An International Security Strategy and Network for the Digital Age
Throughout history there have been times when great ideas and technological advances converged with profound implications. The advent of the digital age is such a time.
We live in an era when the Internet is cognitively and socially rewiring existing and emerging generations, resulting in the rapid and dramatic alteration of traditional patterns of community formation and social discourse. The social and cultural ripple effects are likely to accelerate as “digital natives” (the global population under 35 years old who have never known life without access to the Internet) replace generations of “digital foreigners” (those without access to the Internet) and “digital immigrants” (those born before the advent of the Internet but who have integrated it to some extent into their lives).
The effects of such changes are far reaching, impacting upon national and international security matters, too. Until now, their respective law and policy paradigms have been forged largely by those who examine security challenges through pre-digital lenses. Current and future security challenges, such as those posed by the advent of the Internet, are and will be no longer simply logistic, kinetic, or geographic in nature. It is critical, therefore, that every effort is made to augment traditional approaches, not only to respond more effectively to such challenges but also to take full advantage of the potential benefits that the digital age presents. To do so will require different, more creative thinking, often involving paradigm shifts in terms of strategic thinking, law and policy approaches, and existing practices. The Human Rights & Security Network (HRSN) has been established in response to the challenges and opportunities that such changes present.
Our network has a particular focus on ensuring that both existing and emerging policies and practices fully respect fundamental human rights standards. Consequently, it has adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) as its framework, which enjoys near universal acceptance by states. In particular, we believe that the concept of universal human rights, as defined in 1948 by the UDHR, is a potent idea that was awaiting the full development of the Internet to become a powerful social and cultural force. But its full potential in the realm of international security remains as yet largely untapped.
It is anticipated that increasing global understanding of the UDHR will foster greater organic growth of the inspiring ideals of universal human rights and will help inoculate those exposed to ideologies bent on subjugation or eradication of their opponents from adopting them as their own. If, on the other hand, we ignore this opportunity, most probably the opponents of freedom will use the time to their own advantage, thus rendering countermeasures all the more difficult and the aftermath less certain. Whether in the case of events such as the Arab Spring, efforts to combat violent extremism worldwide, or our engagement in a strategic war of ideas, any security achieved will be more durable if the principles of freedom are properly presented as an inspiring alternative to repressive ideologies. This is the era of digital soft power.
Thus, we have the opportunity to advance not only human dignity but also international security interests by using strategies involving social media that were unavailable in the pre-digital era to promote the timeless ideals of universal human rights on a global scale. The chances of achieving a world in which such fundamental freedoms are normatively accepted as the best path to human and social flourishing will significantly increase when there is a comprehensive effort to instill a proper respect for human dignity in the minds of digital natives. Capture that terrain, and it is expected that over time despotic threats will trigger adverse societal reactions of revulsion and will substantially dissipate accordingly.
Ideas matter, information is power, and disseminating the ideals of human dignity and fundamental freedoms to digital natives is a vital security imperative in this Digital Age. Those who would impose their world view on others by trying to restrict access to information are fighting a losing struggle. The task before us now is to ensure that the potent and timeless ideals of universal human rights are properly deployed so that they may be incorporated organically by the next generation.
HRSN is an international network of scholars and experts committed to the ideals of fundamental human rights as a framework for how we can all live together in peace despite our greatest differences. We believe that such an independent global network is especially important in an era when technology is accelerating cross-cultural interaction and transnational community formation at a pace never before seen. Anticipating this, and using the full spectrum of tools available, we must work to increase the number of digital natives who internalize the standards embodied in the UDHR as their own. The potent combination of the concept of Universal Rights and the Internet – especially when applied to a generation that increasingly thinks in terms of a world without borders – constitutes the substance and mechanism to win the war of ideas at the heart of the struggle to promote international peace and security against the forces of extremism and oppression.
The expert scholars, policy makers, and practitioners who comprise HRSN understand the significant international security benefits to be had by advancing the most inspiring ideals of human freedom in the Digital Age. Our network is not connected to, or affiliated with, any political party or national government. Our primary goal as a politically independent international network of expert scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners is to use the full spectrum of tools available to increase the number of digital natives who internalize the standards embodied in the UDHR as a means of achieving greater peace, security, and respect for human dignity at the national and international level. We are united solely by a current, growing appreciation of the increasingly potent nexus between fundamental human rights, digital/social media, and international security. We embrace the era of digital soft power and commit to develop and employ the appropriate tools and strategies necessary to accelerate this historic convergence of ideas and technology in our time.
General Richard Meyers (USAF, Ret.) – Former Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Admiral James G. Stavridis, Ph.D (USN, Ret.) – Dean of the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (Tufts) and Former Commander, US European Command, Supreme Allied Commander Europe
The Honorable William Webster – Former Director Federal Bureau of Investigation, Former Director of Central Intelligence, and Chairman of the Board of the Homeland Security Advisory Council
Ambassador R. James Woolsey – Former Director of Central Intelligence
The Honorable William S. Sessions – Former Director Federal Bureau of Investigation
Dr. Bibi van Ginkel – Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute
Ali Soufan – Member of the Board of the Homeland Security Advisory Council
General Charles Wald (USAF, Ret.) – Former Deputy Commander, US. European Command
Ambassador Dennis Ross – Professor of Diplomacy, Georgetown School of Foreign Service, and Former Director, Near East & South Asian Affairs, National Security Council.