Small Wars Journal

Human Crisis in Mozambique in the age of Cyber-Diplomacy

Sun, 12/13/2020 - 9:07pm

Human Crisis in Mozambique in the age of Cyber-Diplomacy


By Jonathan Lancelot


On November 10th, 2020, the Secretary-General of the United Nations reported, "massacres by non-state armed groups in several villages in northern Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province including the reported beheading and kidnapping of women and children" (United Nations). The news of these crimes against humanity broadcasted worldwide via the internet. The ability of information on crimes like these to potentially end up in front of hundreds of thousands if not millions of human beings is a glimpse of a future where humanity can quickly react to and mitigate a slaughter. To "abide by obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law" (United Nations), we must strive towards an international system that does not tolerate this sort of inhumanity and brutality. Historically, we have a global state system that is genuinely ineffective in protecting human beings. Why? The nation-state within an anarchic bloodbath.

Suppose a nation-state government decides to turn on its population, or the government is ineffective in stopping a domestic terrorist group from mass murder within its border. In that case, no other nation-state order has a normative obligation to do anything at all. Despite the presence of the United Nations (UN), the body has no enforcement power to stop the very atrocities it is addressing. In this sense, the realpolitik lens of realism tends to seem most realistic when faced with the question, what is international law going to do about mass murder if there is no agreement on jus cogens regarding the problem from hell, genocide? In other words, even the most powerful nation-states are struggling with their effectiveness across the governing spectrum. The proverbial 'everyone has their own problems to deal with' mantra has found its way into the most human-rights friendly world leader, and frankly, in a situation like Mozambique, what would a nation-state be able to do short of sending a diplomatic attaché or the military into the border of another nation-state. It is almost like nation-states are allowed by custom international law (CIL) to do what they want with their own citizens. Traditional diplomacy has failed to come up with a solution to this fundamental flaw in international law. Nation-states are designed for war, not protecting human rights, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.


Cyber-diplomacy is beyond public diplomacy with respect to developing a means to utilize the power of technology in the reformation of governance by guiding what governments are going to look like in 10 years. However, human rights are within the realm of cyber-diplomats as well. How do we use the power of technology to deter a criminal organization from committing crimes against humanity? How do we move beyond the initial news report and statements from the UN to enforce human rights laws in place and bring the criminals to justice in front of the Hague? It goes beyond social media platforms like Twitter. Technologists must scrutinize Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) rapid integration into military weaponry and components of governance. How do we innovate technologies that work to protect human life against runaway regimes or criminal organizations seeking to murder hundreds, even thousands, instead of aiding in the destruction of villages and peoples? The answer is, it's going to be hard, yet not impossible. As long as we have world leaders who are willing to turn their backs on their fellow human beings for the sake of protecting their own, we will always see innocent people die and have their lives destroyed in these small unjust wars. Technology will not help us when we are in need if we do not question nation-states' role in our lives. It will be our collective end if we do not question world leadership now.   

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Lancelot is a cybersecurity analyst at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and principal policy analyst for the OSET Institute focused on election cybersecurity in the context of national security. Jonathan graduated from Norwich University with a Master of Diplomacy with a focus on cyber-diplomacy. He published the widely shared papers “Russia Today, Cyberterrorists Tomorrow: US Failure to Prepare Democracy for Cyberspace,” which is published in the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Journal of Digital Forensics, Security and Law, and “Cyber-Diplomacy: Cyberwarfare and the Rules of Engagement,” which is published by the Journal of Cyber Security Technology. He is a contributing writer at Small Wars Journal and is currently researching cyberpolitics, cyberphilosophy, and cyberdefense. Jonathan has an extensive technical background in computer science and is a certified Apple systems administrator. His past work has taken him through Apple, Inc., the United States Senate, and the US Department of Defense.  Twitter: @lancelotpolitic



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