Two visionary proposals were recently floated for promulgating global cyberspace and pandemic treaties. The first was presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 26 while he chaired a Security Council meeting to review the draft Basic Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation on International Information Security while the second was introduced on Wednesday by 24 world leaders who wrote a topical article that was published by many leading newspapers. The general ideas put forth by both will now be discussed before explaining why now’s the perfect time for the international community to seriously consider them.
President Putin reminded Russian officials that their country was among the first to table such an initiative at the turn of the century, which he said is more relevant than ever nowadays because cyberspace has become the scene of many emerging threats. He suggested “universal and free-for-all rules on the responsible behavior of states” in this domain that would ensure “the inviolability of the digital sovereignty of states”. This, the Russian leader claimed, would “contribute to the formation of a global system for the protection of the international information landscape.”
As for the second proposal, world leaders such as the British, French, German, and World Health Organization ones compared their idea to the formation of the post-World War II multilateral order. They said that “we must seize this opportunity and come together as a global community for peaceful co-operation that extends beyond this crisis”, suggesting that the world “be better prepared to predict, prevent, detect, assess and effectively respond to pandemics in a highly co-ordinated fashion.” To this end, they urged the international community to improve coordination in data sharing and the distribution of vaccines and personal protective equipment.
Both ideas deserve to be seriously considered at this pivotal moment in global history. International Relations are presently in the midst of full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes as the world’s uncoordinated attempt to contain COVID-19 accelerated a myriad of preexisting latent trends that are revolutionizing literally everything as they simultaneously converge. Humanity is an historic moment whereby the counterproductive zero-sum mentality of the past centuries will either be indefinitely perpetuated with calamitous consequences or everyone will finally learn to embrace the win-win philosophy of mutually beneficial cooperation.
No single country can go it alone in today’s “COVID World Order” since every member of the international community is in it together no matter what some irresponsible voices may claim to the contrary. There are a multitude of problems that require multilateral solutions which have hitherto remained unresolved due to the lack of the political will and trust that are needed to make progress on them. First and foremost among them are combating epidemiological threats and ensuring cyber security, among other pressing threats such as climate change, thwarting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and combating terrorism.
With the global economy unprecedentedly becoming more dependent on online platforms due to the lockdowns that most countries implemented in response to COVID-19, it therefore follows that global cyberspace and pandemic treaties go hand in hand in this day and age. The best-case scenario would therefore be that responsible international leaders build upon the recent momentum to seriously discuss both of them in global fora, after which negotiations could commence between interested parties to decide upon the optimal way to proceed.
The most ambitious timeline would be to reach some sort of agreement, even if only a tentative one, by the end of the year. Continual progress to this end would also reassure the global population that their leaders have their best interests in mind during these chaotic and uncertain times. People would see that the world is finally coming together at its most critical moment to learn from past mistakes and thus guarantee that the future will hopefully be brighter for every one of them and their children. The whole world would benefit from global cyberspace and pandemic pacts, which would restore a semblance of stability to the international system.