Cyber-Geopolitics and the Future of Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa - Regional Programme Political Dialogue and regional Integration in the Southern Mediterranean
Against this backdrop, the KAS Regional Program South Mediterranean in cooperation with the KAS Country Office Lebanon organized a regional workshop on cyber in/security and the future of geopolitics in the MENA region. The event that took place on 4-5 April 2019 in Beirut brought together different experts and practitioners from the cyber field, including representatives from military, government, and the private sector. The workshop aimed at exploring the diverse motivations and forms of cyber warfare in the region, evaluating national cyber strategies, and elaborating on new kinds of cyber threats and necessary defenses.
The workshop started off with a panel on the actors in cyber space during which the cyber capacities and vulnerabilities of key state and non-state actors in the region were identified and discussed how these key actors and their cyber activities might change regional power balances. During the subsequent panel discussions, experts from national governments and international institutions – including Nadim Bachir Gemayel, Chairman of the Parliamentary IT Committee and Member of the Lebanese Kata’eb Party - debated questions of the disruptive potential of cyber attacks as well as the protection of state infrastructure and oil and gas facilities. Workshop participants also discussed worst case scenarios for cyber warfare and assessed how societies could effectively deter and prepare themselves for potential devastating consequences.
Thereafter, experts addressed the issue of fake news and electoral campaigns in the MENA region. Discussants explored successful strategies to combat disinformation, analyzed the disinformation resilience of governments and reviewed the responsibilities of civil society in today’s “post-truth era.” Following this, discussions focused on security breaches and data leakages in the military, private sector and critical infrastructure. Experts reviewed how significant cases of security breaches have been in these sectors and how relevant actors prepare for and protect themselves against this threat.
The workshop ended with a final roundtable discussion chaired by H.E. Dr. Sameh Aboul-Enein, Deputy Foreign Minister of Egypt and former member of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Cybersecurity. Participants identified the strategic and institutional changes required to prepare for the new challenges of cyber insecurity in the region as well as the new terminology needed to accurately address the new threat environment. A concluding conference report will be published soon.