MSC partners with Doha Forum 2018 to discuss Middle East and cyber security issues

On December 15, 2018, the MSC – together with the Doha Forum – co-hosted a luncheon discussion on security dynamics in the Middle East and a panel discussion on cyber security. MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger moderated the Doha Forum’s opening panel on "The Global Order Revisited".

MSC panel discussion "Bit by Bit: Enforcing Norms in Cyberspace" at the Doha Forum 2018 (Photo: Doha Forum)

The Doha Forum in Qatar took place in 2018 under the theme, "Shaping Policy in an Interconnected World". The Munich Security Conference (MSC), along with the European Council on Foreign Relations and the International Crisis Group, acted as strategic partners in shaping the agenda at this important regional platform for a wide range of discussions of international issues with high-level participants from governments, international organisations, academia and the private sector.

To open the Forum, MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger discussed the effects of a shifting world order on the opening panel, titled "The Global Order Revisited: Old Actors, New Alliances", together with Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani (Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar), María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (President of the United Nations General Assembly), Hassan Ali Khaire (Prime Minister of Somalia), and Teodor Viorel Meleșcanu (Foreign Minister of Romania).

All panellists agreed that the increasing interconnectedness among states necessitates cooperative and multilateral approaches. Particularly Qatar, as one of the world’s key energy suppliers, highlighted the need for cooperation and fair rules. The United Nations as the only universal international body should play a leading role in finding common solutions. Somalia's Prime Minister stressed that, due to multilateral peace keeping efforts in the framework of the United Nations and the African Union, his country was able to improve its security situation significantly. However, the current unilateralist backlash poses serious risks – not only for war-torn countries. Despite current weaknesses of the UN in the field of conflict resolution in recent years, it would be wrong to confuse this with a failure of the institution itself, Ms. Espinosa Garcés argued. The UN is rather a reflexion of the political will of member states. Therefore, she called for more action to strengthen the United Nation’s capacity to deliver results. The current weakness of multilateral bodies is not limited to certain institutions or world areas but is an overall pattern. The European Union, for instance, could be a stronger organisation if member states were more united. It is not a lack of capabilities but a lack of political will of EU member states that prevents the Union from playing a more relevant role in world affairs, Romania's Foreign Minister underlined. Addressing this challenge will be one of Romania's priorities in its upcoming EU presidency in 2019, he announced.

At the MSC luncheon discussion on "Regional Security Dynamics in the Middle East", Sigmar Gabriel (Former Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany) and Marietje Schaake (Member of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament and Munich Young Leader 2013) focused, with other high-level participants, on current security challenges in the Middle East and the role of and repercussions for the European Union. Some participants voiced their concern over the uncoordinated approach of the European Union vis-à-vis Gulf States and a missing common long-term vision for this region. Other speakers expressed their concern about increasing unilateral action and the disregard of international law. This was identified as a field for more European commitment.

In its panel discussion "Bit by Bit: Enforcing Norms in Cyber Space", the MSC continued to foster the dialogue on emerging normative frameworks for the cyber space. The panel was moderated by Katherine Bauer, Blumenstein-Katz Family Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. While the panellists Hessa Al Jaber (Vice Chairperson of Es'hailSat Qatar Satellite Company), Latha Reddy (Co-Chair, Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation), and Marietje Schaake agreed that multilateral approaches are imperative for negotiating norms for cyberspace, they disagreed on the question of how effectively normative frameworks can actually protect states and businesses. Some expressed their doubts that binding norms can be enforced without clear cyber forensics and clear evidence. Hence, capacity building should be a priority for governments in order to become more resilient to cyberattacks instead of relying on other states' political will to follow the rules. Others however, highlighted that legally binding frameworks were in the interest of all parties since they are – as in the field of arms control – the only mechanism to prevent state-sponsored cyberattacks. Speakers stressed that both processes – negotiating norms and building up national capacities against cyberattacks – can and must go hand in hand.

20 December 2018, by MSC