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International cyber policy 

All over the world, the spread of digital technology and the resulting growth in connectivity are increasingly shaping the way we think and act. The resulting profound social and economic changes open up many opportunities. However, this may also give rise to new uncertainties as well as conflicts between different value and legal systems, and it may strengthen isolationist tendencies. Germany’s international cyber policy is intended to shape this field.

The Federal Foreign Office sees international cyber policy as a cross-cutting task impacting virtually all areas of foreign policy. Its objectives are:

  • to guarantee the security of cyberspace and contain threats resulting from the spread of digital technologies,
  • to safeguard universal human rights, such as the protection of privacy, freedom of opinion and the press, also on the internet, as well as to ensure responsible use of the internet’s freedom-generating potential,
  • and to make the best possible use of, as well as expand, the opportunities afforded by digital technology.

With a view to tackling these tasks in cooperation with our international partners, we are taking action on various levels:

International cyber security policy

The German Government’s international cyber policy is designed to ensure that German interests and ideas concerning cyber security are coordinated and pursued in international organisations, such as the United Nations, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the OECD and NATO. The priorities for the work of the Federal Foreign Office in these fora are, among others, agreement on standards for good governance, the application of international law, as well as the development of confidence-building measures to enhance cyber security.

Protecting human rights and championing the freedom of the internet

We are actively seeking to protect human rights in the digital age. Within the United Nations, we were able to reach a consensus that human rights have to be protected “online” just as they are “offline”. At the same time, the scope and shape of certain obligations to protect human rights have to be carefully readjusted in line with new circumstances. Our ongoing commitment to the protection of privacy in the digital age as well as our visible participation in the Freedom Online Coalition has to be seen in this context. 

Economic opportunities of digitalisation

Our aim is to create an international environment that will enable Germany to make the most of the opportunities the digital world offers. We thus want to help ensure that the internet evolves in a way that produces global win-win situations from which also newly industrialised and developing countries stand to gain. Moreover, we will be supporting at European and national level the development and implementation of the Digital Agenda for Germany (German website with an English PDF).

The Federal Foreign Office’s International Cyber Policy Coordination Staff, established in 2011, works with other ministries and actors to ensure a free, open, secure and stable cyberspace. For this to happen, we believe that national cyber policy needs to be linked with European and international efforts. Since the summer of 2015, Dr Thomas Fitschen has been the Director for the United Nations, International Cyber Policy and Counterterrorism.


Last updated 19.04.2017

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