Nonstate Actors in Colombia: Threat and Response

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And greater economic integration and connectivity mean that the effects and consequences of technological advances are far less localized than before and are liable to spread to countries and industries worldwide.

Technological innovation is largely taking place beyond the purview of governments. And even if one or a handful of national governments devise policies for managing these effects, the global reach of many emerging technologies and their impacts requires new approaches to multilateral governance that are much more difficult to agree on. A greater number and variety of actors must be involved to initiate, shape, and implement both technical and normative solutions.

Yet, like governments, many of these other actors do not have or simply do not invest in the means to consider the broader, cross-border societal implications of their investments, research, and innovations. When they do so, identifying the most relevant or effective policy-oriented or normative-focused platforms to discuss these implications can be challenging, not least because existing platforms sometimes do not consider the variety of actors implicated, the cross-border reach of the technologies in question, and the different value and political systems at play.

This is particularly the case when technologies are designed for profit-making alone and their trajectories are entirely dependent on market forces. Complex, dynamic frameworks already govern some fields of technology. For instance, cyberspace is governed by an amalgamation of existing international law; as well as an ever-growing, complicated array of political agreements; technical standards and protocols; trade, business, and human rights standards; research principles; national regulations; and self-regulation in the private sector.

These legal and normative touchstones are underpinned by existing norms, values, and principles. They span different policy areas and issues, enlist a dizzying host of actors, and straddle numerous international regimes. What is more, they are complemented by a growing body of confidence- and capacity-building measures and efforts aimed at enhancing security and resilience. But responding to the attendant risks and challenges will not require just exploring new governance structures, tools, and processes. Moreover, significant public engagement is sorely needed, since governments and companies cannot—and should not—expect to resolve these dilemmas alone.

Identifying key principles and values: Relevant actors must articulate a vision of the principles and values—such as equity, equality, inclusivity, responsibility, transparency, and accountability — that might be negatively impacted by certain technological advances and how those values might best be protected. This task will require new thinking on how to ensure certain technologies like predictive algorithms, biotechnology, or technologies allowing space resource exploitation do not exacerbate existing socioeconomic inequalities, or how best to respond to new encroachments on personal privacy involving the body and the brain.

Certain forms of research like some aspects of biological engineering may need to be restricted. Determining appropriate principles and values requires more than a shared understanding of how technological innovations are evolving, how they have been designed, and how they might be used.

Such normative reflection also calls for a clear sense of the different values and principles held by various communities worldwide as well as the means and actors by which such values and principles should be protected. It also necessitates going beyond the mere articulation and proliferation of principles to the practical application and acknowledgment of associated challenges and limitations. Engaging stakeholders effectively : Legislators, regulators, private business leaders, researchers, and civic actors need to be ready to respond more responsibly and effectively to the effects and consequences of technological advances and the potential societal risks they pose.

This task likely will require a blend of approaches, increased spending in independent public research, and the involvement of many actors other than just states. To this end, it is vital that relevant actors delineate domestic and international responsibilities to determine which technology-related challenges should be addressed at home and which problems require cross-border coordination and cooperation. Broadening existing platforms of multilateral engagement : Clarifying how various actors and not just states can responsibly contribute to the work of multilateral mechanisms focused on how existing international law or political norms apply to state uses of certain technologies is imperative.

These platforms include the various United Nations UN Groups of Governmental Experts GGEs , as well as other specialized working groups concerned with matters of technology including ICT, machine learning, autonomous weapons, biotech, and space technology and international security. Craft suitable regulations : Fresh approaches to policy and regulation are also needed. For instance, advances in ICT, machine learning, biotechnology, and the convergence of these technologies are already driving multifaceted discussions on the focus and rationale of relevant policies and the most suitable type of regulation precautionary, preventive, reactive, or a combination of all three.

Questions also abound around whether to opt for hard regulation, soft policy initiatives such as guidelines, certification procedures, and labeling schemes that stop short of binding regulations, or the current trend of self-governance measures by private entities. As noted above, a key question is how to ensure these regulatory solutions are fit for purpose, and whether they should be coordinated nationally or internationally.

