: 

  • The reluctance of states to participate in cyber diplomacy
  • The rapid growth of cyber technology
  • Cyber diplomacy creates a political divide among states
  • Questioning the legitimacy of International cyber law
  • Cyber diplomacy preserves the interest of non-state actors

1) The Reluctance of States to Participate in Cyber Diplomacy

Cyber diplomacy, like traditional forms of diplomacy, can only be effective if states are ready to work together. Unfortunately, states do not always see defined cyber standards and cyber diplomacy as being in line with their interests.

For example, the US government has been reluctant to prioritize cyber diplomacy. Internally, it has abolished a crucial cyber position in the State Department. On the international stage, the ambition of the United States to acknowledge self-defense right in cyberspace, which would allow for military retribution in response to cyberattacks, has caused conflict with other nations. 

2) The Rapid Growth of Cyber Technology

Cyber diplomacy is evolving in response to new disputes and threats. Cyber technology is also rapidly evolving, making it challenging for authorities to prevent problems before they arise. There is some element of learning involved in some ways in states and groups adjusting to the advancement brought about by the internet. so, the rapid growth of cyber technology is posing a threat to the efficiency of cyber diplomacy. 

The Rapid Growth of Cyber Technology

3) Cyber Diplomacy Creates Political Divide Among States

While cyber diplomacy can improve relations between allies, it may also create tensions among states. For example,   in order to influence cyber standards, the U.S. has already expressed a willingness to collaborate with a community of like-minded states. This will cause weak nations to be deprived of cyber diplomacy. 

It has also caused tension among rival states such as the US and Russia. At UN Cyber Negotiations in the summer of 2017, where discussions about laws governing cyberattacks fell short along Cold War lines, tensions over these alliances reached a boiling point.

4) Questioning the Legitimacy of International Cyber Laws

Treaties and customary state practices have played a significant role in the development of international law over time. Although cyber law is a more recent development, the foundation of future cyber law may be set by present-day diplomatic actions. Yet, there is a high entry barrier to cyber diplomacy; in reality, only states that have the necessary resources, institutions, and technology can participate in cyber diplomacy.

Due to this reality, third-world countries or less technologically advanced states may be excluded from the development of cyberlaw, and the body of law that results may be centered on the concerns of more powerful states. Some critics argue that this imbalance already exists in the Eurocentric, colonial roots of contemporary international law, calling into question the legitimacy of the body. If these disparities continue to exist in the development of cyberlaw, it will face similar criticism. 

5) Cyber Diplomacy Preserves the Interest of Non- State Actors

Another challenge of cyber diplomacy is the benefits that political dissidents, interest groups, and non-state actors can take from the lack of control of cyberspace.  Yet, cyber diplomacy is inherently interstate due to the “diplomacy” involved in it. Exclusively between-state negotiations may lead to an overemphasis on state-based interests, such as the prosecution of cybercrimes, perhaps at the expense of other interests, such as internet freedom.

Without active cooperation between public and private interests, cyber diplomacy runs the risk of undermining the most important benefits that non-state actors can gain from cyberspace.

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The Future of Cyber Diplomacy

Although a lot has been accomplished in cyber diplomacy over the past several years, still there is a long way to go. The world needs constant, intense, focused, substantial, and persistent effort. Cyber diplomacy is the pinnacle of foreign policy in this century. This new field was practically invented by the United States, and an increasing number of nations have since joined the bandwagon.

Diplomacy has played a crucial role in influencing the environment, fostering collaboration, and working to form coalitions to address common threats. There is still more work to be done in order to advance stability and norms, strengthen deterrence, address risks, form alliances, defend human rights online, and promote equitable economic access. A lot more work has to be done to address both current and potential hybrid threats, such as coordinated cyber-enabled assaults that aim to undermine democracy worldwide.

Learn Cyber Diplomacy with the Best Diplomats 

Cyber diplomacy is a growing trend in the 21st century. While it has many functions, at the same time it is posing numerous challenges. In order to learn the best practice of cyber diplomacy, you are on the right platform. Best Diplomats is providing excellent opportunities in learning diplomacy and practice as a diplomat at the international level.

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Learn Cyber Diplomacy with the Best Diplomats


The emergence of cyber diplomacy reflects the growing recognition that the internet and digital technologies are reshaping the global landscape in profound ways. In a nutshell, for everyone to profit from cyberspace and for no state to have the incentive to act disruptively, therefore, cyber diplomacy is essential for preserving the long-term stability of cyberspace in the face of growing threats from nation-states and other parties. New approaches to international relations are needed to address the opportunities and challenges of the digital age.


Why is cyber diplomacy important?

Cyber diplomacy is important to reduce cyber attacks, cyber aggression, breach of data, cyber espionage, cybercrime, and cyber operations by state or non-state actors.

What are the advantages of cyber diplomacy?  

State interests and cyberspace become more entwined as our reliance on computers and the internet increases. States are using cyber diplomacy as a weapon to establish cyber standards and respond to cyber threats and vulnerabilities. 

How Cyber Diplomacy Works?

The essential values of openness, internet freedom, and multistakeholder internet governance are all protected and promoted by cyber diplomacy values that have all been under attack in recent years. State and non-state actors become able to create a climate of predictability and transparency through capacity-building programs and confidence-building measures. 
Additionally, long-term formulation and acceptance of cyber norms that govern responsible state behavior are made possible by their engagement and collaboration in such domains.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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