Parliamentarians and ministers at a Commonwealth meeting in Namibia have committed to urgent action to tackle cybercrime.
Lawmakers at the African Regional Parliamentary Cybersecurity and Cybercrime workshop pledged to develop national cyber security strategies, enact comprehensive cyber legislation and raise awareness of cybercrime threats.
The third of three regional events, the workshop aimed to help African nations develop and implement robust cybercrime legislation. Workshops for parliamentarians of Asia, Pacific and Caribbean regions were delivered in July 2016 in Brisbane, Australia and in October 2016, in Washington.
Nearly half (46 per cent) of the global population is online, and numbers are expected to rise by billions in the coming decade. Yet, as experts at the event noted, rising use brings growing threats.
Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General, Josephine Ojiambo, who delivered the opening address, said: “The internet has created new digital pathways and opened a whole new realm of knowledge with infinite opportunity – but it also has a dark side.
“We all need to be more aware of these threats and take necessary steps to protect our digital assets and the most vulnerable in our society – children.”
— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) December 5, 2016
Through its cybersecurity initiative, the Commonwealth aims to elevate levels of awareness of cybercrime and its consequences. Working with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association UK (CPA UK) and the Organization of American States (OAS), the Commonwealth Secretariat is supporting its member countries to address cyberspace risks.
The regional workshops provided information and tools to help Commonwealth countries take steps to strengthen cybersecurity in their countries. Parliamentarians, ministers and senior officials shared best practice on how to respond to cybercrime and benefited from sessions on protecting children online to cyberterrorism. Attendees worked together to devise and craft new legal frameworks.
Ojiambo continued: “Cyberspace is transforming the global community by driving economic growth, connecting people and providing new ways to communicate and co-operate with one another. However, the growth and increasing reliance on cyberspace from banking to education needs to be matched by global efforts to keep it secure.
“It is critical that we cooperate to strengthen cybersecurity through legislative and technical interventions. The threats are very real, and devastating consequences will most certainly result if we fail to act decisively to counter them.”
— The Commonwealth (@commonwealthsec) November 29, 2016
Earlier this year, Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, announced the establishment of a Commonwealth Office of Criminal and Civil Justice Reform. The office will accelerate the enactment of legislation by developing model laws and toolkits for reform.
The Commonwealth Secretariat is also reviewing its Commonwealth Model Law on Computer and Computer-Related Crimes, and hopes to disseminate the updated model to its member countries to facilitate the enactment of criminal legislation on cybercrime.
The Commonwealth Secretariat and Parliament of Namibia oversaw the workshop for representatives of the Commonwealth's 18 African member countries. It was held between 28 November and 1 December 2016.
Photo caption: Parliamentarians, ministers and senior officials at the African Regional Parliamentary Cybersecurity and Cybercrime workshop.