News May 5, 2020

Trend Report: Multinational multi-domain response needed in countering hybrid legal threats.

The Hybrid CoE’s newly published trend report “Hybrid Threats and the Law”, by Professor Aurel Sari from the University of Exeter, discusses the developments in the international rule of law and legal resilience during the last decade. The report looks into ways in which law is being used as a strategic instrument and a potential hybrid threat.  It explores the legal gray areas, fault lines and interfaces that affect the legal resilience of our societies.

The report is based on the work of the Hybrid CoE’s Pool of Legal Experts. The experts have identified  trends affecting national and international legal resilience in an era of hybrid threats. The trend-mapping is the first step in a project designed to assess and address potential legal vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hostile actors. The report identifies two trends at play: First, strategic competition has become more intense and has taken on novel forms, aided by new technologies. Second, the norms, institutions and processes intended to keep geopolitical rivalry in check have come under increasing pressure and might even risk unraveling.

These trends pose significant challenges to the international rule of law. The emergence of greater antagonism has brought forth selective compliance and serious violations of fundamental principles of international law. The use of new technologies and platforms, including cyber space and social media, has raised difficult questions about how the existing rules apply in these fields.

The report defines legal resilience as the capacity of a legal system to resist, recover from and adapt to internal and external disturbances while maintaining its key functions and features, and its capacity to contribute to the resilience of other natural or social systems.

Adopting a legal resilience perspective helps to gain a better understanding of the legal vulnerabilities that hybrid threats present and hybrid threat actors exploit. Legal resilience also serves as a policy goal. It encourages those states that are committed to a rules-based international order to strengthen the capacity of international norms, institutions and processes to withstand shocks. Furthermore, it structures them to use international law and their own domestic legal systems to reinforce the ability of other domains to cope with hybrid threats.

Converting these lessons into policy action involves several steps. The report identifies seven:

  1. Understanding the legal operating environment.
  2. Creating a more strategic policy in the legal domain.
  3. Retaining a strong base of technical legal expertise and experience.
  4. Carefully rethinking — and potentially recalibrating —the role of legal experts and legal advice in the policy process.
  5. Collaboration between legal and non-legal experts based on ongoing dialogue between these different communities. A minimum of proficiency in each other’s disciplinary language and outlook is indispensable.
  6. Better understanding on the link between law and strategic communication
  7. Making effective use of the international organisations and process available to states to develop and coordinate responses.

The complete Trend Report can be downloaded from HERE.

The report is produced as a part of the Hybrid CoE’s work on legal resilience, the Expert Pool of Legal Experts. The expert pools consist of participants with intensive knowledge on hybrid actors and domains in which hybrid threats occur, in this case law. Expert pools are managed by the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function. More information: Expert Pool Coordinator Emma Lappalainen, [email protected].

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