Given the cross-border effects of the technologies at play as well as the growing convergences between them, uncoordinated national rules and policies will likely be ineffective. Enhance transparency, oversight, and accountability : Finally, new policy and regulatory approaches will require greater investment in transparency, oversight, and accountability mechanisms. This will necessitate agreeing on the nature of national regulatory oversight bodies and determining whether they should be public, private, or of a mixed composition.

This task should also entail ensuring that technology companies and organizations accept greater scrutiny.

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For example, tech companies should heighten internal monitoring and external reporting of their self-regulatory initiatives, provide appropriately insulated, publicly funded researchers with safe access to their data, and, above all, ensure that accountability covers all aspects of the supply chain and that both the direct and indirect costs such as labor and environmental costs of the technologies in question are clearly understood.

Such scrutiny would also help identify remaining gaps and engage more actors to help gauge if and how a certain technology or its application should be regulated. The international environment is hardly conducive to discussions of how best to coordinate responses to the complex, cross-border dilemmas emerging around new technologies.

In some corners, existing multilateral platforms are increasingly perceived as unsuitable for resolving these challenges. The international community is notoriously slow at adopting new rules and institutions to deal with new challenges, and the quandaries posed by questions of national sovereignty and democratic legitimacy are persisting. Such a competitive landscape is contributing to regulatory fragmentation and will likely delay much needed normative and regulatory action.

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This potential impasse places strains on existing efforts and could further delay the attainment of pressing social and economic objectives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which are already under stress. Moreover, the resulting trust deficit between countries poses a significant threat to international peace and security, one that existing political institutions are not necessarily prepared to handle. Throughout history, new challenges including those relating to technology and governance have generally opened new opportunities and channels for cooperation.

Today is no different, although the challenges at hand are highly complex and are emerging at a time of systemic political change and a rising sense of conflict and crisis. More meaningful dialogue and cooperation—however difficult—on how technological developments are affecting societies and the uses and applications of technology generating the most disruption and contestation are urgently required. Such an approach would likely afford greater legitimacy to emergent governance efforts, while also tethering them to the common good. The moment you start saying that technology is the most powerful force today, then what you have done is argue that people have a right to shape how technologies are developed and used.

In practice, this means consciously trying to shape technological trajectories, it means setting research agendas, it is to direct foreseeable technologies, to articulate uses that might benefit the majority and not the few; placing technology inside of democratic politics. Developed on the basis of interviews with experts and extensive research, this analysis assesses four areas of technology around which governance dilemmas are evident and discusses the emergent responses.


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The decision to focus on these fields was informed by their disruptive character, the potential national and international security risks associated with their dual-use character, and the growing degree of state competition emerging around them. Importantly, this focus is also informed by the fact that these same issues are underscoring the urgent need for greater cooperation and strengthened governance frameworks to manage the associated risks.

Greater understanding of these efforts can help inform how relevant actors approach current—and prepare for new—technology-related governance challenges. While it is not a new area of technology, there is no doubt today that continuous advances in networked computing and other aspects of ICT are converging with advances in other technological fields, greatly increasing human dependence on these digital tools.


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Cybersecurity and the stability of ICT systems more generally have become top policy priorities. These norms and governance mechanisms aim to strengthen cybersecurity in national and global terms; enhance international security and stability more broadly as well as general human well-being; and promote responsible behavior by drawing on existing rules, values, and principles.

For instance, human rights, privacy norms, and the freedom of opinion and expression have been bolstered by a norm upholding the right to privacy in the digital age and the confirmation by the UN Human Rights Council that human rights apply online as they do offline. Many states, however, do not appear to be upholding these norms, and beyond basic privacy and human rights questions, there are increasing concerns surrounding the human costs of cyber operations, notably operations that affect healthcare and industrial systems or those that can generate systemic effects.

