In the recent past, there has been an increasing reliance on technology to undertake numerous aspects of social, political, and economic lives in many countries across the globe. While the reliance on technology has had a positive impact on many aspects of our lives, that reliance also inherently attracts threats such as cyberterrorism. Consequently, cyber defense becomes a crucial element for nations. Cyber defense refers to the deliberate steps taken by governments to protect information that they hold to be sensitive.
Cyber threats are not just a danger to the individual countries such as the U.S. that have always been the target of the attacks, but to the entire world. This is as a result of the borderless nature of technology that aids in carrying out cyber threats. For example, while a cyber threat may be executed in the Middle East, its target may be in the U.S. Consequently, cyber defense cannot be the concern of individual nations but the community of nations at large.
Secondly, cyber defense is important for the world as it helps to preserve and maintain governance systems that have served to ensure world order and maintenance of the balance of power. For example, the recent allegations of Russia having hacked into the 2016 U.S. elections pose a significant threat to democracy as one of the governance systems. This is because the will of the people will have been compromised if such allegations are found to be true.
Cyber-attacks do pose not only a threat to political systems but also commercial installations. In 2015, the Penn State University was hacked into, and the subsequent response-related costs were estimated to be $2.85 million (Walters).
According to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all individuals have the right to privacy. Lack of effective cyber defense strategies poses a threat to this fundamental right which ultimately all states across the globe are mandated to protect since it is a universal human right.
Antagonists in the cyber security world primarily involve shadowy organizations that seek to benefit financially from the sensitive information acquired from other nations. However, some states have long been suspected of aiding or abetting cybercrime. These states include Russia, North Korea, and China, with the U.S. and countries in Europe being the primary targets. Cyber defense is not an exclusive purview of military outfits; other government agencies, as well as business organizations, have a role to play in cyber defense.
It is, therefore, evident that in the age of increasing information and technology convergence, cyber security is an important element. It not only offers guidelines on how to respond in case of a cyber-attack but also provides strategies that can enable nations to take a proactive approach in protecting their sensitive information. It is particularly true considering the borderless nature of the cyber threats which renders it to be a genuine problem to the world.
II. UN’s Involvement
As illustrated above, the borderless nature of cyber security endears it to be a problem to the entire world. Consequently, it is necessary that the UN be involved in efforts aimed at sustaining and improving cyber defense. This is particularly true considering that the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, stated in 2013 that cyber-attacks have the potential to destabilize on a global scale (Maurer).
The UN has addressed the problem of cyber security across several layers. The body’s initial attempt at addressing the issue was in 2001. Back then, Russia requested the UN’s general assembly that they form a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). The GGE was the first forum that was tasked with advising the UN and its various agencies of the potential scope of threats that arose from cyber threats. The GGE was also mandated to offer advice on future guidelines for co-operation among nations to address how the issue could be undertaken (CCD COE)
The first GGE meeting was convened in 2004 though it failed to produce any concrete results. The second one was convened in 2009 and led to a consensus report. The report acknowledged the need to further the debate on cyber security across multiple layers of the UN and its agencies. In 2011, another GGE meeting was convened and held in across the 2012 and 2013 periods (CCD COE)
This last GGE meeting provided a consensus report that served to create an important framework for how the UN deals with cyber security concerns. It is especially with regard to the extent of applicability of international law on matters of cyber security and cyber security in general (CCD COE). By aligning the international law (including the UN charter) with cyber security, the GGE effectively thrust the UN and its agencies at the center of ensuring cyber defenses across the globe are put in place and strengthened continually.
In a bid to escalate debate and attention to the issue of cyber security, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in collaboration with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) held an event in 2011 in New York. The event attracted other stakeholders in the cybersecurity industry.
The primary aim of the ECOSOC event was to raise awareness of cyber security concerns, brainstorm on best practices and standards to ensure effective cyber defense as well as appropriate responses in the case of a cyber threat being actualized (Department of Economic and Social Affairs).
Over and above such initiatives, the UN has moved forward to collaborate with other intergovernmental organizations to help address the issue of cyber defense. One such collaboration is the NATO Co-operative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (NATO CDD COE). The NATO CDD COE provides a framework that can be adopted by other nations and international bodies to ensure a safe cyberspace.
III. Vietnam’s Approach to Cyber Defense
Vietnam has made commendable progress in improving the safety of its cyberspace. The need to improve this environment has been as a result of the unique position that Vietnam finds itself in when the context of cyber security is put into consideration. Despite falling under the classification of countries that are commonly known to be antagonists in the cyber space such as China and North Korea, Vietnam has in fact been a major target of Chinese hackers hence a victim.
Therefore, Vietnam has consistently taken a position of opposing cyber terrorism and other related threats and has in fact been a strong supporter of measures aimed at improving cyber defenses. The most conspicuous illustration of this stand is the laws that the country has passed with regard to the problem of cyber security.
In June 2016, the law on cyber information security became operational. By operationalizing the law, Vietnam’s approach to cyber security became aligned with the framework of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development privacy principles (Jim, Trinh, & Piemwichai).
The law caters for the cyber security needs of both individuals and organizations. It provides mechanisms to detect, stop, and protect sensitive information. Vietnam has also gone further to align its penal code to ensure that cyber security violations can now be handled as criminal elements though these provisions of the penal code are still under parliament’s consideration. The law also places the overall responsibility of Vietnam’s cyber defenses on the Vietnam Computer Emergency Response Team (VNCERT).
