4. Cyber Diplomacy Co-operation on Cybercrime between Southeast Asia and Commonwealth Countries

Mark Bryan Manantan, Director, Cybersecurity and Critical Technologies, Pacific Forum

Amid the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast Asia’s technological innovation footprint has expanded, and its digital economy continues to mature. However, Southeast Asia’s vulnerability to cyber threats like cybercrime is also accelerating at a pace commensurate with the region’s digital transformation. As geopolitical powerplay colours regional and international co-operation on cybercrime, Southeast Asia’s digital prospects will rely on new ways of collaboration. This article examines the growing security implications of cybercrime in Southeast Asia, aiming to formulate effective policy interventions to advance regional and international cyber diplomacy co-operation – through capacity building and multistakeholder partnerships – against the backdrop of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN’s) declining political and institutional power, worsening geostrategic rivalry, and the stalemate of international co-operation on internet governance. It advances the concept of peer-to-peer learning as a practical yet flexible approach to drive cyber diplomacy engagements that will bring key stakeholders together across different jurisdictions. This approach could potentially jumpstart pan-ASEAN co-operation in the short-to-medium term, given the lack or absence of a regional framework on cybercrime.

The article further explores the peer-to-peer learning model to facilitate cross-regional co-operation among Southeast Asia and Commonwealth countries in Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Island nations. By leveraging a strong network and expertise of law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies, financial institutions, technology (‘tech’) companies and civil society organisations located in various jurisdictions through regular exchanges, it becomes plausible to analyse the full scale of cybercrime threats and consequently manage their risks. In effect, developing economies can then prioritise and manage resources effectively to enhance cross-regional cybercrime collaboration, despite the current fragmentation of global internet governance.