States have not managed to agree on an international framework to counter cyber crime, although many states are leaning on the existing Council of Europe Budapest Convention and bilateral treaties as they adopt national cyber crime legislation and cooperate on this issue.

As for international peace and security, the work of a series of UN GGEs five to date has reaffirmed the applicability of international law, including the UN Charter, to cyberspace and has recommended a number of voluntary, nonbinding political norms aimed at encouraging states to use ICT responsibly. The norms also include ensuring the integrity of supply chains, upholding human rights online and privacy rights in the digital age, and enhancing cooperation and information sharing with regard to terrorist and other criminal cases that involved cyber operations.

Several international, regional, and other specialized bodies have since endorsed the GGE recommendations. Nonetheless, efforts to advance this work stalled when a new GGE established in failed to produce a consensus report mainly due to disagreements on international law and the future work of the group. Other intergovernmental organizations complement these UN-led efforts. So, too, have the Group of 20 G20 and international financial institutions.

Additionally, the G20 has developed guidance on strengthening the cyber resilience of the financial system and has sought to foster a norm aimed at protecting the integrity of financial data. In national terms, states are under increasing pressure to ensure that government agencies, cybersecurity firms, and researchers discover and disclose cyber vulnerabilities in a more timely fashion and prevent these vulnerabilities from being illicitly traded or otherwise misused.

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In some states, these efforts are evolving into vulnerability equities processes VEPs or coordinated vulnerability disclosure mechanisms. While a principal aim is to strengthen transparency and oversight of government use of discovered zero-day vulnerabilities, there are concerns that such processes are bureaucratically complex and expensive and that they might remove pressure on companies to produce more secure products and services. Moreover, explicit processes for managing vulnerabilities might be seen as legitimizing government hacking. The costs to the global economy are certainly significant, and there are growing concerns about the potential human costs.

In light of persisting cybersecurity risks, governments also are moving toward more regulatory-focused solutions, many of which stop short of formal regulation. For instance, in , the EU adopted a broad instrument called the Cybersecurity Act, which includes a voluntary certification framework to help ensure the trustworthiness of the billions of devices connected to the Internet of Things underpinning critical infrastructure, such as energy and transportation networks, and new consumer devices like driverless cars.

For instance, a scandal involving the automobile manufacturer Volkswagen an incident commonly referred to as Dieselgate showed the limitations of one such voluntary scheme.

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In such cases, the objectives may be good, but inherent conflicts of interest in process design, monitoring, and oversight tend to undermine these goals in the longer term. Initiatives promoted by or otherwise involving other societal actors are also proliferating. Industry actors are also active in multiple ways.

While some of these efforts may be seen as an attempt to forestall regulation, many aim to pressure industry actors or states to commit to behaving more responsibly. For instance, in , Siemens launched a Charter of Trust for a Secure Digital World at the Munich Security Conference, a document that outlined principles that the initial signatories eight companies and the Munich Security Conference believe to be essential for establishing trust between political actors, business partners, and customers as the world becomes more dependent on digital technology.

In , the company launched a new initiative entitled Defending Democracy Globally. Interestingly, this campaign is silent on private sector action. In November , the French government incorporated many of these initiatives under the umbrella of an initiative called the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace, which scores of governments, industry players, and civil society actors joined. Despite this progress, significant governance challenges remain for cyberspace. Efforts to not only protect data, privacy, and human rights online but also attend to national and international security concerns are improving in some cases.

On cyber crime, despite concerns about the growing scale, economic and societal costs, and other risks of online criminal activity, states have not been able to and likely will not agree on a common framework for dealing with cyber crime or other malicious online activity that imperils users and hampers economic growth and development. This state of affairs is unlikely to change, given that some states continue to insist on the need for a common framework, while others remain wedded to the expansion of the existing Budapest Convention.

There are other challenges too. Progress remains slow in terms of achieving public and private sector commitments to bridge existing technological divides and move the digital transformation agenda forward. Inequalities within and between states and cities are growing even as technological advances continue to be made.