Vietnam has already taken a strong stand in support of increased cyber defenses, especially through legislation. However, going forward, it will be necessary that Vietnam matches its legislative vigor with better enforcement especially with help from other ASEAN member countries.
approach. United Nations. 2011. Online Available from http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/ecosoc/cybersecurity-demands-global-approach.html
CCD COE. United Nations. Ccdcoe.org 2016. Online Available from https://ccdcoe.org/un.html
Maurer, Tim. Cybersecurity and the United Nations. Freedom Online Coalition 2017. Online
Available from https://www.freedomonlinecoalition.com/how-we-work/working-groups/working-group-1/cybersecurity-and-united-nations/
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Online Available from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/11/cyber-attacks-on-us-companies-since-november-2014
Combating Human Trafficking
According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, transportation, harboring or receiving of persons by the use of a threat or force. In its abstract sense, the phenomenon of human trafficking has been in existence since the era of human civilization. It is epitomized in acts such as the transatlantic slave trade. However, while it was more conspicuous back then, human trafficking in the recent past has gone underworld primarily as a result of increased efforts by governments and other agencies to crack down on it.
The need to combat human trafficking is as a result of the fact that it amounts to a gross violation of human rights since in often cases most of the victims are often forced into it, and in few instances, others are coerced. The primary motivation for human trafficking is to provide various forms of industry such as agriculture and sweatshops cheap labor, prostitution and child soldiers (U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement). In the recent past, there has been an increase in cases in which organ extraction is the major motivation for human trafficking. Women and children are in most cases the most targeted group of individuals by traffickers.
There are a number of motivations behind the phenomenon of human trafficking. However, the most common reason behind human trafficking is poverty. Individuals from poor countries are much more likely to be trafficked than those from higher income countries (Misra). This is as a result of weak laws in such countries as well as the poor enforcement of the available laws. In the recent past, there has been a surge in human trafficking from West African countries as well as countries such as Eritrea due to poverty and poor governance. In some instances, parents have been recorded to sell off some of their children to the traffickers due to their dire financial situation.
However, UNODC notes that there has been a surge in human trafficking that is conflict-induced. For example, the ongoing crisis in Syria and the ensuing massive emigration in the country provide an opportune moment for human traffickers to undertake their business. Other conflicts that are thought to fuel human trafficking include but not limited to those in Yemen and Libya.
The primary players in the multibillion-dollar industry are criminal gangs and human trafficking rings. However, in often cases, criminal syndicates involved in human trafficking are also involved in other forms of crimes. For example, drug cartels prevalent in South and Central America have been found to be also involved in the business of human trafficking.
In conflict-prone areas, the primary players are warlords and heads of militia that seek to recruit soldiers. This is especially so with the male children who are preferred due to their inability to put up resistance in comparison to adults as well as their relative physical strength.
However, most of the human trafficking activities take place due to the complacency of government officials and security agencies in most of the cases. These officials and security agents are either part of the human trafficking rings or are bribed to turn a blind eye on the menace.
For the victims of human trafficking, opting out is often difficult. This is as a result of being threatened by their “bosses”. The threats might range from murder to inflicting harm to family and relatives of the victims back home. In some instances, payments for the labor (however cheap and prostitution proceeds) are withheld and as such the victims find it difficult to have meaningful avenues of escaping from their bondage. It is especially so for those that are trafficked to areas far away from their home areas or countries.
While most of the sources for human trafficking are localized, as is the case in the Middle Eastern Bloc, solutions cannot equally be localized. This is as a result of the transnational nature of human trafficking. The source country is in most instances, not the destination country. As a result, human trafficking is truly a problem of the world.
II. UN’s Involvement
In its abstract sense, human trafficking is fundamentally about human rights. As such, it is central to the overall mandate of the UN. Therefore, the UN and some of its agencies have taken steps aimed at eradicating the menace as well as providing a framework for the most vulnerable to be assisted.
The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the apex body mandated to deal with issues of human trafficking. Its primary mandate is to create awareness of the problem, provide a framework for dealing with the problem as well as providing a data base of known human traffickers as well as case laws.
Human Trafficking and Knowledge Portal is another platform developed by the UNODC. The portal aims to serve as a source and repository of information on human trafficking. This serves to enable the UNODC to achieve its mandate of creating awareness on the issue.
III. Vietnam’ approach to combating human trafficking
Vietnam is geographically located in a region where human trafficking is prevalent. According to IRIN, between 2011 and 2014, there was an estimated increase of 11.6% in human trafficking cases. As a result, the government has had to undertake specific measures and programs aimed at eradicating the vice that has remained prevalent in the country primarily as a result of high industrialization that has seen the country act as both a source and destination for human trafficking (Asia Foundation, 7).
In 2016, the government launched the National Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30th July. The initiative was aimed to raise awareness of the existence of the problem in the country (IRIN).
In 2004, the Vietnam government approved an action plan christened the Government Decision No. 130/CP (Approval of the National Plan of Action Against the Crime of Trafficking in Children and Women during the period of 2004-2010) (Asia Foundation, 9). The plan included initiatives aimed at educating, preventing, and stipulating effective measures aimed at addressing human trafficking once it occurs.
Vietnam is also a party to a number of international conventions and treaties aimed at eradicating human trafficking. These include but are not limited to The UN Convention on the Right of the Child (1989) (CRC) as well as the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (2000) (Wang, 10). However, while Vietnam maintains a strong stand against human trafficking, more needs to be done in enforcing the laws and treaties signed in order to eradicate the problem.
Misra, Neha. Human Trafficking: A Big Business Built on Forced Labor. The Huffington Post.
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