Today is the day! The day in the international calendar that is set aside and dedicated to the single most important value and societal condition we all must strive towards – peace. Observance of this day necessarily comes with mixed emotions, as the struggle to end conflict and maintain peace between peoples and nations is both difficult and unending. At Digital Peace Now, we find ourselves today overjoyed, anxious, and determined to join and contribute to this pivotal global movement.
Back in 1981, the United Nations General Assembly first designated the 21st of September as the International Day of Peace – a day dedicated to strengthening the ideals of peace. In 2001, the General Assembly further reinforced that commitment by designating this day as a period of global non-violence and cease-fire. The world has changed dramatically in the intervening 39 years since this day was first recognized; however, the need to remind people of the importance of peace has seemingly only grown as we gain greater understanding of injustices faced in every corner of the world and as the need for peace expands to new domains – including cyberspace.
In the past decade, governments have started viewing our online interconnectivity as an avenue for attack. A new and painful way to harm adversaries and their citizens. Private companies, NGOs, governments, and even entire nations have been targeted by state-sponsored cyberattacks meant to further the attackers’ political agenda. And unlike attacks in physical domains, there is no definable “conflict zone.” No geographic region from which we may flee. In cyberspace, every time we connect to the internet we are on the front line of escalating cyber conflict. 2020 has already been an unusual year, and unusually difficult for so many of us. But it has been perfectly typical in at least one way – cyberattacks have continued unabated, and have been exacerbated as many of us have spent much more time online amid the pandemic.
Already in March, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was forced to urge warring parties to lay down their weapons. His call was echoed by Under-Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild, who added an important digital dimension to the plea that hostilities stop during the pandemic. This was a recognition of how we need to be discussing conflict in cyberspace on equal footing with conflict in the physical world. A cyberattack against a hospital that limits care during an emergency can be just as consequential as a kinetic attack. And the same human rights we insist on protecting offline must also be respected online. The report we published last week demonstrated unequivocally that citizens around the world are aware of the dangers of cyberwarfare and want our governments to work together and exercise restraint. Truly, there cannot be peace without digital peace, and we need our leaders to heed our call.
However, while it is essential that we continue to exert pressure on our governments to act, we need to not forget that there is more to peace than just putting aside arms – digital and otherwise. This is why the theme of this year’s International Day of Peace – Shaping Peace Together – is especially pertinent. Peace also requires that our societies advance inclusion and equity. Peace demands kindness and compassion, across all lines of difference. And, more than anything, peace needs individuals to engage in honest dialogue and to work together.
So, what can you do?
- Educate yourself!
We cannot afford to ignore or fail to recognize the ongoing escalation of conflict in our shared cyberspace. You can learn more about threats to digital peace in the “know the issue” section of our website. And make sure you also follow us on Twitter, where we frequently explain different technical concepts that are part of the cyberwarfare discourse. Think about other sources and things you can do, not just today – but throughout the year.
- Get involved!
Sign up to receive the Digital Peace Now monthly newsletter, which will bring you a run-down of the most pressing stories each month related to cyber conflict and what you can do. You can also use your voice to help drive awareness and find shareable content to spread the word of #digitalpeace online. #Stopcyberwarfare
- Partner with others!
We are excited that Peace One Day, the fantastic campaign to institutionalize Peace Day and make it into a day of global unity and intercultural cooperation, is not only using technology to spread their word but putting technology onto the agenda for the first time. Check out the event, spearheaded by Jeremy Gilley and Jude Law, and learn from the many thoughtful contributors celebrating digital peace.
- Act with kindness!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, follow the advice of the United Nations and engage in acts of kindness and solidarity. Hate speech is on the rise, particularly online. So speak up for peace and human dignity whenever you see abuses. Don’t forget to act responsibly yourself.
Let’s shape digital peace together!