Italy is at the heart of the “wider Mediterranean” region, which comprises all countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea as well as Gulf partners. Italy is also multilateralist at heart, a mindset that comes from our history and geographical location, which we mainstream in every field of our work. Inclusiveness is a general principle that we embrace, and it holds especially true in domains where interconnections and interdependencies are defining features, as in the cyberspace.
In this spirit, two years ago we initiated the Cyber Forum, organized in the context of the Rome MED Dialogues together with ISPI, an event that we intend to convene annually, an occasion where countries of the region can come together in an informal setting.
Because of its features, the nature of cybersecurity is intrinsically regional, multilateral, and multi-stakeholder, since it combines shared security, bridged digital divides, interconnections, connectivity, networks, and trust. Unlike the past, countries today are more willing — and at times compelled — to discuss cyber matters. As such, we ought to seize this favorable momentum for the benefit of all.
Digitalization: we cannot do this alone
Events and incidents throughout 2021 are a testament to the relevance of cybersecurity and the need to multiply channels and platforms for dialogue on these issues. The cyber domain is a key component of digitalization, which in turn is one of the UN’s top five priorities for 2022 according to UNSG Guterres, as it represents a key enabler for the attainment of the SDGs. However, on the other side of that coin, the cyberspace and technologies can be used maliciously, too; threatening the positive socio-economic developments of digitalization. It is therefore self-evident why cybersecurity and cyber capacity-building matter, and why discussing these issues with our regional, EU, and international partners is urgent and of the utmost importance.
No single country alone can guarantee its own cybersecurity.
Italy, a cyber playmaker
Italy is discussing cybersecurity in a multitude of international fora to which it belongs, both global and regional ones. At the UN, Italy is actively participating in the new Open-ended working group on security and in the use of information and communications technologies 2021-2025 (OEWG). It also supports the proposal for a “Programme of Action to advance responsible State behaviour in cyberspace” (PoA), co-sponsored by fifty-four countries. This initiative aims at several objectives, including a more coordinated approach towards cybersecurity capacity-building.
Italy is keen to share its vision and experiences and is inviting others to do so, too, since by exchanging our practices and by sharing our challenges we can jointly contribute to shaping a framework that is agreeable and can guarantee a secure cyberspace for all.
Mediterranean partners’ point of view is key for Italy, and we spare no effort in ensuring that regional organizations that we belong to share the same ambition of collecting different viewpoints.
We can deepen governmental collaboration in the cybersecurity sector, among different actors, and at the multilateral, intergovernmental, and bilateral levels. Whether it’s within the context of the EU’s Cybersecurity Strategy, the New Agenda for the Mediterranean, NATO’s operational collaboration with its partners, the OSCE’s Mediterranean Partnership, or in intergovernmental formats such as the Union for the Mediterranean or the 5+5 Dialogue, we constantly remind our European and transatlantic partners of such need.
Little by little
We are starkly aware of the challenges that such intra-regional collaboration can entail. Ad hoc clusters of countries sharing the same objectives and involving the expertise of regional organisations in a flexible manner can help address such complexity.
In addition, focusing on key practical deliverables represents a fruitful working method to consolidate trust amongst those who wish to be part of this endeavour. Even when it is not possible to be part of the exact same circle of collaborative efforts, we can create as many Venn Diagrams with as many overlaps as possible that can eventually merge into one another.
Some lines of work are already there to be explored further and shared with the private sector when the opportunity arises, including countering ransomware, promoting education and awareness on these issues, research on emerging technologies, shared critical infrastructure, and existing dialogues in the transport and energy sectors.
The adoption of confidence-building measures, starting by sharing national Points of Contact, can go to great lengths in deepening our mutual trust, encouraging further discussions and joint initiatives, as well as providing additional practical indications to guide our future work with the sense of joint ownership that distinguishes successful endeavours.
Italy wishes to offer its intent and strategy as key components to start gathering trust amongst wider Mediterranean partners in the cyber domain, one of the scarcest goods available on the market today, albeit among the most needed.