Cyberspace permeates global social and economic relations in the 21st Century. It is an integral part of the critical infrastructure on which modern societies depend and has revolutionized how we communicate and socialize. The governance of cyberspace is, therefore, an indispensable component of global governance, and a testing ground for new models of cooperation that could be adapted for effective governance in other areas.

The purpose of this policy brief is to provide policymakers with insights on how to improve the effectiveness  of cyber governance institutions and processes. These insights could also inform efforts to improve global governance institutions and processes more broadly. The brief considers two principal questions: Who should govern cyberspace, and how? In response to the former question, the authors review multistakeholder models of governance and provide recommendations for their improvement.

These include: greater transparency of decision-making processes, with a prohibition on vetoes; dedicating financial resources to the empowerment of is advantaged stakeholders; and allocating leadership positions in an equitable manner. In response to the latter question, the authors assess formal and informal approaches to governance in cyberspace, concluding that cyberspace should be governed through a combination of both. That is, a flexible, incremental and sectoral approach to strengthening the rule of law in cyberspace through international treaty-making should be complemented by efforts to build trust and consensus through the development, diffusion and institutionalization of norms for responsible behavior in cyberspace, as well as related confidence- and capacity-building measures.

Taken together, these recommendations aim to foster common understanding and enhance security and the rule  of law in cyberspace. This policy brief draws on The Hague Institute’s work on the Global Governance Reform Initiative (GGRI) project and the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS), hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands in April 2015. The GGRI project is a collaborative effort between The Hague Institute, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and the Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi).